Audi S3 Sportback: enthusiasm curbed

Cheaper than its Golf R sibling but the Sportback is no match

Audi S3 Sportback

Fourth-generation S3 has the looks and fantastic grip, but information between the road and driver is lost in translation

It is a curious state of affairs, but one that has existed for so long it can no longer be considered a matter of luck or coincidence. Yet again Audi has taken over the essential mechanical specification of a Volkswagen and made it worse. It can’t be true, but it’s beginning to look like policy.

This new Audi S3 sits on the same platform, uses the same engine, gearbox and suspension architecture as the VW Golf R. To be fair, the latest Golf R has yet to make it to the UK but compared to the previous car the S3 has the same punchy performance and slick seven-speed double-clutch gearbox. So far so good.

But the chassis feels wooden. It does what’s required of it, offering copious amounts of grip and accurate steering, but this is colour-by-numbers handling with no sense of enthusiasm for the job. There’s not much information fed back from the road surface and while you can kill its inherent desire to understeer with a sharp lift of the throttle, it lacks that gorgeous ability to flow from apex to apex that made the Golf R so enjoyable to drive. And as if that weren’t enough, the ride quality isn’t up to much either.

What’s left is a good-looking car with an exceptionally solid feel and a well-designed interior. And while it’s competitively priced (and actually cheaper than the next Golf R), there’s still not enough on offer to a discerning driver to gain a recommendation here.

Audi S3 Sportback statistics

  • Price £36,315
  • Engine Two litres, four cylinders, turbocharged
  • Power 306bhp at 5450rpm
  • Weight 1575kg
  • Power to weight 194bhp per tonne
  • Transmission Seven-speed double-clutch, four-wheel drive
  • 0-60mph 4.8sec
  • Top speed 155mph
  • Economy 35.3mpg
  • CO₂ 183g/km