The original Audi S3 gave the hot hatch class a good kick up the exhaust when it arrived in 1999. Packing 210hp, making it the most powerful car in the sector, it also came with four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox to stand out even further from the herd.
While some fussed over the attachment of the word 'quattro' to the car - when it in fact used a Haldex system they though not worthy of the badge - the rest of us got on with enjoying this 150mph machine. It took care of 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, later dropping to 6.4 seconds with the facelifted 225hp model.
Subtly flared wheel arches, 17-inch Avus alloys and deeper front and rear bumpers to aid aerodynamics all looked the part. Inside, there were comfy leather and Alcantara seats and all S3s of this generation were built with the three-door bodyshell.
The engine fitted to the S3 in 1999 was deliberately pegged to 210hp so it didn't steal the TT's thunder. Even so, the hot hatch proved very quick and able across country. The all-wheel drive gave it traction and stability only a Subaru Impreza could match, though the Audi's steering was not quite as full of feel as its Japanese rival.
No matter, the S3 made up for this with excellent build quality that has ensured a high survival rate of this 8L model. A facelift for 2002 came with revised one-piece headlights with the indicators incorporated and some other minor changes. The big difference came in the engine, which was uprated to 225hp, knocking 0.2 seconds off the 0-62mph sprint and marginally improving fuel economy. On the road, there's little between the two versions, so it's more important to buy on condition now.
Prices for early, high mileage S3s start as low as £1,500 for running, MoT'd examples. This is tricky territory; you could get lucky or end up with a money pit as there's quite a bit that can go wrong with this fast Audi. A better bet is a cared for, full history model from around £3,500 that should gently accrue value as more people cotton on to this S3 as a modern classic.
Bodywork and interior
The S3 resists corrosion well, but check along the roof rails and gutters for signs of rust.
If the Xenon headlights don't point straight ahead, the sensor or motor has failed.
Plastic window clips on regulator fail and cause window to stick open. Many replace these clips with metal ones from the A6.
Concert Stereo system can lose volume when EPROM memory is full.
If the alarm battery stops keeping a charge and causes the siren to go off, a new siren is needed.
Glovebox hinges can become brittle and snap.
The rear washer jet gets easily clogged.
The digital dash display loses pixels, but can be fixed for around £300.
Engine and transmission
Service intervals are every 10,000 miles or 12 months, and the air pollen filter should be changed at 20,000 miles.
Every 40,000 miles, the spark plugs and Haldex coupling's oil require changing, and the cambelt and tensioner should be swapped at 60,000 miles along with the water pump.
The clutch slave cylinder can leak over the clutch plate, it's best to replace them as a pair.
Earlier water pumps used plastic impeller blades that could break up and damage the engine, but a newer version with metal impellers solves this.
The thermostat gives up with age and allows the engine to run hot. Check the engine temperature gauge doesn't go above 90-degrees during a test drive.
A lumpy engine idle points to a failed diverter valve. You can test for this by removing the valve and pushing up on the diaphragm with another finger covering the vacuum tube. The diaphragm should not move; if it does then its diverter valve needs replacing.
Poor engine running can also be due to a failed mass airflow meter. Whether you clean or replace the MAF, the ECU will need to be reset when it's refitted.
The oil pick-up pipe can become blocked and needs to be cleaned or replaced; this issue seems to affect later BAM 225 engines more.
Rusty heat shield bolts around the catalytic convertor let the shield rattle, though new bolts will fix this.
Failed coil packs will result in uneven running, but are easy to replace.
The fuel pump relay can stop working, causing multiple fault codes.
Suspension and steering
A knocking noise from the front is likely to be a snapped coil spring.
Front and rear anti-roll bar sheaths can break and cause a noise. Many owners use this as a reason to upgrade to a stiffer anti-roll bar to improve handling.
Track rod ends and wishbone bushes wear quickly but are easy and cheap to replace.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
The brake sensor behind the pedal can fail. Listen for the engine over-revving when the clutch is depressed as a warning sign of this.
The brake servo vacuum pipe can crack with age due to heat, however replacement parts are simple to fit.
SPECIFICATION - AUDI S3
Engine: 1,781cc, 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 210/225@/5,800/5,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 199/207@2,200rpm
Price new: £27,250
Price now: £1,500 upwards
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