For the past few years our answer to “which Audi S3 should I buy” has been “the VW Golf R”.
After all, the VW offers all the performance and sharper handling for a substantial price saving, however recent experience in a pair of 2017 Audi S3s suggests we may have been a little hasty in our assessment. It’s a terrible cliche to say it’s more than the sum of its parts, but that’s the thing about cliches, they’re often true.
The Audi S3 doesn’t really stand out in any particular area; the styling is restrained, the performance is impressive without being groundbreaking and the handling is entertaining, but won’t leave you buzzing with adrenaline.
Equally, though, this cohesiveness makes it an extremely pleasant car to spend time with. Starting at $62,900, this is an expensive small car, but the superb materials and peerless build quality inside make it feel expensive, too.
Crucially, this is the case even if you don’t feel like ticking options boxes, as the S3 hatch we tested was virtually bare bones but still had the flashy digital instrument cluster, keyless entry/start and now the ever-present active safety equipment.
The vast majority of buyers will stick with the standard dual-clutch gearbox, which is fine, but the manual is particularly slick and a really good match to the punchy 2.0-litre turbo engine. The standard ride is pretty jiggly, so adaptive dampers are worth considering, however even with them the ride isn’t fantastic.
Nonetheless, the handling is grippy and agile and if you’re an enthusiast with a taste for the finer things in life, the S3 makes quite a strong case for itself.
Engine: 2.0L I4 turbo