Audi S3

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Audi S3 Sportback

Road Test

Audi S3 Sportback first drive

Driven November 2013

Additional Info

It's an S3 with an extra pair of doors. So forgive us for starting at the boring end, because, although we'd like to talk about the 296bhp at the front of the car, we must first discuss luggage space. Of which there is 380 litres with the seats up, or 1,200 when they're down. That's 15 litres more than the three-door S3, or about the volume of your average water-cooler bottle. More importantly, it's 20 litres more than its main rival - the BMW 135i, also in five-door flavour.

If these were the three-door versions, we'd care less. They're hot hatches, so fast comes first. But the only reason you may choose five portals on a car like this is because - despite your fast inclinations - you genuinely need the extra room and accessibility, whether it's for stuff in the boot or humans on the back seats. For the same reason it's also worth knowing that the Sportback has a 35mm longer wheelbase, boosting rear legroom. And those few millimetres and litres may mean the difference between nine shopping bags or 10. Or squeezing children through a tiny gap versus throwing them in through a wide open door.

Thankfully, the added usefulness changes nothing about the way the S3 goes. One minute, you're here; the next, you're there... probably early, and with a slight gap in your memory. Because once the turbo breathes out and the quattro hooks up, your only job is to watch the world smudge by. The S tronic 'box boshes through gears with staggering hunger, and the four-wheel drive sorts out any slippage. And before you know it, you're checking your mirror, wondering if the law noticed.

Of course, you may wish to contribute more to the driving experience. So if the Audi's aloofness troubles you, there's always the RWD - but similarly plain-looking - BMW. It's within 0.1 seconds of the Audi to 62mph, and it too will go on to 155mph. And when fitted with an automatic gearbox, it's only 45 quid more than the Sportback. Which is probably what you'll save by filling fewer shopping bags. Alternatively, how about a Ford Focus ST Estate? Yes, it's about 50bhp down but the 1,502-litre boot is enormous, and it's over six thousand pounds cheaper. But the four rings exert a powerful pull, and the Sportback's added practicality is another string to the S3's bow. It's fast and secure and for most buyers, that might just be enough.

Dan Read

The numbers
1984cc, 4cyl petrol, 4WD, 296bhp, 280lb ft, 40.9mpg, 159g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 5.0secs, 155mph, 1445kg, £32,740

The verdict
Audi's superhatch gets roomier and more practical. Fast and flattering to the driver, but still oddly cold.

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