The rear exterior of a blue Audi S3

Audi S3 review

The S3 is a great performance hatchback or saloon with superb handling and powerful engines. Its well-designed interior is luxurious, spacious and it has great tech.

Pros

  • Great design inside and out
  • Sporty performance
  • Very reliable

Cons

  • The three-door isn’t the most practical
  • Can be expensive to run
  • Rear seats feel cramped in some versions

Summary

“The S3 is a practical choice for every day while offering sports car performance.”

The Audi S3 is a sporty version of the A3. It’s fun to drive and well equipped, with some versions including Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display.

The S3 is quick - you can accelerate from 0-62 mph in as little as 4.5 seconds. It also features Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive which makes it both rewarding to drive and stable in slippery conditions.  

Combining class and style, the S3 is available as a three-door hatch, a more practical five-door Sportback, a great looking saloon or a fun convertible.

What's the interior like?

“The S3 has a premium and minimalist feel.”

Stylish and luxurious, the S3 has a minimalist feel, which creates a premium atmosphere for the driver and passengers. 

It features comfortable sports seats up front which help to keep you comfy when driving fast on twisty roads. There’s a good amount of space for back seat passengers, although accessing the back seats is slightly more awkward in the three-door model. Bear in mind that there’s even less legroom in the convertible.

The Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster offers a variety of different views, from the speedo to a sat nav map. It’s linked to an infotainment screen on top of the dash that can be controlled via a simple dial between the front seats. 

The S3 is also practical, especially in the Sportback version which has five doors and boot space that expands from 340 to 1,180 litres when you fold the rear seats down.

What's it like to drive?

“A great combination of everyday usability and superb performance.”

Ideal for everyday driving, the S3 will sit happily in commuter traffic or drive gently to the shops. It’s comfortable on longer journeys and the suspension can handle bumpy surfaces with ease. 

But the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine generates more than 300 horsepower, and the S3 is poised to become a proper sports car at a moment’s notice. All S3 models feature Audi’s Drive Select system which allows you to switch modes including Comfort and Dynamic depending on your driving mood. The S3 has been designed to sound like a performance car when you want it to, with its fun exhaust noises deliberately enhanced for your enjoyment.

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“It offers a lot of performance for the money.”

The regular three-door model tends to be slightly cheaper than the more practical saloon. With up to 44 mpg it’s more economical to buy and run than the RS3, which is a much faster and more expensive version of the same car. It has fairly high insurance costs but they’re no different from main rivals, and to keep maintenance costs low Audi offers fixed price servicing and service plans for models over three years old.

How reliable and safe is it?

“Very reliable with lots of safety tech.”

Audi always scores well in reliability surveys and the A3 is no exception. Bear in mind that as a performance model you could run through wear and tear items like tyres and brakes fairly quickly, especially if you drive it enthusiastically. 

The S3 received a full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test thanks to its airbags and electronic driver assistance systems. Some models will feature a number of safety options, such as blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control.

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - S3 three-door manual

Best for family - Sportback

Best for fun - S3 convertible 

It’s really all about which body style suits your needs. The three-door isn’t the most practical, but that doesn’t matter if you never take passengers. The Sportback is a great all-round choice, giving you a fantastic drive but with decent boot space for everyday use. 

The saloon is probably the best looking while the convertible offers drop-top performance driving. The manual gearbox is great but you could consider the S-tronic automatic if you just want an easy, straightforward drive.

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