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Audi S3 Sportback vs. Mini Paceman John Cooper Works

Audi S3 Sportback

Audi S3 Sportback 

- £32,000

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...

Mini Paceman John Cooper Works

Mini Paceman John Cooper Works 

- £29,535

I've got to say when the Mini Paceman first hit UK roads I wasn't impressed.

As time went on I grew more accustomed to its face. It isn't an overly common sight on the roads and when I do see it I no longer turn away in disgust. The one thing it has always needed is a pair of aggressive exhausts at the back and a power boost from what the current range offers, though. What better company to fill the void than John Cooper Works.

Expected to be available in early 2014, the Mini Paceman John Cooper Works will be a direct cheaper alternative to the Audi S3 Sportback. It too will feature 4 wheel drive and it too will have plenty of power feeding the wheels.

The stats certainly look exciting. The Mini Paceman John Cooper Works will be fitted with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and despite it sharing the same capacity as smaller hot hatches, such as the new Fiesta ST, it outputs more power; 215 horsepower and 207 lb /ft to be exact. Coupled to the ALL4 system the Mini Paceman John Cooper Works will complete the 0 - 60 sprint in around 6.7 seconds through its 6-speed manual gearbox.

It isn't anywhere near as fast as the S3 Sportback then. The S3's 2-litre engine trumps the Mini's 1.6-litre engine. The S3's top speed is 20mph more than the Mini's. That makes the S3 Sportback a much better drivers car and a much more enthralling racers car. But, as many potential Mini Paceman John Cooper Works drivers will tell you, it's the whole package that appeals.

Despite the weight and power, the Mini Paceman John Cooper Works is said to return 40 mpg on a combined cycle. It's also compact enough for town driving, and the ALL4 system makes it a good car to drive in all weather conditions.

Still, at around £29,535, it isn't better in any way than the S3 Sportback. It is not as fast, it is not as luxurious, it is not as good looking, and it'll return the exact same fuel economy if figures are to be believed. This is one of those cases where I simply need to point out yourself - a future Mini Paceman John Cooper Works driver - crying inside when an S3 Sportback pees all over you at the lights. Boo hoo, you bought the wrong car.

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