Audi A3 Sportback S line review
The A3 S line trim offers the sporty looks of the S3 and RS3 without the high running costs
The Audi A3 Sportback is an upmarket five-door family hatchback that’s available in four trim levels: SE Technik, Sport, S line and Black Edition, all offering customers a different styling theme and level of equipment. S line sits just below the top of the range, and is ideal if you want some of the sporty looks offered by the high-performance S3 and RS3 models, without the associated running costs.
It competes directly with the BMW 1 Series M Sport, Mercedes A-Class AMG line, Volkswagen Golf R-Line and Volvo V40 R-Design; models that are all available with efficient engines, yet with sporting looks that look like they belong on a thirsty hot hatch.
Styling cues include unique 18-inch alloy wheels that are closer to the wheel arches thanks to lowered suspension. Next there’s an S line body kit, with sharper front and rear bumpers and deep side skirts, an extended roof spoiler and S line badges mounted on the front wings. LED lighting gives the S line trim a contemporary look too, particularly the scrolling-effect rear indicators.
The interior also has a different atmosphere, with part-leather sports seats embossed with the ‘S’ logo, brushed aluminium trim inlays and a flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel. The standard A3’s beige headlining is swapped for a black one, and there are stainless steel pedals and LED interior lighting. Not every touch is aimed at performance, because the S line also comes with storage nets dotted around the car and a 12-volt socket in the luggage compartment.
Unlike the Audi S3 and RS3, one of the main advantages of the A3 Sportback S line is a wide choice of engines. This includes a 1.0-litre TFSI petrol with 114bhp, a 1.5-litre with 148bhp or a 2.0-litre with 187bhp. All come with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, along with the option of a seven-speed S tronic automatic. The most powerful engine can also be chosen with quattro four-wheel drive that’s only offered in automatic guise.
The entry-level diesel is a 1.6-litre TDI with 114bhp that’s aimed at company-car drivers and thrifty private buyers thanks to its low CO2 emissions and high fuel economy. Sitting above this, the 2.0-litre TDI has proved popular and is available with 148 or 181bhp. The latter comes with quattro and an S tronic gearbox as standard.
If you mainly drive around town, we’d recommend the 1.0 or 1.5-litre petrol, while drivers who plan on spending more time on the motorway or towing a caravan would be better served by the grunt of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine. With 148bhp the diesel can get from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds with an S tronic gearbox, or 8.6 with a manual, making it quite a punchy performer. This drops to just 6.8 seconds in the 181bhp version with quattro four-wheel drive.
While the 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to the A3 Sportback S line are one of its most attractive features, they do also bring some negatives. CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are slightly worse with larger wheels fitted, but most noticeably, ride comfort also suffers. Because of this, we’d recommend the no-cost option to replace the standard ‘Dynamic’ sports suspension with the comfort version to help make it more pliant. Alternatively, you can also spend extra to have adaptive dampers fitted, with different stiffness settings that you can choose to suit your mood. Ultimately the BMW 1 Series is still more enjoyable to drive, with better steering and poise.
The Audi A3 Sportback S line is understandably desirable, because not only does it look expensive, it feels it too. Sporty touches, attractive alloy wheels and LED lighting all help the S line stand out. It isn’t much more expensive to run than lower trims either, but just make sure to tick the box for comfort suspension.