Audi’s new S3 is up for the fight with its German rivals

NOT even a global pandemic can halt the march of the premium German hot hatch.

Joining the 300hp battleground with the Mercedes-AMG A35, BMW M135i and the VW Golf R, the Audi S3 has re-entered the ring looking well up for the fight.

Audi's S3 is a tenacious little beast when it comes to cornering

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Audi’s S3 is a tenacious little beast when it comes to corneringCredit: graemefordham.com

Based of course on the new A3 — Audi’s biggest-selling car — the slicker S3 hustles along 15mm lower to the ground with sportier suspension and adds Quattro all-wheel drive as standard.

This Quattro’s advanced new Haldex clutch system enables the S3 for the first time ever to drive with 100 per cent power sent direct to the rear wheels for those blissful moments that magnetic tarmac traction is not the priority.

But, it comes at a price.

Luckily, that’s just 55 litres less shopping capacity than in the A3’s ample 380-litre boot — honestly, you’d never notice it.

You’ll have to ensure whatever you toss in the trunk is tethered down though as the S3 is a tenacious little beast when it comes to cornering.

The S3's progressive steering makes it even more inviting to explore just how grippy this car really is

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The S3’s progressive steering makes it even more inviting to explore just how grippy this car really isCredit: graemefordham.com

And with more progressive steering it is even more inviting to explore just how grippy this car really is.

A few other changes that make this an S3 and not a standard A3 include more muscular rear haunches, Nappa leather sport seats, upgraded steering wheel and a faux rear diffuser mounting the quad exhaust pipes.

Coupled with some clever sound design, the sporty soundtrack gets some love from the Bang & Olufsen stereo when you tap the “pronounced” button on the bigger and better infotainment touchscreen.

So cheeky exhaust pops and bangs are also now standard.

Engine sound, though, is just one of the many adjustable parameters in the five preset drive modes of efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, which you can experiment with to tailor your S-Express.

The S3 has more muscular rear haunches than the A3

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The S3 has more muscular rear haunches than the A3Credit: graemefordham.com

Unfortunately, not everything is now standard on the S3.

A manual gearbox is not even on the options list, only a seven-speed auto with flappy-paddles.

I say only, but it is really rather excellent.

Adaptive suspension and 19in rims are the two options that beg to have their boxes ticked though.

The S3 also has Nappa leather sport seats and an upgraded steering wheel

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The S3 also has Nappa leather sport seats and an upgraded steering wheelCredit: graemefordham.com

However, if you can wait a couple of months for the bells and whistles spec that Audi calls “Vorsprung”, then they’ll both be included.

Or, if patience really is one of your strong suits and you simply must have the top trump parked outside the gym, then you should hang on until this time next year when Audi promises to unleash the RS3.

But until then, and in fairness, even after that, the S3 has a sweet balance of pleasing performance and practical pretensions to keep a small family wearing big smiles for many thousands of entertaining miles to come.

Audi's S3 has a sweet balance of pleasing performance and practical pretensions

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Audi’s S3 has a sweet balance of pleasing performance and practical pretensions

Key facts: AUDI S3

Price: £37,900

Engine: 2-litre turbo petrol

Power: 310hp, 400Nm

0-62mph: 4.8 secs

Top speed: 155mph

Economy: 35mpg

CO2: 183g/km

Out: Now

Trailer of the Audi R8 Coupé V10 performance quattro

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