The regular A3 has arguably the highest quality interior in its class. The S3 adds to that with subtle sporty touches like the steering wheel and the sport seats that are great at holding you tight in corners. Passenger space is also good and the choice of body styles means you can increase its practicality by going for the Sportback or saloon.
Sporty Audis are more renowned for their straight line speed rather than driver engagement and the S3 is no different – it has huge amounts of grip, it’s very agile and the engine pulls strong from any speed, but the driver feels more like part of the audience rather being in charge. A Civic Type R or the rear-wheel drive M140i are much more fun to drive.
The engine in the S3 is shared with the Golf R and is a very advanced 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol. The 306hp it develops are very usable and there is almost no turbo lag. The optional S-tronic DSG gearbox perfectly suits the character of the car and makes for some impressive traffic light launches.
Standard equipment is understandably good for a top of the range model with climate control, xenon headlights, sports suspension as well as a seven-inch infotainment with an 8 speaker DAB digital radio.
The Audi S3 is for those who think the VW Golf R has a sub-standard badge
It’s a shame the S3 isn’t more fun to drive because Audi has got virtually every other aspect of it spot-on. It’s neatly styled, very fast and has cabin quality to shame cars many tens of thousands more expensive. It’s also comfortable and practical.
Had Audi given the S3 a little more steering feel, a more compliant ride and a more communicative chassis, it could be the ultimate ultra-hot hatch. As it is, it’s a very well made car, with a great engine but lacks that special feeling.
If that special feeling is what matters most to you, we’d recommend two alternatives: if badge prestige and rear-wheel drive matter most, buy a BMW M140i. If you want the ultimate in thrills while saving a few thousand pounds, buy the Honda Civic Type-R.