You have to feel a bit sorry for the Audi S3 saloon. It’s out-powered by its RS3 sibling, doesn’t offer value for money like a Focus RS and won’t leave you grinning from ear to ear in the same way a Honda Civic Type R will.
But don’t write the plucky Audi off just yet. Look beyond the spec sheet and the basic numbers and the S3, especially as a saloon, makes a very tempting and attractive choice.
Firstly, it is unquestionably one of the most handsome junior sports saloon on sale today. It’s dinky, well proportioned and muscular body discreetly hides its performance potential, while immediately making you look like the sharpest guy in the corporate car park.
Those striking looks extend to the cabin, where Audi has kitted the S3 out with leather bucket seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and Formula 1 style flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Under the bonnet sits a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, but it develops a thumping 306bhp and sends its power to the road via Audi’s fabled quattro all-wheel drive system. That means 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds. Plant your right foot and glance down at the speedo and while the numbers increase in a frenzied blur the S3 never feels as fast as the speedo suggest.
The reason is that the S3 makes savage acceleration look as effortless as Usain Blot does running the 100 meters. A supple ride quality and absence of any wind or tyre roar makes the S3 one of the most civilised hot hatches around- it’s a 306bhp performance car you can truly use everyday.
The downside is when you want to make use of all that power the Audi isn’t as entertaining as a Focus RS. The steering isn’t as direct, while the engine and exhaust don’t deliver the same addictive soundtrack.