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Audi S3 (1996 - 2003)

POCKET ROCKET (some text hidden)

BY ANDY ENRIGHT

Introductionword count: 98

Long before the 'superhatch' concept ever really gained popularity there was the Audi S3. With over 200bhp being directed to each of its four wheels, chunky styling and a correspondingly chunky price tag, the S3 was somewhat overshadowed by the TT coupe at the time of its launch but soon established a reputation as the finest driver's car Audi had produced since the iconic quattro 20v. Sales have been steady and there are a number of quality used examples available. Tough and capable, the S3 is one of the more reliable used buys amongst the hot hatch elite.

Modelsword count: 8

Models Covered: 3dr hatch [1.8T petrol (S3 quattro]

Historyword count: 213

It's easy to forget that the Audi A3 had been around for three years by the time the Ingolstadt company finally got round to launching the sporty S3. Until it debuted in May 1999, the quickest A3 on offer was the 150bhp 1.8T version. The S3 used a tuned version of this very same engine that pumped out a healthy 210bhp. A marketing decision dictated that the electronic control unit ramped power down from the 225bhp the top TT model produced to 210bhp so as not to steal the thunder from the glamourpuss coupe. Nevertheless, keen drivers quickly realised that due to its improved visibility and more benign chassis, the S3 was in fact the more satisfying driver's car. Electronic Stability Control was nevertheless added in December 1999, but the major change to the S3 occurred in early 2002 when Audi did the decent thing and gave the S3 the full 225bhp monty. In effect the changes were forced by ever more powerful - and significantly cheaper - SEAT hatchback models and the introduction of a whole host of new rivals such as the Ford Focus RS, the Alfa Romeo 147GTA and the Volkswagen Golf R32. The S3 was deleted from Audi's range in 2003 when an all-new A3 range made an appearance.

What You Getword count: 192

The doors close with a thunk; everything is damped and chunky. There are no squeaks and rattles. The car feels as if it was milled from a solid billet of some hideously expensively heavy substance. Specified in dark colours, the interior has a certain Bauhaus austerity about it. There are no flashing lights, rows of piano keys, colour LCD displays or multi function stalks. You gaze across the fascia. Sheets of black applique trim gaze back. Putting this few buttons in a top of the range car represents admirable confidence on Audi's part, but the equipment's all there. It's just like old money though; hard to spot. The issue that I have with the S3 is that the essential pert femininity of the A3 range doesn't translate harmoniously into the aggressively macho caricature that Audi have created. Like something escaped from a stylist's pad, seventeen inch Avus wheels squeeze into bulging wheel arches whilst the sinister blue xenon lamps, gaping black maw of the air intakes and blade edged roof spoiler add to the visual incongruity. Underneath all the go-faster addenda the S3 is still perhaps too pretty for its own good.

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Scoring (subset of scores)

Category:

Performance
60%
Handling
70%
Comfort
70%
Space
70%
Styling, Build, Value, Equipment, Depreciation, Handling, Insurance and Total scores are available with our full data feed.

This is an excerpt from our full review.
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