If you’re looking for a wolf in sheep’s clothing then the Audi S3 should be high up on your shopping list. Beneath its A3-like exterior, this is a high-performance sportback, saloon or cabriolet - whichever body style takes your fancy the most. It’s compact, sporty and relatively spacious inside – a strong all-rounder.
It was as if the designers at Audi decided the best approach for their souped-up version of the A3 would be to make it look as much like the A3 as they possibly could. In fact, you’d have to have eagle eyes to spot most of the changes found in the S3 model - or be very good at ‘spot the difference’ competitions.
Here are the answers - the wing mirrors are silver, it has four exhaust pipes and the bodywork is just a smudge more aggressive than the A3. There are also distinctive LED daytime running lights, creating a sharp look.
The S3 brings a chance to own a car that comes in some of the more extreme colours offered by Audi, too, so its style is subtle but still distinctive.
The wing mirrors are silver.
What’s it like to drive?
To Audi fans, this may seem like a silly question. The Audi S3 has been finely tuned by the manufacturer to make it a genuine high-performance car whose 2.0 litre engine gives most drivers all the power they need. Coupled with the Audi 4-wheel-drive Quattro technology, you get precision control to handle the sharpest of corners.
The suspension has to be a little harder than the A3 to match the performance of the car, and this means it can make your teeth rattle a little.
We think it’s worth looking for a used S3 that has Magnetic Ride adaptive dampers – these can help the car take bumps more in its stride.
The Audi S3 has been finely tuned by the manufacturer to make it a genuine high-performance car.
Audi has often set the standard for quality interiors in the past and this is definitely the case with the S3. Let’s start with the Nappa leather wingback sports seats in the front. Highly adjustable, comfortable and supportive, they’re perfect for long journeys. The driver is also faced with one of the clearest and least cluttered instrument panels of any car. From the driver’s seat, the touch of race-car-style aluminium pedals remind you this is also a car built for performance.
There’s a distinct shortage of buttons, as most functions can be controlled by the infotainment system that’s easy and intuitive to use thanks to the dial between the front seats. The other thing you notice is just how tactile and satisfying the existing buttons are when you press them. That’s due to the high quality of the materials used throughout the interior.
For rear-seat passengers, the sportback version gives the most room, followed by the saloon and, surprise, surprise, the cabriolet gives least of all. When the sun’s shining and the roof is down, the rear seats even have to move forward a little, giving even less room.
On the tech front, you can use Audi Connect to surf the internet – a great plus whether it’s to use your preferred sat-nav system or to never miss a social media post when sitting waiting at the drive-thru.
If practicality and boot space are what you’re looking for, the sportback is a bit of a no-brainer. Then comes the saloon and, finally, the cabriolet.
You might get more capacity in a Volkswagen Golf or a BMW 1 Series, but the S3 gives you a very usable space whether you’re loaded with luggage for a road trip or bringing home boxes of furniture for a weekend of flatpack fun.
If you don’t have the seats folded down, then this ranks among the saloons that give you the most generous storage space. It’s a great option for those who love a dash of luxury but need to take care of family life, too.
Running costs and reliability
The Audi S3 only comes with one choice of engine – a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol version. Audi claims a fuel consumption figure of 40mpg, which is probably a little optimistic.
If you’re thinking about buying an S3, make sure to check what its original sale price was – if it was over £40,000 there will be an annual £310 supplementary luxury car tax to pay over and above its normal cost.
What we love
Looks can be deceptive. The Audi S3 can be your own little secret as you pootle round town, waiting for the opportunity to put it through its paces on the motorway or as you glide through twisty country lanes. It’s also built to give you a little taste of luxury as well as giving you the choice of sportback, saloon or cabriolet body styles.
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If you're looking for a compact car which effortlessly quick, great value and relatively spacious on the inside, this all-rounder could be the car for you.
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