Audi S3 review

Category: Hot hatch

Section: Performance & drive

Available fuel types:petrol
Available colours:
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RRP £26,640What Car? Target Price from£25,226
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

While 306bhp might sound like a lot of power, it’s the masses of torque available from as little as 2000rpm that you notice more on the road. It doesn’t really matter what gear you’re in, the S3 picks up speed very briskly indeed.

That’s not to say it isn’t worth revving the engine, though, as it pulls strongly to 6500rpm and makes a pretty decent noise at the same time, this being augmented in Dynamic mode somewhat by the stereo’s speakers. This brings a warbly edge to the engine that’s reminiscent of its more powerful Audi RS3 stablemate. And because the S3 comes equipped with quattro four-wheel drive as standard, you can use all of the power all of the time – even if it’s wet. Use its launch control system and the S3 will catapult you from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds – that’s almost a second quicker than the front-wheel drive Honda Civic Type R can manage. That time is identical whether you pick the hatchback or saloon.

It certainly feels rapid from behind the wheel, but it’s never intimidating. This is partly down to the fact that there is always plenty of grip on offer, but also down to the accuracy the S3’s Progressive Steering system (this increases the speed of the steering the more you turn the wheel – mainly to save you a lot of arm twirling at low speeds and when parking). Granted, it might not provide you with masses of feedback (few cars do these days), but it’s well weighted and super accurate in normal mode, allowing you to position the car exactly where you want it on the road.

This accuracy, combined with a surprisingly neutral chassis that allows you to adjust your line with a lift of the accelerator pedal or a dab of the brakes, results in a car that is not only confidence inspiring, but genuinely enjoyable to hustle down your favourite B-road. Of course, you don’t quite get the same assault on your senses that get from super focused rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R and Renault Megane RS when you’re really pushing on, but then, the S3 is a more rounded car in other respects. It’s certainly more enjoyable than any Mercedes-AMG A35, but the BMW M135i and M235i Gran Coupé can match it for sharpness.

Range-topping Vorsprung models have adjustable suspension with settings that are wide-ranging enough to be soft and supple around town in Comfort mode (certainly more pliant than the AMG A35), or firm and focused in Sport mode. S3s without adjustable suspension are still reasonably comfortable for a hot hatch; only particularly nasty bumps cause a bit of a jolt. That said, we’ve only tried S3s with the larger 19in wheel option. We suspect the ride will be a little more compliant on the standard 18in wheels. 

Even cars without adjustable suspension get selectable drive modes, and when Comfort mode is set the engine settles into a distance hum at a cruise while the gearbox swaps ratios intelligently and smoothly. There is a small amount of tyre roar, though – especially on the motorway, but this is no worse than you’ll experience in an A35.

Audi S3 2020 rear cornering

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