Skip advert
Advertisement

Audi S3 Sportback

German pocket rocket goes under the knife to combine practicality with performance.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Find your Audi S3
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Or are you looking to sell your car?
Customers got an average £1000 more vs part exchange quotes
Advertisement

From its styling to the power on tap, the S3 is a worthy entry point to performance Audi ownership. The addition of daytime running lights and a five-door body is welcome, and while the steering feedback lets it down, there’s masses of grip and pace. We can’t wait for the six-speed DSG box at the end of the year, either.

Advertisement - Article continues below

It's not only a great car to look at – Audi’s A3 helped define the premium hatch sector at launch back in 1999.

Even now, nearly 10 years later, the performance flagship S3 still delivers a unique combination of four-wheel-drive grip, savage performance from its four-cylinder turbocharged engine and an upmarket interior. Yet the Audi has never been the most spacious or practical car in its class.

All that could change with the latest revamp. As well as giving the hot A3 a fresh look, the company has introduced a new five-door Sportback version, as driven here. The focus is on improving versatility and usability, as well as efficiency – CO2 output has fallen from 217g/km to 201g/km. So, has the hardcore S3 gone soft?

Not a chance! Styling cues have been taken from the pretty A3 Cabriolet, which means a resculpted bon-net with sharper creases framing the front grille. The front apron has been repro-filed and headlamps redesigned – R8-style LED daytime running lights are now included as standard.

Completing the makeover on the outside are 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels, as well as a subtly revised rear bumper and tail-lamp cluster.

Aside from the introduction of a sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel and a splash of aluminium trim round the air vents, not much has changed inside. And this is a good thing – every last inch of the interior, from the leather-wrapped bucket seats to the logical layout of the dashboard, is still of the highest quality.

The 2.0-litre TFSI engine serves up exactly the same 261bhp output as before. But now, the power delivery feels a bit more progressive and easier to use than in the previous S3.

Audi says the quattro four-wheel-drive hardware distributes the engine’s torque even more quickly between the front and rear wheels, for added stability and traction. And out on the road, the improvement is immediately obvious – the level of grip delivered by the S3 is seemingly endless.

Throw the newcomer into a bend and all four tyres stick firmly to the tarmac. The throaty exhaust note, powerful disc brakes and six-speed manual box add to the appeal.

What’s more, our car came fitted with the optional magnetic dampers, which are perfectly judged. As with previous generations of S3, though, the steering is a disappointment. It’s simply too lifeless and artificial to do justice to the sledgehammer engine and talented chassis.

All things considered, the latest S3 remains an extremely attractive pro-position. The five-door Sport-back version is £27,720, and for that money you are getting the practicality of a family hatchback and the performance and agility to match a Subaru Impreza STi or Mitsubishi Evo X on a track. To cap it all, there’s Audi’s bulletproof build, class-leading residual values and unrivalled brand image.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

Dacia’s Duster is Britain’s best car to own as Driver Power 2024 survey results land
Dacia Duster - front tracking
News

Dacia’s Duster is Britain’s best car to own as Driver Power 2024 survey results land

Owners have voted the Dacia Duster as the most satisfying new car to own in the 2024 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey
11 Jun 2024
Best cars to own: Driver Power 2024 results
Driver Power 2024 - best cars to own header
News

Best cars to own: Driver Power 2024 results

The best new cars to own in the UK right now according to the people who already do. It’s the 2024 Driver Power results!
11 Jun 2024
New plug-in hybrid Skoda Kodiaq iV offers 75-mile EV range, but only 5 seats, for £42k
Skoda Kodiaq iV - front 3/4 static
News

New plug-in hybrid Skoda Kodiaq iV offers 75-mile EV range, but only 5 seats, for £42k

The first-ever plug-in hybrid Skoda Kodiaq is only available to order with five seats
10 Jun 2024