Audi S3 Sportback
The new Audi A3 is an amazing car. It's by far and away the nicest hatchback to be in on a long journey with soft touch materials on every model in the range and supportive seats even in SE trim. As expected it is more expensive than its siblings the VW Golf, Seat Leon, but it's easy to see why; you pay for the quality on offer.
When Audi announced the S3 model my dreams came true. At last the latest generation Audi A3's chassis could be exploited to the max and we'd have a new hardcore racer on UK roads.
The biggest talking point of the new S3 Sportback is of course performance, and it has plenty of it. The five-door Sportback is powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as found in the three door S3, which makes 296 horsepower and 280 lb /ft. The suspension has been lowered versus the S Line by 25 mm and it's also 70kg lighter than the outgoing Sportback.
All of this makes for blistering performance out on the road. The new S3 Sportback will sprint from 0 - 60 in 5 seconds with S Tronic transmission and 5.5 seconds with the 6 speed manual. Sales are largely expected to be made up of S Tronic's, given the relaxed cruising potential the new S3 Sportback offers. Being Quattro 4 wheel drive, those 0 - 60 times largely reflect real-world performance too, and you'll easily be able to leap frog other hot hatches in the rain.
The car also benefits from an all new body kit to differentiate it from standard A3's on the road. A more aggressive front bumper, spoiler, side skirts and rear diffuser complete the package. LED daytime running lights come as standard in the S3 and there are four nice fat oval exhausts around the rear, allowing the engine to disperse of all the fuel it'll be burning. 18-inch alloys give the car a nice side profile.
Until the RS3 comes in a year or so, the S3 Sportback offers the best performance in the range. In Sportback guise it is a very practical car, and is no harder to drive than a normal A3. Despite Volkswagen Group's new MQB platform and low suspension set up on the S3, it's also very comfortable, and will happily transport you and your wife to the supermarket at the beginning of the month.
The only real issue the S3 Sportback faces is its slightly more expensive competition. The BMW M135i is a faster real-wheel drive competitor and the A45 AMG is a faster 4 wheel drive competitor. For slightly less money than all of them, you could buy a Mini Paceman John Cooper Works though. Yeah, about that...