By packaging a muscular 296bhp turbocharged engine and quattro all-wheel-drive system into the handsome A3 Saloon body, Audi has created the S3 Saloon – a car that aims to blend scorching performance and agile handling with sharp-suited style and plenty of premium kerb appeal. And
at around £33,000, it looks like decent value, too.
Featuring a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that boasts a dizzying 355bhp, as well as the company’s grippy 4MATIC all-wheel-drive transmission, the CLA 45 has all the right ingredients to take the fight to its S3 Saloon rival.
This exotic specification comes at a price, though, because the Mercedes will set you back by almost a hefty £42,000. So which of our heavy-hitting duo will land the knock-out punch in this encounter?
Click the links above to read each review, then read on for our verdict.
On paper, there’s little to separate the Audi S3 Saloon and Mercedes CLA 45 AMG for versatility. The Mercedes’ 470-litre luggage space is 80 litres larger than the Audi’s, but the S3 offers more head and legroom for rear passengers.
The CLA is hampered by its high-backed front seats and narrow side windows, which create a claustrophobic feel for those in the back. A sloping roofline and narrow door openings also make for tricky access to the rear bench.
Many buyers will put up with the compromised practicality to get such a bold design. While the subtle Audi looks every inch the traditional three-box saloon, the CLA apes sleek and stylish coupés. The blend of A-Class hatchback nose and rakish rear end is a little awkward, but it catches the eye.
The Audi S3 Saloon is fast, composed and agile, plus it has a classy cabin and decent practicality. Better still, it can switch from sports saloon to cosseting compact exec at the flick of a switch. Factor in the £10,000 saving over the Merc, and the Audi is a worthy winner.
When it comes to style and excitement, the rakish and raucous Mercedes CLA has the upper hand over the Audi S3. It’s also blisteringly quick and has incredibly sure-footed handling. Yet it’s not as comfortable as the Audi, while the hefty price tag and running costs are hard to ignore.
|Audi S3 Saloon||Mercedes CLA 45 AMG|
|On the road price/total as tested||£33,245/£39,855||£42,270/£54,715|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)||£18,218/54.8%||£21,854/51.7%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£1,651/£3,301||£2,186/£4,377|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£2,894/£4,824||£3,058/£5,096|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||36/£407/G/£180||45/£575/G/£180|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£17pcm (3yrs)||£24pcm/2yrs 24k|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,984cc||4cyl in-line/1,991cc|
|Peak power/revs||296/5,500 bhp/rpm||355/6,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque/revs||380/1,800 Nm/rpm||450/2,250 Nm/rpm|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||55 litres/space saver||56 litres/sealant|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||390/845 litres||470 litres/N/A|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||11.0 metres||11.0 metres|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs||3yrs (unlimited)/4yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||Variable/121||Variable/136|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||12th/23rd*||9th/12th*|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||95/87/74/5||91/75/74/5|
|0-60/30-70mph||5.6/4.8 secs||4.5/3.9 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th/kickdown||2.6/3.6 secs||2.3/3.8 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th/kickdown||4.5/5.8 secs/N/A||4.6/6.9/13.3 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||155mph/2,500rpm||155mph/1,800rpm|
|Noise outside/idle/30/70mph||26.2/5.8/317 miles||24.8/5.5/305 miles|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||31.0/48.7/40.4mpg||31.0/47.9/39.8mpg|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket|
|Met paint/xenons/split/fold rear seats||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/£1,640^/£300|
|Park sensors front/rear/climate ctrl||£525/yes/£425||£660/yes/no|