Audi S3 review

Category: Hot hatch

Section: Performance & drive

Audi S3 2020 rear cornering
  • Audi S3 2021 front
  • Audi S3 2020 rear cornering
  • Audi S3 2020 RHD dashboard
  • Audi S3 2020 rear seats
  • Audi S3 2020 infotainment
  • Audi S3 2020 right front cornering
  • Audi S3 2020 right panning
  • Audi S3 2020 headlights detail
  • Audi S3 2020 rear detail static
  • Audi S3 2020 right panning
  • Audi S3 2020 instrument panel
  • Audi S3 2020 boot open
  • Audi S3 2021 front
  • Audi S3 2020 rear cornering
  • Audi S3 2020 RHD dashboard
  • Audi S3 2020 rear seats
  • Audi S3 2020 infotainment
  • Audi S3 2020 right front cornering
  • Audi S3 2020 right panning
  • Audi S3 2020 headlights detail
  • Audi S3 2020 rear detail static
  • Audi S3 2020 right panning
  • Audi S3 2020 instrument panel
  • Audi S3 2020 boot open
What Car?’s A3 deals
New car deals
Save up to £592
Target Price from £40,558
Save up to £592
or from £466pm
Swipe to see used and leasing deals
Nearly new deals
From £40,000
Leasing deals
From £553pm

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 Audi S3 picks up speed very briskly indeed.

That’s not to say it isn’t worth revving the engine, though. It pulls strongly to 6500rpm and makes a pretty decent noise in the process. True, the sound is somewhat augmented by the stereo’s speakers, adding a warbly edge to the engine note that’s vaguely reminiscent of the more powerful Audi RS3, but it doesn't sound overly fake.

That said, you don't get masses of feedback, and the steering becomes unnaturally heavy and artificial-feeling when you select Dynamic mode. That's part of the reason the S3 doesn't deliver quite get the same assault on your senses that get from more hardcore rivals, including the Civic Type R and Toyota GR Yaris. The Golf R also offers slightly more playful handful, but the S3 is more capable and rewarding than the BMW M135i.

Range-topping Vorsprung models have adaptive suspension with settings that are wide-ranging enough to be soft and supple around town (in Comfort mode), or firm and focused when you'd prefer. Audi S3s without adjustable suspension are fairly firm, but not uncomfortably bumpy – even if you upgrade to 19in alloys (18s come as standard). 

Cars without adjustable suspension get selectable drive modes too, and when Comfort mode is set the engine settles into a distant hum at a cruise while the gearbox swaps ratios intelligently and smoothly (you might think a little too smoothly for a hot hatch). There is a noticeable amount of tyre roar – especially on the motorway – but the S3 is still a far more peaceful cruise than a Type R or Renault Megane RS, and roughly on a par with the Golf R and BMW M135i.

Audi S3 2020 rear cornering
New car deals
Save up to £592
Target Price from £40,558
Save up to £592
or from £466pm
Swipe to see used and leasing deals
Nearly new deals
From £40,000
Leasing deals
From £553pm