Audi Redesigns Entry-Level A3 and S3 Compact Sedans

A mild-hybrid powertrain and an improved interior are among the key additions

car seat testing
2022 Audi S3
Photo: Audi

Audi already had a good thing going with its capable entry-level A3 sedan, but the all-new 2022 model promises to be an improvement, with its sleek styling, more refined interior, and technology upgrades. Notable changes include larger interior and exterior dimensions than the outgoing model’s, and a few high-tech active safety features. The sportier S3 model features a lower stance, a more powerful engine, bigger brakes, and Audi’s adaptive sport suspension system.

What it competes with: BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, Cadillac CT4Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and CLA.

What it looks like: A more muscular version of its former self. 

Powertrain: 201-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a 48-volt mild hybrid system (A3); 306-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (S3); seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive.

Price: $33,900-$51,500

On sale: Fall 2021

2022 Audi A3
2022 Audi A3

Photo: Audi Photo: Audi

CR's Take

Although we took issue with the stark interior of the A3’s crisp-handling predecessor, Audi appears to have upped its game on this new small sedan. The interior revamp seems to hinge on a 10.1-inch center touch screen and a standard 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. A custom-configurable 12.3-inch “virtual cockpit,” allowing different screens to be displayed within the instrument cluster, will be optional on both the A3 and S3.

The new A3 and its performance-oriented S3 counterpart ought to provide stiff competition for its competitors in the compact luxury sedan segment. 

Outside

Offered only as a four-door sedan in North America, the chiseled exterior styling, replete with powerful-looking bulges around the wheel wells and on the hood, isn’t just for show. Audi says the model’s new look makes for better aerodynamics, although part of that comes from improved underbody paneling and exterior mirrors.

Inside

Along with the infotainment touch screen upgrade that brings the A3 and S3 in line with other current Audi models, the cars will also feature selectable driving modes: for the A3, Dynamic, Sport, and Classic modes; for the S3, a sport-oriented list of modes, plus one called S Performance mode. Both models will be available with a head-up display that will project important vehicle information onto the inside of the windshield in front of the driver. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability will be standard.

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The A3 gets standard heated, eight-way-adjustable power seats with four-way lumbar support, along with seat and mirror memory settings for different drivers. Leather upholstery with contrasting stitching is also standard in the A3, and will be available in two new colors—brown and beige. The S3 will get diamond-stitched eight-way adjustable sport seats with four-way lumbar support and memory settings, and will be available with carbon-fiber interior accents.

Audi hasn’t yet said how large the trunk will be, or how much storage space will be available in the glove box, center console, and other interior nooks.

2022 Audi A3
2022 Audi A3

Photo: Audi Photo: Audi

What Drives It

The A3’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine features a 48-volt mild hybrid system designed to boost torque when driving from a stop and when the engine is spinning at lower speeds. It can also allow the car to coast without using the engine in some situations. Mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the 2.0 turbo cranks out 201 hp and 221 lb.-ft. of torque and can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive.

The sportier S3 gets a more powerful, 306-hp version of the 2.0-liter four that cranks out 295 lb.-ft. of torque, which is sent to all four corners via Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi says it will launch the car from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The power boost over the A3 also comes with larger 14.1-inch front brakes, and the S3 features an active suspension system that responds to driver input and adapts automatically to changes in road conditions, as well as giving the car a ride height that is more than half an inch lower than the A3’s. Both front and rear brakes on the S3 are vented, providing better cooling and improved stopping power.

2022 Audi A3
2022 Audi A3

Photo: Audi Photo: Audi

Safety and Active Features

Both the A3 and S3 will come standard with lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and Pre-sense, a system that does things like pretension occupants’ seat belts, close the side windows and sunroof, and activate the hazard flashers if the driver brakes hard or the electronic stability control is activated, indicating an impending crash. Adaptive cruise control, parking assist, blind spot warning, rear Pre-sense, and rear cross traffic warning are all optional.


Head shot of CR Autos Editor, Benjamin Preston

Benjamin Preston

My reporting has taken me everywhere from Baghdad, Iraq, to the Detroit auto show, along the U.S.-Mexico border and everywhere in between. If my travels have taught me anything, it's that stuff—consumer products—is at the center of daily life all over the world. That's why I'm so jazzed to be shining light on what works, what doesn't, and how people can enrich their lives by being smarter consumers. When I'm not reporting, I can usually be found at home with my family, at the beach surfing, or in my driveway, wrenching on my hot rod '74 Olds sedan.