2019 Audi S3 Expert Review

4.6 Overall Score
Performance 4.6 Comfort 4.6 Styling 4.5 Value 4.5

Editor's Overview

Offered as a sedan or convertible, the 2019 Audi A3 features a powerful engine set, a high-quality interior and an option list packed full of Audi technological genius. Up against cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Acura ILX, the A3 performs well, yet its pricing remains very competitive, undercutting the BMW 2 Series by a few thousand dollars.

You'll Like The 2019 Audi S3 If...

If rear-seat comfort isn’t of importance, opting for the smaller A3 over the A4 will save you money, which you can then put toward some pretty cool options. Sun lovers should note the A3 Cabriolet costs thousands less than the BMW 2 Series convertible, while the S3 ups the performance quotient but also the price.

You May Not Like The 2019 Audi S3 If...

The current A3 is at the end of its product cycle, so styling isn’t as dynamic as some newer models like the Mercedes-Benz CLA or Infiniti QX30. The Acura ILX offers more interior room and a lower price, especially when you start adding options that can push the A3/S3 into the $50,000 range.

What's New

For 2019, the Audi A3 compact sedan and convertible add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to their standard-equipment list. The Premium Plus trim gains LED headlights and wireless charging, while the Prestige models gain a self-park-assist system. The plug-in hybrid A3 e-tron Sportback has been dropped, while the S3 sees a slight reduction in horsepower.

Interior Features

Audi has set a high bar with its interiors, with high-style design and immaculate fit and finish. Yet while the 2019 A3/S3 scores well on materials and assembly, it's a little on the bland side compared with other Audi vehicles. That said, it is cleanly designed and suitably sporty, with simple audio and climate controls. We wish the MMI infotainment interface wasn't placed quite so low on the console though, as it makes it hard to see which button does what until you've learned it by touch. Not surprisingly, rear-seat accommodations are pretty tight, especially for three passengers.

Exterior Features

If you like the Audi styling aesthetic, you'll love the 2019 A3’s defining look. Looking a lot like a smaller Audi A6, its standard bi-xenon headlights, big sunroof and standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels make even the least expensive A3 look great. Bigger 18- and 19-inch wheel-and-tire upgrades jazz up the exterior, and S3 models offer unique styling touches to emphasize the sportiness. Under the short rear deck is a 12.3-cubic-foot trunk, which reduces to 10 cubic feet in all-wheel-drive models. Convertibles of course offer two doors, and look especially sharp with the power soft-top lowered.

Driving Impressions

Like every car in the Audi lineup, the 2019 A3 runs the range from mild to spicy hot. The entry-level A3 models deliver varying degrees of luxury with a hint of performance, while the more potent S3 pushes the performance envelope to its extreme. With its available quattro all-wheel drive (AWD), the A3 makes a competent year-round driver, and even nicely equipped doesn’t cost much more than a loaded Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, although both these sedans dwarf the A3 when it comes to rear-seat legroom. The A3’s 2.0-liter turbocharged engine produces 186 horsepower, not terribly impressive but enough to get the A3 across a busy intersection without much worry. Opt for quattro all-wheel drive and that figure jumps to a more performance-friendly 228 horsepower capable of carrying the A3 to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. The S3 comes standard with quattro and a 288-horsepower version of the A3’s engine. The A3’s 7-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic automatic is an outstanding transmission, every bit as fun to play with as a manual without having to learn to work a clutch pedal. Quattro and S3 models get an equally impressive 6-speed version of the same transmission. On the road, the A3 rides smoothly, the steering is quick and precise and the cornering fairly level, although not as controlled as in a BMW 2 Series.

Pricing Notes

The base 2019 Audi A3 sedan carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $33,500. Opt for quattro AWD and the price jumps to just under $36,600. The 2019 A3 Cabriolet starts around $39,900 for FWD, or around $42,700 if you want AWD. The performance-oriented S3 sedan starts just a hair under $45,500. Options and trim levels can add considerably to the price tag, making your "cheap" Audi cost more than $50,000. The Mercedes-Benz CLA starts slightly lower, but with less standard equipment. The Acura ILX and Buick Verano are both thousands less, but without the pedigree brand or AWD option. Check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price to see what others paid in your area. As for resale value, the A3 isn't expected to hold up over the long haul as well as the CLA, or even the ILX.

Notable Equipment

Standard on every Audi A3 for 2019 are a rearview camera and rear-parking sensors, along with heated mirrors, front seats and windshield-washer nozzles. Other standard equipment for the sedan includes leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, 12-way-power driver’s seat with power lumbar, LED taillights, Bluetooth with audio streaming, 10-speaker audio with single CD player, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sensors for automatic windshield wipers and headlights and a 7-inch audio/information screen controlled by Audi's MMI interface. Opt for the sporty S3 and you'll get more power, along with quattro AWD, 18-inch alloys, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a sport-tuned suspension.

Notable Options

If you'd like to make Audi's inexpensive A3 as pricey as possible, Audi is perfectly happy to help. There are LED headlights, an excellent Bang & Olufsen audio system, and a navigation system with Google Earth map technology viewed through Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit. The last of those includes a clever touch pad atop the MMI knob that recognizes handwritten text entry. Dynamic safety features include active lane-keep assist, blind-zone warning and dynamic cruise control. A sport suspension lowers the suspension by 15 mm. Lastly, S3 models can be had with sport seats and a $1,100 S Sport package that adds a magnetic ride-control-suspension system featuring three driving modes: Dynamic, Comfort and Individual.

Favorite Features

BANG & OLUFSEN AUDIO

Great road trips require great road tunes, and your playlist will never sound better than when blaring full blast through the A3’s optional Bang & Olufsen sound system. Available on the Premium Plus and standard on Prestige, this 704-watt, 14-speaker audio upgrade will set you back $3,200. That ain’t chump change, but then again, to the die-hard audiophile, what price perfection?


AUDI VIRTUAL COCKPIT

Perhaps one of Audi’s coolest inventions, the Virtual Cockpit replaces traditional analog gauges with digital reproductions, flanking a massive adaptive TFT (thin-film transistor) center screen that can project the navigation map, infotainment settings or mimic a standard instrument-cluster display.


Under the Hood

A 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that varies in power depending upon the driveline configuration powers the 2019 Audi A3 sedan, S3 sedan and A3 Cabriolet. Front-wheel-drive (FWD models produce 186 horsepower and employ a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, while the all-wheel-drive variants produce 228 horsepower and employ a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. The S3 comes standard with quattro and the 6-speed automatic, but pairs them with a 288-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, a performance suspension and a progressive-steering setup. It is important to note that both the A3 and S3 require premium fuel.


2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (A3 FWD)

184 horsepower @ 4,400-6,000 rpm

222 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-4,300 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 mpg


2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (A3 AWD)

228 horsepower @ 4,500-6,200 rpm

258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-4,400 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30 mpg


2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (S3)

288 horsepower @ 5,400-6,200 rpm

280 lb-ft of torque @ 1,900-5,300 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg


Editors' Notes

The 2019 Audi A3 fills an important role for the luxury manufacturer, one requiring it to lure new buyers with smaller budgets while still retaining all the luxury, performance and style for which the brand is renowned. Offered as a sedan or convertible, the compact A3 meets all these goals with a powerful engine set, a high-quality interior and an options list filled with plenty of Audi technological genius. Up against cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Acura ILX, the A3 performs well, yet its pricing remains very competitive. For those willing to pay a bit more, the performance-oriented S3 sedan thrills with 288 horsepower and the ability to sprint to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

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