Audi is an automaker whose name carries a lot of prestige and, therefore, expectations. The 2020 Audi S3 lives up to most of those expectations. The S3 was first introduced in the United States in 2015, and it has come to be one of the highest-rated vehicles in its class. Car gurus and average drivers alike rave about the S3's powerful engine and solid build quality. Of course, there are a few flaws that keep the S3 from absolute perfection, but they can be overlooked by most buyers.
What's New for 2020?
The big change for the 2020 Audi S3 is that it loses the Prestige trim level. This means that buyers can pick between the Premium (which is new this year) and Premium Plus trim levels. Also, a cool Quantum Gray hue has been added to the exterior paint options.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2020 Audi S3 – The Pros
1. The Turbocharged 4-Cylinder Engine
A standard 2.0-L turbocharged engine gives the 2020 Audi S3 a significant amount of power - 288 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, to be precise. With a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive equipped, the S3 is quite the little powerhouse in the luxury sedan market. Matched with its strong chassis, the S3's powerful engine gives the vehicle a well-rounded driving performance.
2. Precise Handling
Speaking of driving performance, the S3 has impressively precise handling. Its tires stay firmly planted on the road, and the stiffly-tuned suspension helps to keep body roll to the absolute minimum. The S3 will track straight on wherever you point it, so have fun taking this vehicle along winding roadways and through busy urban streets. Whatever you throw at the S3, this sedan can handle it.
3. An Upscale Cabin
This is an Audi we are talking about, so of course the 2020 Audi S3 has an upscale cabin. While it is not technically a luxury vehicle, the S3 is like a sportier version of the Audi A3. The design is simple yet effective. Controls are all laid out in a sensible manner, and the design aesthetics are appealing. The thick-rimmed steering wheel is especially eye-catching, and all of the physical controls have a nice bit of bulk to them.
4. Swift Acceleration
With that nice 2.0-L turbo engine equipped, the S3 gets from 0 to 60 mph in merely 4.6 seconds. This is an excellent time for a vehicle in the segment. This engine is easy to rev up, and it runs as smoothly as can be. The transmission also makes smooth shifts between gears, so getting up to speed on the highway is a breeze. You can quickly pass slower-moving vehicles without much effort on your part.
5. Sharp Steering
The 2020 AUdi S3 has incredibly sharp steering capabilities that dd to the vehicle's overall excellent driving performance. You will get plenty of feedback through the steering wheel, and the steering itself feels nimble without being too punchy. You should feel secure while taking this sedan down virtually any type of road surface. The amount of spunk you get with the steering is well above average for what you will find in this segment.
6. Easy to Use Controls
The S3 has some well-constructed and user-friendly controls. There are plenty of physical knobs and buttons, but they still manage to make the vehicle seem high-tech. The controls are all clearly labeled and are placed well within reach for any driver. The swiveling circular dash vents are a really nice touch and are just downright fun to play with. Also, if you opt for it, the handwriting recognition feature is very cool and actually kind of helpful.
7. A Simple and Effective Climate Control System
The 2020 Audi S3 has a set-up that basically resembles the A3, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Take the dual-zone climate control system for example. It has a simple three-knob control system that takes virtually no time at all to figure out. The whole system feels very intuitive, and the air flows out well when you turn it to heat or air conditioning. The heated front seats that come on the Premium Plus are especially nice during cooler months.
8. A Quality Build
The S3 has an overall strong build quality. Inside of the cabin, the knobs and buttons all have a good amount of weight to them, suggesting that they are crafted from durable materials. There are a lot of soft-touch surface areas and little in the way of ugly hard plastic ones. Of course, the frame, exterior body, and wheels are crafted from high-quality metals, and everything you will find under the engine is top-notch. This sedan definitely makes you feel like you're getting what you paid for.
9. Barely Any Noise Intrusion
Little in the way of noise intrusion can be noticed while driving the 2020 Audi S3. The tires emit a gentle hum on most road surfaces, but it is not bothersome. The cabin is well-insulated from the wind though. When you are on the highway, you might notice a slight whine from the engine, but that is only when you really take it up to speed. Acceleration does produce a sporty revving noise that should enthrall you. Who doesn't want a car that makes you feel excited about its power and performance?!
10. A Retractable Center Screen
The retractable center screen is a really nice touch courtesy of Audi's innovative designers. This is part of the MMI infotainment system, and it has a really intuitive, user-friendly interface. You can access anything on the MMI infotainment system from this screen and do so with ease. It is not a distraction while driving either, which is a huge bonus. More automakers should take a clue from Audi and incorporate this type of design for their infotainment touchscreens.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2020 Audi S3 – The Cons
1. Brakes Can Be Touchy
The one performance-based issue that can be taken with the 2020 Audi S3 is that the brakes are sometimes a little too touchy. This typically only happens at slow speeds though, and the brake pedal does stay nice and firm. Panic braking feels secure, and in any other circumstance, the brakes seem to be just fine. It is just something you will notice if you have to drive on a lot of slow-speed city roads.
2. Lacks Cargo Space
Cargo space is not abundant on the S3. At all. But this is a compact car, after all! Still, only 10 cubic feet of cargo space feels small for even a vehicle in this class. A few more cubes would vastly improve the S3's cargo area. Storing more than a few bags of groceries just gets to be a pain in the backside.
3. A Cramped Rear Seat
Naturally, this compact sedan has a compact back seat. But it is very, very tight quarters if you are a bigger adult. Long legs and wide hips will be crammed in. Head room is especially tight, so taller passengers might have to duck down or be seated up front. The front does have plenty of space for all body types, and small children will have no problem being seated in the rear.
4. No Option for a Manual Transmission
The 2020 Audi S3 does not have an option for a manual transmission. Sticks are becoming less and less in demand, and automakers are removing them or leaving them out of their line-ups. With this being a sporty sedan, though, you would think Audi would want to include a manual option (as some of their competitors do). Nope. You cannot get a manual for the S3. This is too bad since some buyers are still looking for a powerful engine paired with a manual transmission.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2020 Audi S3 vs. 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The 2020 Audi S3 gets stiff competition this model year from the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The A-Class has a starting MSRP that is about $12,000 below that of the S3 and incorporates a lot of standard features. It puts forth a strong performance and is super comfortable to ride around in. The MBUX infotainment system is superb, and the cabin is nothing short of sophisticated. However, the A-Class gets a good amount of wind noise, and some of the advanced safety features are sensitive to the point of being distracting and unsafe.
2020 Audi S3 vs. 2020 BMW 2 Series
The 2020 BMW 2 Series is also a top contender in this segment. Its high fuel economy and strong performance from the powertrain make it quite attractive to buyers. Ride comfort is stellar and is not at all noisy. The cabin is loaded with desirable features, and the whole cabin itself is beautifully designed. However, the 2 Series has some seriously cramped back seats, which is fairly standard for this segment.
The 2020 Audi S3 is a solid vehicle with a lot of great features. It does not have the most spacious cabin or much cargo space, but anyone who is looking to buy a compact sedan should be able to overlook it. The powertrain and plethora of creature comforts should be enough to attract buyers' attention.