I feel the Audi S3 is an often overlooked proposition in the “hot” yet practical hatchback line up. You’ve the die hard Ford fans who will buy anything as long as it makes a good noise and torque steers like a pig. Vauxhall’s offering which is essentially the same albeit with a Phoenix on the front and every now and then Renault offer you a hot chassis plagued with electrical issues and some questionable features. I feel the “hot hatch” has just become an excuse to make tacky and nasty looking versions of ordinary cars, I’ve a lot of experience with the Ford scene (yes I know I’m sorry ok?) and Mk2 ST/RS models with the 5 cylinder lump stolen from Volvo made a great noise with the help of an exhaust and intakes. However I’ve learnt from my RS4 days that they never put power to the floor! You’re forever battling torque steer, understeer and when you think you’ve cured that a spoonful of lift-off oversteer, to really ensure an accident happens.
Here’s the sticking point for me …. the Mk2 Focus RS , Fords flagship model had two options from new , yes two. The first of which I think from Memory gave you SatNav , the other gave you black trimmed “Dynamica” Recaro Cs buckets instead of the vulgar cloth you were offered from standard. This is where the S3 really comes into its own I feel, you get minimum half leather “comfort seats” with alcantara , or you can have full leather with a thick perforated wheel. Offer Audi a little more money and the RS4 wingback buckets are a trim option which really brings the level of interior to one which couldn’t be matched back then by any of its rivals.
The 2 lite turbocharged Power-Plant left the factory with 265bhp which is more than enough for a satisfying forced induction pull. However there’s plenty more readily available. With just a Resonator delete which is predominantly sound related and a remap with renowned VAG tuners R-Tech, this S3 now produces 317bhp 461nm which are pretty impressive figures for essentially a stage 1 package. This era of S3 can be had for as little £6000 upwards add the £400 remap and you’re getting an awful lot of power for the money. The cabin feels refined yet sporty and doesn’t look like a training shoe as it’s “designer” rivals seem to opt for, Audi’s RNSE SatNav was also an option adding to the quality and refinement. The cars Haldex Quattro system gives you a planted feel on the road and an air of reassurance should you dive into a B-road hairpin a little aggressively. My friends car has covered around 30k miles and besides a cheap differential repair and regular servicing no massive issues have been reported.
I’m really not sure why the S3 has been forgotten the last decade or so compared to its rivals, every car meet sees a plethora of fast Fords banging off their rev limiters, while the fast Renaults spend most of their time on track. I feel the Audi is too refined and therefore unappreciated by the younger generation, however now they’ve become so affordable. And with a solid tuning network around them I think we’ll start to see them getting the love they deserve, I know that’s how I’d invest my money at this price point.