The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Audi S3 represents the most luxurious hot hatch, and one of the most powerful. With four-wheel drive it's effortlessly fast and has a great interior.
Reasons to buy:
- Brilliant interior quality
- Huge performance
- Secure four-wheel drive handling
How good does it look?
The three-door Audi S3 is a handsome car, which has been face-lifted to keep it looking up-to-date. Changes included Audi’s huge new front grille and the addition of daytime-running LED lights. To signify its S-performance, there are silver door mirrors and large alloy wheels, but in keeping with Audi tradition, it’s a subtle performance makeover.
What's the interior like?
Audi offers the same impressive level of quality, no-matter which car in its range, a point proved by the recently launched pocket-sized Audi A1. Step from one of Audi’s big executive cars into the S3 and it might be smaller, but it’s no less attractive. Every switch and knob has a reassuring feel, and the seats offer excellent adjustment. First released in 2006, the competition is only just catching up.
How practical is it?
The 281-litre boot isn’t too small, and folding the rear seats down gives more than 1,000 litres of space. Rivals are more spacious though, with the BMW 1 Series offering 330 litres of space when the seats are up.
What's it like to drive?
The Audi S3 is the perfect car in which to tackle a hard drive in any weather, thanks to its secure chassis, big brakes and quattro four-wheel drive. It will get its driver and passengers from A to B quickly and safely, with minimal fuss. That said, it isn’t as much fun as the Golf GTI or Renaultsport Megane 250.
How powerful is it?
The S3’s 2-litre engine doesn’t feel strained, despite its big power, and revs smoothly and without too much drama. For a long time the 261bhp S3 was the fastest hot hatch, with its 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds and 155mph electronicallylimited top speed. It still remains near the top of the pile, though the (now discontinued) 300bhp Ford Focus RS feels significantly quicker on the road.
How much will it cost me?
Considering its huge performance, the S3 has impressively low running costs. It averages 33.2mpg and emits 198g/km of CO2, similar figures to the Renaultsport Megane 250. The S3 is also renowned for holding its value well, so owners can expect to see a decent return on the used car market.
How reliable is it?
Audi is only middle-table for reliability according to the Reliability Index. The S3 feels impeccably well-built and its engine and quattro four-wheel drive are well proven though repairs are likely to be costly.
How safe is it?
The Audi A3 only has a four-star EuroNCAP crash test rating, where most of its competitors have five. However, the S3 does come with every available safety option, with six airbags, anti-lock braking, electronic stability programme and ISOFIX child seat mounts.
How much equipment do I get?
The standard equipment list includes electric windows, trip computer, climate control, CD/radio and leather heated front seats, but surprisingly for such an expensive model, you pay extra for sat-nav, iPod connectivity and a CD autochanger.
The Audi S3 is still the most mature hot hatch on sale, and its performance will not disappoint.