by Frank A. Aukofer

Despite the demise of traditional automobiles and the runaway popularity of sport utility vehicles and their crossover cousins, it’s still possible to find engaging, driver-oriented sports sedans. The 2022 Audi S3 slots in among the best.

The slots reference is apt because the S3’s tidy size, quickness, and youthful handling make it sometimes seem like a full-size version of those toy slot cars competing on indoor public raceways around the country.

It’s the middle of three versions of Audi’s subcompact four-door sports sedans: A3, S3, and the upcoming RS3. The A3 was a semi-finalist for North American Car of the Year, an organization of 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada. The S3 and RS3 are more powerful and expensive versions of the A3.

The last time DriveWays looked at an Audi A-Class was the 2019 RS, which we described then as one of the sweetest performing automobiles anywhere. 

The 2022 S3 reviewed here doesn’t quite measure up to that standard. It has some rougher edges, mainly because it and the A3 are powered by 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The S3’s makes 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the RS3 gets Audi’s smoother 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 401 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.

Power gets to the pavement through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT), which snaps off shifts up or down in milliseconds. The new transmission shifter is a large toggle switch operated by a thumb and forefinger, which requires looking down until you get used to it. There are both “drive” and “sport” settings; the latter holds shift points to higher engine revs for quicker throttle response.

Four driving modes also can be selected with the touch of a button: Dynamic, Comfort, Auto and Individual. For rapid running, choose the “sport” setting and select Dynamic, which makes performance adjustments to the steering and suspension system.

However, do not choose “sport” for highway cruising because the higher revs will ravage fuel economy, which is not outstanding to begin with, rated at a city/highway/combined 23/32/27 mpg on premium fuel.

Still, the S3 comes across as an exciting driving machine with a prominent engine bark under hard acceleration, enough to rocket it to 60 miles an hour in the four-second range. It comes standard with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive, a tightly snubbed but supple suspension system and quick though heavy steering. 

The ride suffers some from the low-profile high-performance run-flat tires, but it is controlled on all but the roughest surfaces, making it a reasonably comfortable commuter as well as a stoplight dragster.

With just 88 cubic feet of space for passengers and a small trunk of 10 cubic feet, the S3 is classified by the EPA as a subcompact, though on the threshold of the compact class. It has ample space up front for the driver and passenger with quilted leather upholstery and prominent side bolsters. 

Outboard back seat passengers also are treated to decent head and knee room, though entry and exit takes a bit of torso twisting. As usual in many current vehicles, the center-rear passenger suffers with a hard cushion, shortchanged space and a floor hump.

The tested S3 came with full safety equipment, some optional, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and avoidance, active lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic assist, head-up display, blind-spot warning, adaptive cruise control, auto-dimming mirrors and tire pressure monitoring.

Comfort and convenience items include three-zone automatic climate control, navigation system, SXM satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, smart phone interface, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system and a panoramic glass sunroof. Unfortunately, the sunroof had a shade made of a flimsy perforated cloth which admitted too much sunlight—a characteristic of some European luxury cars.

Given a competitive set of luxury performance cars, including the Cadillac CT4-V, BMW M235i Gran Coupe and Mercedes-Benz AMG A35, it’s no surprise that the Audi S3 leans toward the pricey end of the spectrum.

The tester came with a starting price of $45,945. With options that included a $6,600 Prestige package, the Nappa leather and Sport packages totaling $2,350, and the Black Optic package with the performance tires at $1,950, the S3’s bottom line sticker price topped out at $57,440.

Though the 2022 Audi S3, in this view, cruises behind the earlier generation 2019 RS3 in memorable affection, it is a worthy successor and a linchpin in Audi’s skill set at delivering desirable small sports sedans.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Audi S3 four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 306 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 9 inches. 
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 88/10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,450 pounds (est.)
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/32/27 mpg. Premium gasoline recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,945.
  • Price as tested: $57,440.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Audi