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Audi S3/RS3

Overall verdict


Flattering, safe at speed and it IS quick


Numb steering, anonymous styling, not super-thrilling at medium speeds
Incredibly competent, deceptively fast, but needs to be at warp speed before it gets interesting.

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Our choice


S3 Quattro 3dr S Tronic


What we say: 

The S3 has been on a diet and it’s more appealing as a result. The new RS3 adds speed, attitude and warble

What is it?

This is Audi’s latest version of the S3, with essentially the same recipe as before: front-biased all-wheel drive running gear and powerful turbocharged four-cylinder motor. But Audi has massaged virtually every aspect to make it more efficient, faster and, well, generally better all round. The 296bhp S3 may be innocuous-looking, but performance is blistering: it hits 62mph from rest in just 4.8 seconds with the S-tronic DSG ‘box

Even faster is the new RS3, whose familiar 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine produces 362bhp, 27bhp more than before. On paper, it’s probably the hottest production hot hatch on the planet.


The S3 used to be a quick-but-stodgy thing to drive, but Audi has dialled some of the heavy-handed chassis engineering out of this one. Literally, in this case – it’s 60kg lighter than it was. The front axle has been shunted forward 42mm, and the engine is both lighter and canted backwards by 12 degrees.

Sounds like minor stuff, but the S3 is keener to turn than it ever was, and remains neutral all the way up to serious speed, at which point it understeers gently. The steering’s a bit numb, but the ride is acceptable and you can rapidly cover ground with AWD surety, even when traction is tricky. It’s impressive rather than fun.

The RS3? Well, we’ve only driven it on snow. It drives sidewaysly (yes, that is a word). Stung by criticism the old one was dull, Audi engineers have given this one more attitude, from the throbbing five-pot to the fact it will now actually drift. We’ll tell you if they’ve succeeded when we try it in the UK.

On the inside

The S3 boasts Audi’s usual supremely well-executed interior quality, complete with flat-bottomed wheel, beautifully grippy, massively comfortable seats and a tiny boost gauge in the instrument cluster. But there’s not a lot else that plays up the S3’s schportiness. For that, you need the RS3: think S3 Plus, from the pleated leather seats to the red bits in the air vents (um… different). Both cars are lovely things to spend time in.


The fact that you could possibly get a smidge over 40mpg from a car with this amount of pace is faintly shocking. And 159g/km isn’t to be sniffed at. We can almost guarantee rock-solid residuals. It’s also got the kind of panel gaps that speak of attention to detail, a huge dealer network and a solid warranty. As has the RS3, although that doesn’t have the S3’s economy. In this day and age, 34.8mpg and 189g/km CO2 are stiff. The Sportback-only list price of £39,950 is a jump over the S3 too. But hey, that optional 174mph speed limiter…

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
S3 TFSI Quattro 3dr S Tronic
4.8s 159g/km 40.9 300 £32,225
The cheapest
1.2 TFSI 110 SE 3dr
9.9s 117g/km 56.5 110 £18,560
The greenest
1.4 TFSI e-tron 5dr S Tronic
7.6s 37g/km 176.6 150 £35,285


How about something completely different?



Toyota GT 86

If you really like driving then how about a specced Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ? Slower, but more intimate to drive