From the moment you squeeze the throttle, this Audi feels something a bit special.
Audi has had a tsunami of new models over the past few years, and here is another one: the S3 Sportback. This five-door hot hatch is an appealing blend of sports car performance and five-door hatchback practicality. It is a rapid performer with restrained good looks that don’t shout about how quick it is. So if you see one of these looming in the rear-view mirror, you might not instantly identify it as an S3 rather than a mainstream A3. Look closer, though, and discreet badging plus a few visual tweaks identify it as the performance flagship of Audi’s A3 family.
Group 36 insurance tells you how much of a flyer it is, and although the price sounds expensive for a compact five-door, it packs in a lot of pace for the money. It is equipped not only with a high-performance two-litre turbo engine, but also with Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system to keep it securely planted on the road. It is a hot hatch minus any obvious vices.
The two-litre turbo engine is teamed with either a six-speed manual or six-speed twin-clutch auto transmission. Prices are £31,260 for the A3 Sportback manual and £32,740 for the auto.
From the moment you squeeze the throttle, this Audi feels something a bit special. The two-litre, four-cylinder, direct injection and turbocharged engine packs a powerful punch, with its 296 bhp (300 PS) of power peaking at between 5,500 and 6,200 rpm, and its 280 lb ft of torque on song all the way from 1,800 to 5,500 rpm.
The car we tested was the six-speed manual, with a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 5.3 seconds. If you go for the dual-clutch auto transmission model, it squirts off the line even quicker, to reach the benchmark 62 mph pace in 4.9 seconds. Both models have a top speed of 155 mph.
Even so, the combined average fuel economy figure is a pretty reasonable 40.4 mpg for the manual model, and 40.9 for the auto. The engine is a further development of a unit that has collected Engine of the Year awards, and complies with Euro 6 emissions regulations.