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Audi S3 Hatchback (2010 - 2012) review

Read the Audi A3 Sportback hatchback (2006 - 2012) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.

Ivan Aistrop

Words by: Ivan Aistrop

Last updated on 20 November 2014 | 0 min read

The Auto Trader expert verdict:


The Audi S3 Sportback's grown-up looks, grown-up power and extra versatility make for an impressive hot hatch.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickFantastic performance
  • tickPurposeful looks
  • tickQuality cabin

At a glance:

How good does it look?

Audi has rightly received much praise for its interiors, and this one is no less impressive. Other manufacturers are closing the gap, but this is still among the finest interiors in a hatchback. There is a solid feel to all the cabin materials, and the leather seats are of the highest quality. The steering wheel has a flat bottom and metallic trim adorns the circular air vents, centre console and sports pedals.
Expert rating: 4/5

What's the interior like?

The purposeful looks of the Audi S3 hatchback work even better in Sportback form; the extra length and rear doors give it a more grown-up appearance. Thanks to a minor facelift the head turning Audi LED daytime-running lights are now fitted, and their piercing light really alters the character of the car. Chrome door mirrors and S3 emblems along with 18-inch alloy wheels separate it further from the rest of the range.
Expert rating: 4/5

How practical is it?

Sporty hatchbacks don’t ask drivers to compromise much in the area of practicality, and the S3 Sportback is even better than most. It has a head start by offering five doors instead of three and there is more rear legroom than in the S3 hatchback. It has the proportions of a small estate car and its boot can swallow 1,032 litres of luggage with the rear seats folded or 302 litres with them in place.
Expert rating: 4/5

What's it like to drive?

While some hot hatchbacks like the SEAT Leon Cupra have fast reactions and a firm ride, the Audi S3 Sportback feels less involving and direct but incredibly stable and grippy. Petrolheads may feel too left out of the equation, but most drivers will be impressed by the sheer ability of the S3 to cover ground quickly and with hardly any fuss in wet or dry weather. It simply grips and goes thanks to its Quattro four-wheel drive system, sports suspension and electronic driving aids.
Expert rating: 4/5

How powerful is it?

The 2-litre turbocharged engine found in the S3 hatchback and Sportback is an evolution of the motor found in the Volkswagen Golf GTi, SEAT Leon Cupra and Audi TT RS. With 261bhp and 258lb/ft of pulling power it’s significantly more powerful than the Golf GTi, thanks to a larger turbocharger and reworked engine and exhaust components. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 5.8 seconds and the top speed is limited to 155mph. It’s a very punchy car, offering most of its power from low down in the rev range and pushes you back into your seat until the next gear is needed.
Expert rating: 5/5

How much will it cost me?

Thanks to an advanced fuel injection system and long gear ratios it is possible to cruise comfortably and return more than 30mpg – you just have to resist the temptation to accelerate quickly. Audi’s official claim for average fuel consumption is 31mpg, and emissions of 199g/km are impressive for a model with this level of performance.
Expert rating: 3/5

How reliable is it?

The Audi S3 Sportback feels incredibly solid and well built and the engine and Quattro four-wheel drive system are well proven. Audi performs worse than some rivals in the Reliability Index, partly as a result of higher servicing costs than some competitors.
Expert rating: 4/5

How safe is it?

While the Sportback derivative hasn’t been independently crash tested by Euro NCAP, the hatchback it’s based on scored a respectable four stars for adult occupant protection.
Expert rating: 4/5

How much equipment do I get?

Our test car came fitted with Satellite Navigation System Plus (£1,615) which gives the S3 the level of equipment it deserves and should help resale value. It has a 6.5-inch screen with aux-in socket, radio, DVD and 2 integrated SD card slots. The Audi ‘Concert’ CD player and radio is fitted as standard.
Expert rating: 2/5

Why buy?

The Audi S3 Sportback is the ideal choice for drivers who want top drawer hot hatch performance in a sophisticated and comfortable package.
Expert rating: 4/5

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