We’ve driven the latest hot version of Audi’s popular family car to see if it’s a proper hot hatch/saloon or more of a rapid and luxurious people mover.
The Audi S3 has a tough job to do. It has to be all things to all drivers. It must be fun but not harsh. It must be comfortable but not wafty. Most of all it must be stylish but not in your face. As a result it is a car that cannot please all people but I think it nails the job it was meant for.
I’ve driven and reviewed the A3 saloon here on Average Joes before so I won’t go into to much detail about the overall design. Suffice to say, it’s largely the same inside (you can also watch my video below for a more in depth tour of the interior of the S3) with a few extra ‘S’bit of trim and much nicer seats. In short though, it is a well appointed car that feels cut above cars from the likes VW etc. It’s very Audi inside and out. If sales are anything to go by, that is a very good thing. On the outside it’s also indistinguishable from A3 with S-Line trim but look closely and you spot the more pronounced front grill, larger wheels and quad tailpipes. Personally I appreciate the subtlety of it.
The driving experience is similar to the standard car but everything is turned up a few notches. The ride is a little firmer, the steering is a little heavier and the performance is substantially more. In fact, on paper this car is rapid. Under 5 seconds to 60mph and top speed of 155mph. This is thanks to the 300+hp turbo four up front. It drives all four wheels which means the S3 is rapid all of the time.
Unfortunately for some, the do-it-all nature of the car means that the performance can feel a bit tame at times. Not helped by the lack of engine/exhaust noise. But you have to remember what this car is trying to achieve. It isn’t a hardcore b-road blaster. It’s a comfortable, practical and very fast saloon/hatch that is easy to live with every day but will fly if you press the loud pedal.
The handling is much the same. It is very very capable and has more than enough grip but compared to a Golf GTi or Civic Type R, you’ll be left feeling a little cold. But, again this isn’t what the car is meant for. It’s more autobahn than Nurburgring if you get what I mean.
So in conclusion, The S3 is very fast, almost as comfortable as an A3, is as stylish as an Audi should be (even if that grille is a little on the large size) and has all the tech you could possibly need. Sadly it leaves me a little cold as I want want something more dynamic from a hot hatch but that’s not a bad thing. We are allowed to like what we like and if what you like is a car that is very usable everyday but very rapid when you’re feeling racey, then the S3 might just be the perfect car for you.