Driven: Audi S3 Sportback 2009

Audi's smallest model is the A3 (in 2009), the sporting version of which is the S3. In this case one letter difference spells out a hugely different car.

The stylish extended hatch version (it's not quite a wagon), the Sportback S3 comes packing a punch. A 188kW turbo 2-litre, with 6-speed box mated to Audi's famous quattro all-wheel-drive system gives this car extremely impressive all-round competence and performance, giving the driver great confidence in any conditions. There's 330Nm of torque available, so it's a heap of fun to drive.

0-100km/h takes this little Audi just 5.7 seconds. No snorting, coughing high-performance monster, it's as easy as you like to drive around town, but has a sting in its tail on your command. The combination of handling, braking, power and torque in a relatively lightweight car makes a formidable package.

Audi's build quality is arguably the best in the business these days evident even in this small model.

And the equipment levels are good too. Our test car even had the novel automatic parallel parking option. 18-inch alloy wheels and a subtle body kit look very smart and give the little Audi a fine stance on the road.

It sits a level above the Golf GTi. At $65,900 buyers of cars like Subaru's WRX STi and Mitsubishi's Evo X ought to give this superior quality pocket rocket serious consideration.

Engine type: 2-litre 4-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 188kW
Torque: 330Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Performance: 0-100km/h 5.7 seconds
Price: $65,900 at time of review
Photo & text - Paul Blank (copyright)