Make: Audi
Model: A3
Variant: S
Engine/Transmission: 2.0 litre turbo/7 speed DSG automatic
Fuel economy: 7.4L/100km combined
Price: $78600 on road

First impressions:

It’s hard to put a price on quality. I don’t mean equipment or specifications. I mean deep, to the core, quality. You either value it or you don’t. If you do, the Audi S3 is for you. Audis, and the S3 in particular, often exude a quality that is hard to express in words. The carpet, for example, is thick and plush and after a week’s worth of kid-mess vacuums up like new every time. The seats are supportive and sporty with a luxurious feel to the touch. The satisfying click, click of the switch gear feels like adjusting the time on a Rolex. Of course, this kind of quality don’t come cheap. $80k for a small sedan or hatch is a lot of coin, but if you value the nicer things in life, you will easily see where the money has gone.

Tech inside:

The real tech inside an S3 is hidden deep under the body work – or at least partly peaking through. The S3 is fitted with Audi’s version of Matrix LED headlights. This system enables high beam light to wash ‘around’ oncoming traffic so that you have as much high beam light as possible as often as possible. It’s deeply impressive and adds to the S3’s cross country ability. So too does the latest Haldex Quattro all wheel drive system that can, if it deems it necessary, push up to 100% of torque to the back wheels.

S3 Sedan headlight
Image courtesy of Audi.

Most impressive:

It is the S3’s continuity of design that is its single most impressive feature. I honestly believe that the S3 is the quickest and most comfortable real-world point to point cross country transport there is. This is all the more so if there is a Great Dividing Range crossing that needs to be conquered on route. The S3 is one of those cars where you can use nearly all of the available power nearly all of the time. In the race for headline grabbing horsepower figures, this balance is often lost (Hello! i30N, anybody?).

I keep complaining about the cost of this little car, but it does represent value. In a pleasantly surprising development, Audi has chosen to include pretty much everything that is optional on lesser Audis as standard equipment for the S3 – even the full range of colours come with no extra cost! In a world where it feels like European makes are honestly taking the piss, it’s a lovely gesture on Audi’s part.

S3 Sedan dashboard
Image courtesy of Audi.

Not so impressive:

All of this competence can come across as being bland. Now, this is a ridiculous complaint but bear with me. The S3’s depth of ability is such that before long you really do stop thinking about the car and the drive while it just hunkers down and gets the job done. For a car guy, this isn’t always ideal. I guess it’s easy fixed – if you want theatrics in your ride just tick the RS box!

On a test drive:

Still got your heart set on a bonkers RS3? I challenge you to take both for a drive. I think you’ll end up agreeing with me when I say the smart money is on the S3.