It doesn't look like high-performance hot hatch at a glance however. The only real giveaway is the quad rear exhausts, as even the red 'S' badging is available on lesser S Line.
The big difference, of course, is in the performance the S3 delivers. Power comes from a 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine (familiar from the likes of the latest Volkswagen Golf GTI) but with power cranked up to 300PS and torque to 380Nm across a broad rev range 1800-5000rpm. The result is excellent performance of 0-100 kmh taking 4.8 seconds with the S Tronic gearbox specified.
It takes a little bit longer to get to 100 kmh with the standard manual gearbox – 5.2 seconds – but all models, whether three-door or five-door, manual or automatic, are limited to a 250 kmh speed. Despite impressive performance the fuel economy is good – S Tronic models manage 5.75 kms/100 on the combined cycle
As with all performance Audi models the S3 features quattro all-wheel drive and it works to maintain traction and keep the car planted and stable on twisting roads, whether at high speeds or when accelerating out of slower turns or roundabouts. It offers enjoyable performance and handling but it feels safe and controllable, which is a great blend for a family-sized hot hatchback.
It’s a little firmer than the A3 but that’s an expected compromise when buying a performance car and it’s not at all uncomfortable. It’s as practical as the A3 on which it is based, and so offers a useable everyday package that’s easy to drive on the motorway and around town but that’s enjoyable when you get to your favourite road.