Hot hatches are taking over. There is a very good reason for this; I mean they are, under all the performance goodies, everyday hatchbacks which means that they will fit your family and all of their luggage.
They are easy to live with, practical and most will do 0-100km/h in under five-seconds. I got behind the wheel of the updated Audi S3 Sportback recently, but unfortunately it wasn’t what I was expecting.
Audi has been giving us fast hatchbacks for many years and the S3 badge has been around for a number of them. I’ve always liked it because it’s not as boy racer as its cousin, the Volkswagen Golf R. Sadly though, this new one comes across as very grown up, too much in fact.
Take the styling for instance. Gone is the muscular front end with its vents and grooves, replaced by a more sensible, clean look. The lights have also been changed. The model I drove was fitted with LEDs which are fantastic at night, but I’m still not sold on their design.
At the back, the S3 retains its iconic four-pipe exhaust setup which, apart from the larger diffuser, is the only thing that lets those behind you know that this is not a car to be messed with. The rear lights have also been changed slightly and feature LED technology.
Moving to the interior, very little has changed, in fact I met up with a friend who has the previous S3 for a little comparison. The new car's interior is near identical to that of its predecessor, which no bad thing as Audi's interiors are recognised to be one of the best in the business.
It’s neatly laid out and clutter free. The tablet like screen running the latest version of the MMI software rises up from within the dashboard, with a further being addition being Audi's optional Virtual Cockpit instrument display as featured here.
The massive screen takes the place of conventional dials and gives the driver the option to customise the information displayed. I rather liked the big rev counter in the centre and flanked by the navigation map and trip information. I will admit that as cool as they system is though, it does take a fair bit concentration to operate.
So the outside of the car is not as sporty as what I would have liked and the interior is mostly unchanged, however, the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine has been given some extra kick. My friend's S3 develops 206kW and 380Nm, this new model develops a healthy 228kW and 400Nm.
Add in Audi's superb seven-speed S-tronic gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive system, this practical little hatchback will get to 100km/h from standstill in 4.6 seconds. It is unbelievable that this car is as quick as it is, and don’t think it’s just fast off the line, its fast in any gear at just about any speed. It makes a naughty noise as well.
If you are not in a hurry then pop the Drive Select back into Comfort or Efficiency mode and you would be hard pressed to know that you are in a performance car.
I think this is where the S3 is ideal. It’s not as boy racer as a Golf R or Mercedes-AMG A45, but subtle and refined. It’s a car that will easily be mistaken for a normal A3, until you put your foot down and leave everyone around you wondering what just happened.
Article written by Justin Jacobs