What's the used Audi S3 hatchback like?
The idea of combining a powerful engine with a relatively compact hatchback body to create a hot hatch is not now a new idea. It seems that even the most unlikely and humdrum family hatches from some of the world’s more mundane manufacturers can suddenly blossom into the most lively of machines.
Take the Audi A3, a fine, decent and award-winning family hatchback that branched out to be a jolly good compact executive saloon and a highly sought-after convertible. It might appear unostentatious, but there have always been fire-breathing versions of it, and for those who don’t want to risk the running costs of the super-sporting RS3 model there’s this gentler S3. Bear in mind we use the word gentler relatively, probably even wrongly. Under the bonnet of the S3 is a 306bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit, good enough to push the S3 from 0 to 62mph in a massively impressive 5 seconds, and on very swiftly to a limited top speed of 155mph. There’s four-wheel drive, too, and the option of an automatic gearbox.
Stick with the standard spec S3, which gets all the equipment found on an S line-trimmed A3, and adds 18in alloys, a lowered sports suspension, a sporty bodykit, a quad-exhaust system, a Nappa leather upholstery and heated front seats. Decide you want the S3 in more practical saloon or captivating cabriolet forms, and you'll find 19in alloys and adaptive suspension fitted as standard. Those intent on making their S3 more menacing can look out for the Black Edition trim, which adds tinted rear windows, lots of gloss black exterior trim and a Bang & Olufsen stereo system. However, only the hatchbacks and the saloon are available in this trim.
On the road, it comes as no surprise to discover the S3 is a quick car. There’s more than enough boost in any gear at any speed, despite an initial lethargy to the throttle. The handling is also seriously impressive. The steering may not have masses of feedback, but it’s precise and well weighted in normal mode. Ramp it up to dynamic, however, and it gets a bit too heavy without delivering any more feel.
Adjustable dampers are optional, but even the standard items strike a good balance between comfort and handling. The ride is firm at low speed but, as this is a performance car, we’d say it’s perfectly acceptable.
Inside is an interior much as you’d expect from a dolled-up A3. That is to say, rather good, with an excellent driving position that is multi-adjustable in the seats and steering wheel. Once settled, you’ll soon notice how brilliantly simple the dashboard is. Buttons are kept to a minimum, thanks to the standard infotainment system that’s controlled by a dial between the seats. It’s easy to navigate and allows you to keep your eyes on the road easily. What controls are left work with a pleasing precision.
While there are a few areas of hard plastic, these are well hidden and to be expected on a car that was derived from a cheaper hatchback. In the areas you interact with the most, however, the materials look and feel of a high quality, just like the normal A3. Space up front is plentiful, while there’s space for two - three at a pinch, or for shorter journeys - in the rear of the Sportback version. It has to be said the saloon is a little tight in the rear, especially if the driver be a lanky one, and the convertible likewise. Likewise the boot is larger and more easily accessible in the Sportback than the saloon or the convertible.
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