Audi A3 S-Line review

Audi A3 Saloon front
10 Sep, 2014 1:00pm Steve Fowler

Need an Audi A3 with a dash more sporting appeal? You need an Audi A3 S-Line


The A3 ups the quality stakes even further, but adds a degree of comfort not usually associated with the name. It may not be as sharp to drive as a BMW 1 Series, but it appeals massively for its more relaxed driving manners, its refinement and its hi-tech gadgets. Even the pricing looks keen.

The Audi A3 S-Line sits at the top of the standard A3 range above entry-level SE and mid-spec Sport models.

S-Line models are picked out from the rest of the A3 range with sporty looks, thanks to larger alloy wheels, more aggressive bumpers, side sill extensions, and different interior trim and seat options. Making the A3 S-Line models yet more distinctive are xenon lights at the front and LED lights at the rear of the car. 

S-Line trim is available across the A3 range. That means 3-door hatch, 5-door Sportback, Cabriolet and Saloon versions are available.  Audi’s comprehensive range of engines is available in the A3 S-Line. On the petrol front, there’s a 1.2-litre TFSI petrol with 108bhp, a 1.4 TFSI, in either 120bhp or 138bhp forms, and a 1.8 TFSI with 178bhp. Diesel-wise, there’s a 1.6 TDI with 103bhp, and two 2.0-litre TDI units – one with 148bhp and the other with 181bhp.

Audi A3 Saloon rear

These engines mirror those of the A3’s VW Group counterparts the VW Golf and SEAT Leon, but the two smaller petrol units are not available in the Cabriolet or Saloon versions of the A3.

Prices start at around £21,500 for the 1.2 TFSI S-Line 3-door, and rise to nearly £35,000 for the top spec 2.0 TDI S-Line with 181bhp, Quattro all-wheel drive and Audi’s six-speed S Tronic gearbox.

All engines are available with either a six-speed manual or S Tronic gearbox, and Quattro all-wheel drive is available on the higher-powered 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TDI engines.

On the inside, S-Line models are marked out over SE and Sport models primarily by S-Line embossed half-leather sports seats, a flat-bottomed 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, aluminium dash inlays and black headlining.

Audi A3 Saloon interior

Our biggest criticism of previous A3s was that they were uninspiring to drive and the ride was fairly uncomfortable.  The latest model is a step forward over the previous model, though. It corners confidently and the ride – on standard suspension – is much improved over the old model, with only a slight hint of firmness. However, the electromechanical steering doesn’t give the greatest amount of feedback in the corners.

If you’re really pressing on, mid-corner bumps can upset the A3 slightly, and this is particularly noticeable on the A3 S-Line fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels. The standard suspension on the S-Line is lowered by 25mm over other models, but this can be deselected and replaced by the standard A3 suspension setup – making the S-Line much better on the road.

The A3 S-Line is a very refined drive. There’s very little road noise, the engines are hushed and there’s only a small amount of wind noise present. The 1.6 TDI and 138bhp 1.4 TFSI engines offer a good mix of performance and economy – the petrol uses Audi’s cylinder-on-demand technology and shuts down ones that aren’t in use to save fuel.

Higher-powered units are slightly more compromised. The 1.8 TFSI is brisk but uneconomical, and the 2.0 TDI with 181bhp has great power and economy figures, but at the expense of refinement.