Audi is in the final stages of testing and refining its upcoming A3 hatchback, as well as the hot S3 version of it. It’s not clear when the new S3 may debut, but it will probably be at a major motor show sometime in 2019 - we’ve heard rumors that Audi is ditching the three-door model and will only sell its hatch as either a five-door or sedan.

The model, in true Audi fashion, looks like an evolution of the current model, and the only real giveaway that the vehicle spotted by our spies is the spiced up S3 is the fact that it has those quad exhausts in the back; it also looks as if its fenders are wider than what we saw in previous spy shots of the regular A3, but we can’t say for sure due to the use of psychedelic camo.

Power for the next S3 will most likely come from a development of the same four-cylinder turbo that motivates the current model which may get a modest horsepower increase. Electrification of some kind is not out of the question either, as Audi has announced its commitment to bringing it more models - maybe even performance models.

Audi S3 Exterior

  • A typical case of evolutionary Audi design
  • The car may have grown in size
  • Visual differentiation between A3 and S3 will be subtle
2020 Audi S3 Exterior Spyshots
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Audi being Audi, it won’t change outside look of the new S3 compared to the current one.

Expect it to look roughly the same, but sharper, edgier and more aggressive.

Judging by the spy photos provided, it appears as if its frontal area (the hood) has been elongated to more closely resemble the proportions of a rear-wheel drive car (even though it has a transverse-mounted engine); Mazda does this with all its cars quite successfully, and when it’s not overdone, the effect adds to the design.

The front fascia looks like the one of the new A1, but a bit wider and with slightly a different headlight design, while at the rear it just looks like a sharper interpretation of the current model; the rear light design seems to match that of the front.

One more significant difference looks to be the more steeply raked rear screen which gives the car a sportier more fastback-like aesthetic from the back.
2020 Audi S3 Exterior Spyshots
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The car appears longer overall too, and through the use of the modular MQB chassis architecture, Audi is able to further increase roominess inside. The current model was actually the first VW group vehicle to use the new modular architecture which has since been updated and improved.

Basically, if you like the current A3, the sharpened up new model will be right up your alley; if you don’t, chances are the new one won’t do it for you either.

Audi S3 Interior

  • Will look similar to Q3 interior
  • S3 will get sporty seats
  • Red accents will dominate the cabin
2019 Audi Q3 Interior
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No shots of the interior are yet available, but if we look around the Audi stable, we can kind of get an idea of what they plan to do with it.

Probably the closest in terms of actual design and layout is the interior of the new Q3, which is very similar to what you see in the latest A6 in terms of design.

Air vents will not longer be circular, and the infotainment screen will move further down the center console. It currently sticks out the top of the dash, but it in the next S3 it will be integrated into a flat pane of glossy material lower down.

The S3 will surely get a fully digital gauge cluster (the current model already does), but it probably won’t come with the full touch-operated climate controls; it will have physical buttons just like the Q3.

The interior will, therefore, be more noticeably different compared to that of the current S3, although you will have no trouble telling it is an Audi interior.

In its transition from standard A3 to sporty S3, Audi will give the S3 a flat-bottom steering wheel with red contrast stitching - the latter will also be used on the leather-covered door panels, gear selector, as well as the seats. Additional red accents may be used all throughout the cabin, as well as S badges for the full effect.

The S3 will also feature more body-hugging front seats with a lot of side bolstering to keep driver and passenger in place during quick direction changes.

Audi S3 Performance

  • 2.0-liter turbo will be retained
  • Manual gearbox option may still be offered
  • Performance and economy will get a slight boost
2020 Audi S3 Exterior Spyshots
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It seems very unlikely that Audi will do anything drastic to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine that powers the next S3.

Currently, the unit makes 305 horsepower; Audi could bump that up by an additional 15 to 20 horsepower. The manufacturer may still offer the next S3 with a manual six-speed gearbox, although as is the trend nowadays, it may just sell it with the current S-Tronic seven-cog automatic which shaves about half a second off its benchmark sprint time.

Quattro all-wheel drive will be an integral part of the next S3 package, but it’s too early to know if it will receive different tuning for the new model and what impact this could have on the S3 dynamic abilities.

With the current 305 horsepower engine, which also packs a healthy 400 Nm / 295 pound-feet of torque, the S3 sprints from naught to 100 km/h or 62 mph in 4.5 seconds with the S-Tronic; the manual achieves it in 5.2 seconds and top speed is 155 mph or 250 km/h whichever transmission you go for.

Through the use of the revised and improved MQB platform, Audi may be able to drop the S3’s weight, since it’s not the lightest hot hatch around, currently weighing in at 1,505 kilograms / 3,317 pounds with the automatic gearbox, it could really use it.

Audi S3 Pricing

2020 Audi S3 Exterior Spyshots
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Audi wants at least €42,700 ($48,400) for a new S3 Sportback with the manual gearbox; opt for the self-shifter and the price increases to nearly €45,000 ($51,000). Pricing for the new model is expected to stay roughly the same.

Audi S3 Competition

Mercedes AMG A35

2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 Exterior
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Mercedes less extreme version of the AMG A-Class, the A35, is a direct rival for the Audi S3 if we’ve ever seen one. It too has all-wheel drive, a turbocharged 2.o-liter four-pot, a dual-clutch gearbox and blistering acceleration from standstill.

Its engine makes 301 horsepower and 400 Nm / 295 pound-feet of torque, and it is actually a bit quicker than the current S3, hitting 100 km/h / 62 mph from naught in 4.7 seconds and its top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h / 155 mph just like in the Audi. Mercedes charges from €47,500 ($53,800) for an A35 in Germany, so it is a bit pricier than the S3, but then again it’s also a more distinctive looking car, one that will get you noticed more so than the other.

Read our full review on the 2019 Mercedes-AMG A35.

Ford Focus RS

2016 Ford Focus RS High Resolution Exterior
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You don’t need a premium-badged vehicle to compete in this hot hatch segment, as Ford proved with its excellent Focus RS. Like its Audi and Mercedes rivals, the RS uses a four-cylinder turbo (with slightly larger 2.3-liter displacement) which makes the most power and torque in this company - 350 horsepower and 470 Nm / 346 pound-feet of torque, but it’s no faster to 100 km/h or 62 mph than the A35, completing the sprint in the exact same 4.7 seconds; it does have a higher top speed, 266 km/h or 165 mph.

In Europe, the Focus RS is cheaper than its premium rivals, though, with a starting price of €37,000; in the States, Ford sells it starting from $41,120.

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Focus RS

Conclusion

2020 Audi S3 Exterior Spyshots
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Audi won’t revolutionize the S3 with the next-gen model, but it will change enough things to keep it feeling fresh and relevant in the current market context. Its styling will be subtly evolved, the interior will be brought up to date to match the rest of the range, and its performance will get a slight boost too, all while marginally improving its fuel eficiency.

It is the Audi way which keeps their cars feeling familiar, catering to a more conservative audience, but one which still demands excellent levels of comfort, quality and performance.

  • Leave it
    • May not be different enough for some buyers
    • It’s not the most exciting thing to look at
    • It was never the best handling car in its class

Further reading

2019 Audi A3
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Read our full speculative review on the 2019 Audi A3.

2017 Audi S3
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Read our full review on the current Audi S3.

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