Audi S3 review

18 Sep, 2013 11:00am Tom Philips

We road test the entry-level manual version of the new Audi hot hatch


The Audi S3 is a true wolf in sheep’s clothing. It looks very similar to the standard A3 hatch, inside and out, but it’s only once you fire up its excellent engine and lean on its four-wheel-drive chassis that you appreciate its talents. It’s not the most satisfying driver’s car, but the manual gearbox helps boost involvement, and keeps the price down, too.

The entry-level three-door Audi S3 costs just over £30,000 – if you can resist Audi’s tempting options list. It has a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and it doesn’t take long to realise that’s all the spec you really need.

We've already driven the S3 Sportback with a six-speed S tronic gearbox, and the way the dual-clutch box shuffles between gears is impressive. But the manual gives an extra connection to the driving experience. The gearshift doesn’t feel chunky or mechanical, but despite its light action, it’s precise, and gives you a better feeling of control over the 296bhp engine.

Under the bonnet is a version of the VW Golf GTI turbo that now develops a Golf GTD-rivalling 380Nm of torque. This arrives at 1,800rpm, and continues to 5,500rpm, giving lots of flexibility – you can stick it in third gear on a country road and barely have to change up or down.

The performance is accompanied by a growly engine note, especially when you select Dynamic mode to open a flap in the exhaust. Although the way the S3 shoots through bends is impressive, there are some small disappointments.

The variable ratio steering, which adjusts the lock depending on how you’re driving, makes parking easier, but doesn’t have the linear feel of a non-adaptive system. The brakes are grabby, too, meaning heel and toe downshifts are tricky.

When you’re not exploiting the four-wheel-drive chassis, the S3 is very refined, although the low-speed ride is jiggly. The interior is pretty sober, but solidly built from materials that make a Mercedes A45 AMG seem a bit cheap. That said, the boost gauge in the rev counter is naff, and the speedo is confusing, reading in 10mph increments up to 50mph, then 20mph thereafter.

The S3 isn’t cheap, but the performance is solid. This entry-level model is the driver’s choice, and saves you £1,480 over the auto, so you can even choose some extras from that options list.

Disqus - noscript

This gets 4 stars just because its sponsors AE's stupid star-rating policy?

Absolute joke of a car that is nothing more than a tarted up Golf - and not a very good one either. The day AE starts to realise that not every funking one wants a German car, much less a Golf or a Golf-based aborted foetus, I may start posting some proper, salient comments.

Until that day....

M8 learn a thing about cars and get a life.

The big problem with this car is the price and the amazingly tightness of Audi standard kit. A few bits on this puts it up to A45 costs.

You're absolutely right, not everyone wants a German car however that does preclude the new S3 from being a good car. It does what it was meant to do very well, ie an everyday, practical, quick, well finished luxury segment hatch

Tod, i think you need to learn. Audis are the most unreliable over priced under spec-ed car on the road. They are bought by the same people who buy iPhones i.e. know nothing about the item they are buying but the marketing man told them too so they did.

You forgot to mention that it wil break down and lots at that. My mate has a DSG version, his biggest regret. It visits Audi monthly with new problems.

So that saving of £1500+ ends up even biggers as your not paying the dealer to fix it constantly.

That's just a stupid childish comment. What car do you drive again? Audi is one of the top selling motors currently so clearly you are calling a lot of people idiots.....

Was reading where Audi,s new design boss thinks they need to change direction on their current oh so boring designs,s can,t come soon enough I say . Our roads are awash with look what my company has given me to drive Audi,s. For heavens sake they are a common as you know what. Common does not make that upmarket. Think outside the box when you are ticking those little boxes your company ask you to tick. There are better cars that are exciting out there not dull dull dull.

Completely agree, time to call Emperors new clothes on these turgid bore wagons. Audi are clinical and have no inspiration, they own Lamborghini and they need to inject some Lambo juice into the Teutonic over-serious dourmobiles.

I drive a 8 day old Mercedes C class(2nd most reliable car on the road according to AE) and an Alfa Romeo 147GTA for weekend fun (above BMW and Audi according to AE!) how about you? and yes I am, same as you would anyone who bought a late MG Rover as they are the only car to be worse off but they are no longer in production. The facts are Jack an Audi is nothing but a posh VW and the facts prove they are one of the most unreliable cars in the world so tell me how are you not an idiot if you buy one?

Golf Gti mk2. Mercedes are hemorrhaging money left right and center lately so I guess you probs got a lot of money off. But a decent car for it. Audi is a prestiege car so it would be more expensive than VW but the differences there to be seen. The fact is Audi are smashing most the competition into the ground with only BMW keeping a strong competitor. Just because a car has it's faults doesn't mean you're an idiot to buy one. Apple iphones have their faults but look how they are taking over the market. Is everyone that has a Iphone an idiot too??

That would be because they now make the 2nd most reliable cars in the world, with some of the nicest interiors and quality metals, shame VAG don't do the same any more and I didn't get any money off as I don't buy my cars they are bought by my work for me.

How is Audi prestige? Its not a Maserati, Bentley or a Roller etc, its just another mid range rep mobile. The facts are Jack that they break down more than any other car on sale, they are selling well due to marketing (like an iphone!) not because of the quality of their cars. You ask anyone with a DSG, they will regret it. You look at this website it even says the same, Audi's are unreliable!

And yes, if you read the tech reviews iPhones are generally aimed at people who are middle aged or not very clued up about technology. Just go read the reviews for your self, that much is clear. Why anyone would buy a phone for hundreds of pounds they can never control without invalidating a warranty is beyond me. Then there is the issue of American build quality, terrible. 1 day after your warranty is up it will go wrong. The Mrs is on her 3rd iPad in 2 years because they just keep breaking and its not exactly a hidden fact that Apple are the kings of marketing, much like Audi and BMW are in the car world.

Key specs

  • Price: £30,640
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol turbo
  • Power: 296bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed 
manual, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 40.4mpg/162g/km
  • Equipment: 18-inch alloys, heated seats, climate control, sports
suspension, xenon headlights
  • On sale: Now