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Audi shows S3 Sportback (2013) – but is a used S3 a better buy?

By Ollie Kew

First Official Pictures

13 February 2013 14:00

Here’s Audi’s S3 Sportback, the five-door version of the 296bhp Quattro hot hatch unveiled last year. The S3 Sportback takes 5sec flat to accelerate from 0 to 62mph, that’s one-tenth of a second quicker than Audi’s official figure for its three-door stablemate.

That’s because the initial 5.1sec S3 time was only an estimate, and Audi’s subsequent tests have shown the three-door S3 actually dipping below five seconds in the 0-62mph sprint. So, the Sportback is likely to be fractionally slower, but in the up side, the estate offers 15 more litres of bootspace.

Prices are expected to start at around £30,000 when the S3 Sportback goes on UK sale in autumn 2013. But you could get your hands on a 58-plate S3 for just £16,000 – read on to find out more.

How different is the old S3 Sportback from the new car?

Given Audi’s glacial styling evolution, only anoraks will spot the new car’s more pronounced creases and slimmer lights. The first S3 Sportback hit the market in 2008, around the same time as a facelift for the model range. So, you get LED running lights, a restyled front bumper and tail-lights, and refreshed dials inside. Audi also used the facelift as to upgrade the Quattro all-wheel drive system, with a faster-acting centre differential for shuffling power between the wheels.

Power from the 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine stood at 261bhp and 258lb ft (figures 35bhp and 22lb ft down on the new car’s). So the old S3 takes 5.7sec to hit 62mph, though top speed is still 155mph.

I’ve lost a bit of performance, but how much have I saved?

With last-gen S3 Sportbacks starting from £16k for a 65k mile example, you’ll pay around half what the new car will cost. CAR’s sister title Parkers reports no major reliability issues with the S3, though running costs aren’t cheap. Fuel consumption drops from around 33mpg into the low 20s if you’re nailing the loud pedal – Audi claims 40.9mpg for the new S3.

Opt for the older car and you’ll pay £250 per year road tax, due to its 196g/km CO2 rating – the new car emits 159g/km.

What about the hotter RS3 Sportback?

CAR ran the flagship RS3 as a long-term test car in 2012, and though its brittle ride and lusty fuel consumption came under heavy fire, it won fans for its huge point-to-point performance, warbly five-cylinder engine note and five-door practicality.

If you’re tempted, don’t expect a bargain just yet. RS3 production has only just ceased and demand is still high, meaning prices are still up at the £35k mark, and higher still for fully-optioned, delivery mileage examples. We found a 5k mile 2012 car for £33,995 hiding in the classifieds: that’s £6000 less than new. Mercifully, most RS3 buyers seem to have shunned the lairy red-painted wheels…

Give me some reasons the new S3 Sportback is worth waiting for

Besides the fact it uses a tarted-up version of the new A3’s cabin, which is one of the best interiors sensible money can buy? It’s also 70kg lighter than the old car, thanks to its clever ‘MQB ‘ platform that also sees duty in the VW Golf Mk7 and Seat Leon. A killer feature on all new S3s is the latest version of Audi 'drive select' interface. The different modes sharpen the car's throttle response, allow the DSG gearbox to hold onto ratios longer before upshifting, and quicken the steering ratio.

As standard in the S3 Sportback, there are Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency modes. Tick the box for the upgraded MMI infotainment system and you'll get an additional Individual setting, letting you mix and match your favourite settings.

>> Click ‘Add your comment’ to tell us if it’d be new S3, old S3 or full-fat RS3 that’d get your money

>> If that’s whetted your appetite for a fast Audi bargain, check out CAR’s guide to buying your first RS Avant model by clicking the links below…

CAR guide: Buying your first 1994 Audi RS2 Avant

CAR guide: Buying your first 2000 RS4 Avant

CAR guide: Buying your first 2002 RS6 Avant

CAR guide: Buying your first 2005 RS4 Avant

CAR guide: Buying your first 2008 RS6 Avant