Audi has taken its next step in its evolution with its all-season Sportback, but is it more style than substance?
Back in the Nineties, the general public’s perception of a fast hatchback was quite different to what it is today. They were more commonly used as cheap thrills rather than a reliable car. That’s what made the category that the Audi S3 is found in so irresistible. It gave drivers a bigger engine and sharper handling for not TOO much more than you’d pay for a less than desirable runaround. The main issue with the “hot hatch” category back then was that the commonly found high insurance premiums killed the genre for its youthful target audience, but it opened the door for OEMs to increase the scope of what a hot hatch could be and who bought them. Then comes Audi. Right on cue, Audi swept in with a new premium hot hatch: the S3. It approached the performance hatch from a classier, more mature angle.
The initial concept behind the Audi S3 is simple: take an upmarket interior and effortlessly combine it with four-wheel drive and, most importantly, power. It’s Audi’s bread and butter. But the brilliance of this combination car is that it’s wrapped up in the skin of an ordinarily sized family hatchback but with the luxury and speed of a sports car.
The 300 (give or take) horsepower, all-wheel-drive hot hatch market is a competitive one to find yourself in. Alongside the big players such as BMW and Mercedes-AMG, Audi’s latest S3 has some serious competition. Admittedly, it is one of the most expensive options in the class, although it does come with the firepower to compete with the BMW M135i and Volkswagen Golf R.
The new S3 represents everything that modern-day Audi does well, only distilled into a conveniently small yet powerful package. Assisted by the potent S1 supermini being taken off the market, the S3 is once again the most affordable route into Audi’s fashionable S and RS stables.
What’s The New Audi S3 Sportback Like?
One thing that the S3 certainly isn’t is shy. The Sportback comes in lurid paint options and four exhaust tips. Similarly styled to the aggressive A3, particularly in S Line trim, that it can be difficult to tell the cars apart at a glance.
Where the S3 really shines is the little features found throughout the car. One being the slotted leading edge of the S3’s bonnet, which is meant to evoke the spirit of the 1984 Audi Sport Quattro. Followed by beautiful honeycomb grilles and multiple flavours of screwed-on trim (all hallmarks of the entire A3 range).
With a spacious interior and lots of availability for adjusting seats and your steering wheel, it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel of any Audi S3. Despite the addition of the diamond-stitched sport seats as well as a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a few S3 logos placed around the interior, the S3 looks and feels very similar inside to any other A3.
Unsurprisingly, visibility is identical to in the regular Audi A3 too, thanks to good-sized windows that provide a clear view out.
The modern infotainment is well-displayed thanks to a 10.1-inch central display allied to a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel or full-size 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Plus system. Handy rear parking sensors are standard on all models. At an extra cost, you can upgrade to front sensors and a reversing camera. All S3s get bright LED headlights for great visibility at night.
It can be said that the S3 beats the A35 AMG and Volkswagen Golf R for interior quality. Some might be put off by the dashboard’s prominent plastic ledge but, overall, the interior feels sporty, gritty and modern.
Similarly to the interior, the S3 hasn’t moved too far away from the A3 mechanics. It uses the same platform, engine and gearbox as its predecessor. Under the hood, you will find a turbocharged 2.0-litre EA888 powerplant that has had 10bhp squeezed out of it to take things to 306bhp. While there is no manual option available, this is made up for by the added Torque, now 295lb ft.
What hasn’t changed, and is unlikely to ever change, is the ethos and concept: a liveable swift small car that people aspire to own. That being said, it’s not exactly as groundbreaking as the original launch 4 generations ago. Since then the world has caught up and there’s a load of fast, expensive hot hatches to choose from. If you want to see what kind of lease deals are available for the new Audi S3 Sportback or are interested in some of the rivals, contact our team today!