Given the Audi S3’s price, it’s difficult to think of a more entertaining, yet refined and rapid ownership proposition
What is it?
The five-door – or Sportback in Audi-speak – version of the S3, with the addition incorporation of slightly modified looks and some minor mechanical modifications.
The aesthetic changes consist of a more sculptural front end, revised bonnet and front wings, a modified grille and new headlights that are claimed to give the S3 a fuller and more assertive face. At the back there are more intricate tail-lamps too.
The mechanical improvements include standard-fit variable rate magnetic dampers, as previously seen on the R8 and TT, and a revised ‘quattro’ four-wheel drive system whose Haldex clutch is now electronically rather than hydraulically controlled for speedier responses.
What’s it like?
Set off quickly in a straight line and the S3 is very promising. The familiar 2.0-litre TFSI turbo petrol engine makes eager thrashing noises of an intriguingly metallic nature, and its zest slings the S3 along impressively.
Order your S3 with the optional wraparound bucket seats and you’ll feel more than equipped for action on twisty backroads, too. The chassis delivers plenty of grip and stability, but its willingness to change direction is much the same as an MP’s under a three-line whip - compliance will ensue, but reluctantly. This is not a car that charges bends with zeal, and nor is it one to tell you much about the process either, its steering accurate but numb.
Even turning the ESP system off doesn’t improve matters, with understeer that the four-wheel drive does little to quell. The revised quattro system might be quicker to respond, but it does little to balance to car on the limit.
Instead the S3 is best seen instead as a small, luxurious and consummate eater of long motorway miles rather than a blue-blooded hot hatch.
Should I buy one?
If you like straight-line performance combined with practicality then the five-door S3 has much to commend it. It’s civilised, secure and comfortable and crafted to a standard that will have you savouring its quality long after that new-car sheen has gone.
But if you’re looking for a sophisticated weapon with which to eviscerate Megane R26s and their ilk, forget it. The five-door S3 is a cruiser, not a bruiser.