What's it about
If you want to get a taste of S-car ownership it takes less than R340 000 to get you into Audi's performance stable.
Not only is the S3 Audi's "entry-level" performance model but it also allows Ingolstadt to have a go at the lucrative hot hatch segment.
And true to hot hatch credentials the S3 is geared up to quicken your pulse with 188kW of power on tap.
This muscle comes from an upgraded version of the VW-Audi group's tried-and-tested 2.0-litre TFSI engine, which has been named as Engine of the Year before.
With the S3, Audi has discreetly beefed-up the A3 with S-line DNA capturing a subtle racy look for the three-door.
S sport suspension, a muscular front bumper, a prominent black honeycomb mesh grille, chrome housings for the side mirrors, wider door sills and glitzy 18-inchers add extra flash to the car.
The car comes standard with xenon lights featuring daytime running lights.
At the rear the styling is more subdued with a neat roof spoiler and integrated rear platinum-grey diffuser housing twin tailpipes.
Overall the S3 looks the exotic part as it looks exclusive and steals envious glares.
The sporty theme is even more obvious on the inside, especially if you spec it with (pricey) deep bucket seats, similar to that of the RS4.
The S3 also gets Audi's sports steering wheel, which has a flat lower edge, and race pedals. S3 initials finish off the steering wheel, gear knob and other fittings.
As with other Audis build quality is top-notch while the overall ergonomics are good too. The standard dashboard layout is typical A3 but the instruments have a special look with grey dials and white needles.
The trip computer can also display the road speed digitally and record lap times.
What's nice about the S3 is that there is a an acceptable level of standard equipment and there is little need to spec up the car.
Sport seats with leather and racing cloth finish are standard but you'll probably want to add full leather trim at an extra cost option. But if you want the flashy RS4 bucket seats though, you'll have to pay a whopping R42 760.
Other options include light and rain sensors, a sunroof and sat-nav.
In terms of passive safety the car gets six airbags and of course it is fitted with ABS with EBD, ESP and EDL (electronic differential lock) too.
Under the skin
Compared with the 1.8-litre power unit of its predecessor, the new S3 it has gained 23 kW and 50 Nm of torque.
Audi boosted the 2.0-litre T FSI engine with some serious muscle and the unit's standard output is up from 147 kW to 188 kW. Torque is 330 Nm and available between 2 400 and 5 200 r/min.
The S3 has pistons with stronger pins and new rings as well as reinforced connecting rods with new bearings transmit the engine?s forces to the crankshaft. The cylinder block has been reinforced at the main-bearing pedestals and the main-bearing cap.
The cylinder head consists of a new, extra-lightweight aluminium-silicon alloy that exhibits high temperature resistance and strength. The exhaust camshaft timing and the high-pressure injectors with increased cross-section have been adjusted to accommodate the increased power output.
There is also a larger turbocharger and intercooler which generates a boost pressure of 1.2 bar instead of 0.9 bar.
The new high-performance turbo engine weighs 152kg.
The S3 comes with a closely-spaced six-speed manual gearbox. Quattro all-wheel-drive is of course standard while Audi has refined the standard A3 chassis too.
The springs and dampers are firmer and in comparison with the standard A3 Audi has dropped the S3 with 25mm.
The S3 is arguably one of the most refined hot hatches available in South Africa. It is a far sharper and more nimble car than its Golf R32 cousin and there is definitely no question about the competence of the S3's handling.
Thanks to all four wheels being driven the S3 is confident on the road keeping its pose on wet and dry roads with ease.
Communication through the steering wheel is good and it weighs up nicely at higher speeds. A firm ride also adds to the S3's sports car appeal.
Since the car is such a "lightweight" tipping the scale at 1 455 kg, the S3 is extremely agile and take on corners with swiftness and confidence. The Audi doesn't run out of breath easily too doing 0-100 km/h in a claimed 5.9 seconds with top speed limited at 250 km/h.
Peak torque cuts in at 2 500 r/min and all of that 330 Nm will give the car an impressive surge. There is a subtle but sneering whistle from the turbo, while there is some lag before this Audi just shoots off giving you a grin that can be seen kilometres away.
The black-painted brake callipers, sporting the S3 logo, aren't only there for the show either and are more than capable to bring this performance machine to a quick standstill.
And one can't help but to be impressed with the well-balanced T FSI engine, which gives silky-smooth performance with more than enough oomph.
The racy character of the S3 is complemented by the short-throw six-speed manual gearbox. However, it would have been nice to have the option of Audi's super slick S-tronic (DSG) gearbox.
Although Audi says there are no plans to make this superb transmission available in the S3, we can't help to wonder if the new 7-speed version will eventually finds its way to the S3.
The S3 is a perfect balance of sportiness, performance and quality while still embodying typical Audi genes such as style and subtleness.
It is also great car as an everyday tool as it is easy to live with, however, if you have the need for speed you get all the driving pleasures that go with that too. Also, you can't help to admire it for its raw performance.
The S3 is a car where you really want to spend all your time behind the wheel. It gives your heart rate a go, your palms get sweaty and your pupils widen before take-off.
Easy to live with
How about a DSG transmission?
Costly bucket seats