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Audi A3 S3 review

2020 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 54.1
” Accomplished, polished and very grown up “

At a glance

Price new £43,600 - £50,165
Used prices £25,521 - £45,456
Road tax cost £180 - £570
Insurance group 31 - 34
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Fuel economy 34.4 - 36.2 mpg
Miles per pound 5.0 - 5.3
View full specs for a specific version

Available fuel types


Pros & cons

  • Fast acceleration, responsive engine
  • Quality interior
  • Easy to live with
  • More expensive than a Golf R
  • Very firm ride
  • Options are expensive... 

Written by James Dennison Published: 25 February 2022 Updated: 6 March 2023


You’ve grown up with performance cars – and enjoyed legends such as the Peugeot 205 GTI or original Volkswagen Golf GTI. But you now have responsibilities. A family, job, and all that goes with it. But you still want a fast small car without the compromises that came part and parcel with those past masters. Step forward the Audi S3, the hot hatch for grown-ups.

The good news is that Audi has built the car just for you. The S3 combines rapid performance you’d expect from a 310hp motor driving all-four wheels with a relatively roomy interior, bags of high-tech features, and an ability to cruise the motorway just as effectively as attacking B-roads. However, the S3 is not alone in blending those qualities with a dash of premium – the BMW M135i, Mercedes-AMG A35 and and Volkswagen Golf R offer up stern opposition to the fast Audi.

The S3 is also available as a four-door saloon, but comes up against the largely same opposition – the BMW M235i and Mercedes A35 AMG Saloon are its principal rivals, and both great fun to drive. The question is, does the Audi have what it takes to beat them? Read on to find out.

Audi S3 review (2022) interior view
Audi S3 interior is beautifully put together and the infotainment is simple to use.

What’s it like inside?

Along with the BMW 1 and 2 Series, the Audi A3 is the standard-setter for interior quality, with precision-engineered switches, beautifully tactile touchpoints, and the best choice of materials. On these qualities alone, it’s ahead of all fo the aforementioned rivals, especially the Volkswagen Golf R and its plethora of baffling touch-sensitive control pads. However, if we were going to throw any criticism in the direction of the dashboard is that it looks old-fashioned in terms of design, especially compared with the A-Class.

The driving position is spot on, the steering wheel and driver’s seat have masses of adjustment and anyone should be able to get comfortable. If you want electric adjustment, though, you’re going to have to go for the range-topping Vorsprung model. Other items unique to the S3 are its diamond stitched sport seats and flat-bottomed steering wheel, while equipment levels are far from generous in standard form – although one has to remember this is a sports model, not a luxury one.

You get rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera is only standard on the Vorsprung model. As you’d expect there’s plenty of nooks and crannies for storing your items, such as mobile phones, handbags and wallets – and you can read more about the A3’s interior and practicality in the main Audi A3 review.

The S3 has a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which is good, but lacks the physical controls you used to get on the old MMI system fitted to its predecessors – and more crucially, the BMW 1 and 2 Series. But it looks good, is quick in use, and in testing, worked seamlessly with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard audio is acceptable, but specify the Comfort and Sound pack and you gain an excellent Bang & Olufsen system.

Audi S3 Saloon review (2022) front view
Handling is sharp and unless you buy the optional adaptive dampers, the ride is too firm.

What’s it like to drive?

The Audi S3 is a little like Orangina – you shake the drink to wake the flavour. In short, unless you’re really on it, the 310hp hot hatch and saloon feels urbane, civilised and a little bit lead-footed. Sure, it barks when you start it up, but most of the time, the engine burbles away quietly to itself, the fake noise feeding into the cabin doing its best to make up for an almost entire lack of engine note.

On paper, it’s impressive – Its 0-62mph time is 4.4 seconds and its has a limited maximum speed of 155mph. More impressive is its power delivery. It pulls happily from as little as 2,000rpm, and then revs cleanly through to 7,000rpm, pulling hard and waking up fully. It’s only when you drive it like this, that the S3 feels quick. Overtaking is simple – with the seven-speed DSG transmission in Sport mode, it responds instantly and makes light of slower obstacles.

Handling is impressive, too, thanks to the traction afforded by its all-wheel drive Quattro system. The steering might not offer the last word in feedback, but it’s sharp and well-weighted and gives the driver the confidence to turn-in and track bends accurately. If you want a more exciting experience for your money, go for a more hardcore model such as the Toyota GR Yaris. As we said, the S3 is a hot small car for grown-ups.

Sadly, unless you buy the Vorsprung with its standard-fit adjustable dampers, the ride quality is poor. It bumps and thumps into road irregularities, like potholes, while generating too much tyre roar. Still, noise levels are better than its rivals, and as such, it’s the one to choose if you spend a lot of time plying the motorways. During a week of testing, we managed 32.2mpg in A-road and motorway driving, which is perfectly acceptable for the potential performance on offer.

Audi S3 Saloon review (2022) rear view
Quick? How does 4.4 seconds for the 0-62mph run and a maximum speed of 155mph sound?

What models and trims are available?

The Audi S3 range is simple. You can get it with two bodystyles – Sportback and Saloon – and in base or Vosprung form. that makes choosing one simple, and remember that when you finance it, the additional monthly lease or PCP payment jump from base to Vorsprung won’t be as high as their £8,000 price difference might have you believe.

The entry-level model gets 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, Nappa leather upholstery and heated front seats. There are option packs which will bolster the tech and infotainment, but they can be costly, and once you go down that road, you may as well get the Vorsprung.

What else should I know?

The Audi S3 has all the safety and driver-assistance tech you would expect in a small family car of this size. So you get Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Lane Departure Warning. More sophisticated aids, such as Adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition are available as part of the Driver Assistance pack – or come as standard on the Vorsprung model.

You can get a fuller breakdown. of the Audi A3’s safety systems, here.

To find out if we recommend the Audi S3 in Saloon and Sportback forms, read on for our verdict.

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