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.

Three-spoke steering wheel is surprisingly small and also firmly padded. Audi’s flat-bottomed rim isn’t for everybody, but overall it’s an excellent hot hatch helm

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.

Back to top

Standard equipment is also generous, including smartphone mirroring, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and several intelligent safety features.

Audi S3 infotainment and sat-nav

Audi’s gamble on using touchscreen and voice-activated controls for its infotainment systems, to the exclusion of almost anything else, probably hasn’t paid off as richly as it would have liked. Certainly, in the brand’s larger cars, such as the Audi A6 and Audi A8 saloons, the almost total omission of physical controls has left the user experience feeling less intuitive and the interiors feeling oddly spartan.

Yet the S3 isn’t quite so austere. Although the car lacks the useful rotary control of the BMW M135i or the fine-with-familiarity touchpad of the Mercedes-AMG A35, Audi has at least included buttons for the climate controls, volume and some other useful commands. That said, the 10.3in touchscreen itself isn’t the most easy to navigate, and this one in particular was slow to respond at times.

Smartphone mirroring is included as standard, however, and so Android or Apple users can switch to Android Auto or CarPlay respectively, while keeping navigation in the instrument display.