Granite-like construction, straightforward design cues and rich materials have always been the hallmarks of an S3 cabin. This is no longer the case, even if the fourth-generation S3 does still capture more of an upmarket wow factor than some. Echoing the exterior, the surfacing seems needlessly complex and overwrought, both in terms of its ‘three-dimensional’ geometry and the countless different materials.
Audi doesn’t seem to know where to put the air vents, either, and the dashboard and door cards don’t ensconce the driver as they once did. The vacant real estate and stubby gearlever atop the transmission tunnel also feel less than premium and the reliance on hard plastics in some surprisingly obvious places is disappointing. It all contributes to a cabin that feels conspicuously built to a cost and less pleasing overall than that of the BMW M135i xDrive.
However, some elements are excellent. The steering wheel is usefully small, with a satisfyingly firm rim, and the grown-up driving position is commensurate with the S3’s serious performance potential. Some of the touchpoints, such as the door handles, really do confer the kind of luxury owners will want from this £37,000 hatchback, and the ambient lighting is carried across from models in higher echelons of Audi’s line-up. This is also a spacious cabin, at least in the front, and several testers found the nappa leather sports seats – a new Audi design – very comfortable over long distances, even if they could offer a little more support in light of the car’s grip levels.