The new Audi S3 has all the makings of a great hot hatch. Based on the latest A3 (our 2013 Car of the Year), it has a 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and permanent four-wheel drive, along with lowered suspension and various other tweaks to help it go harder and corner faster.
It should be relatively affordable, too, with prices from £30,640 and average economy of 40.4mpg.
The new S3 comes with a six-speed manual transmission as standard, while an optional six-speed S tronic automatic gearbox is available for £1480.
What’s the 2013 Audi S3 like to drive?
It’s exactly what it needs to be: seriously rapid and confidence-inspiring, yet refined and comfortable with it.
Key to the S3’s appeal is its all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Forget the lofty 296bhp power figure, it’s the 280lb ft of torque – available between 1800rpm and 5500rpm – that gives the car such
|Top speed||155mph (limted)|
elastic, accessible performance.
If we're being picky there's a bit of a pause between pressing the accelerator and the power arriving, but when it does the S3 is crushingly rapid. That's true even if you stick with the standard six-speed manual gearbox model, but the optional six-speed auto takes the 0-62mph time down to just 4.8 seconds – that's quicker than a Porsche Cayman S.
The S3 sounds great, too. A sound actuator treats occupants to a boomy engine note under hard acceleration, and the volume is turned up a notch if you select Dynamic mode from the Drive Select system. However, the noise disappears almost entirely when you settle down to a steady cruise.
Steering and throttle responses are also altered by the Drive Select system. However, the changes are fairly subtle in all but Dynamic mode, where the throttle becomes noticeably sharper and the steering heavier.
In Dynamic Mode the S3 is great for spirited driving, with quick, meaty steering and formidable traction from the four-wheel-drive system.
Regardless of which setting you choose, the S3 turns in sharply and can carry serious speed through tight corners.
This impressive handling doesn’t come at the expense of a mercilessly hard ride, though. In fact, the S3 rides incredible well, staying composed over even the roughest of surfaces.
Adaptive Magnetic Ride suspension is available as a £995 option, but given how tightly controlled and generally comfortable the ride is with the standard set-up, we wouldn’t spend the extra.
Perhaps the S3’s only sin is being a little too competent. For all its remarkable abilities, it never quite delivers the sort of involvement that some enthusiasts will wish for.
What’s the 2013 Audi S3 like inside?
The interior is one of the regular A3’s greatest strengths, and the S3 adds to this with red highlights on the gearstick, an electronic boost gauge in the instrument binnacle and fantastic-looking sports seats.
In practice, the seat squabs are a touch flat, and a bit more side support for hard cornering would be welcome, but there’s enough adjustment in the driving position to allow drivers of most shapes and sizes to get comfortable.
All the various infotainment functions are accessed via a high-definition colour screen, which is simple to navigate using a rotary controller and shortcut keys on the centre control.
The switchgear is unchanged from the regular A3 range, meaning you get a well-damped and slick-looking set of buttons that are positioned within easy reach.
There’s also plenty of room in the back and a decent-sized boot, while the S3 is available in both three- and five-door (Sportback) form.
Standard equipment includes heated leather sports seats, a flat-bottomed leather-trimmed steering wheel, climate control, Bluetooth and a USB socket.
Should I buy one?
If you want sports car pace and all-weather ability in a slick, desirable everyday car, the S3 delivers it all flawlessly.
It’s competitively priced (if not cheap), and has surprisingly affordable running costs for something so fast.
In fact, the S3 will only leave you feeling a little cold if you want lots of drama, in which case we’d point you towards the similarly priced BMW M135i.