This is the Audi S3 and sister car to the Volkswagen Golf R. It’s the same 261bhp, four-wheel drive super-hatch that’s been around since 2006. But unlike the hatchback and for a time convertible Golf, the S3 is available as a three door hatchback and a hatch-cum-estate Sportback.
Like the VW, the four-wheel drive Audi S3 has always been more of a swift, surefooted express rather than a tearaway hot hatch or rival to the brutally fast Subaru WRX STI or Renaultsport Megane RenaultSport.
A six-speed manual is offered alongside Audi's S Tronic transmission. The latter 'box is essentially the older six-speed version of VW’s DSG gearbox rather than the latest seven-speed unit, but the shifts are smooth and rapid. And with the Audi’s relentless shove (258lb ft at 2500-5000rpm), the seventh forward cog is rarely missed.
Audi claims that the S Tronic-equipped S3 will crack the sprint to 62mph in 5.5 sec (0.2sec quicker than the manual transmission car). And we can well believe Audi; the smooth turbocharged four-pot motor barely has to pause between ratios, making for rapid, unrelenting progress. In terms of economy, you’ll see up to 34mpg in S Tronic guise and 33.2mpg when equipped with the standard six manual ‘box. CO2 emissions for the pricier auto option are 5g/km better than the manual at 193g/km CO2.
Driven with nuances of decorum, however, the Audi S3 is a perfectly civilised cruiser, thanks to a supple chassis and excellent refinement. Akin to the Golf R, we’d compare the Audi’s motorway cruising prowess to that of a VW Passat; high praise indeed.