With its output of 206kW and price tag of R457 500, the S3 slots somewhere between hot hatch and hyper hatch and it does so without making a big visual statement.
Its styling whispers evolution, although it's actually built on a brand new platform. Slotting onto VW's MQB architecture has allowed the S3 to shed 60 kilos.
At its heart is the latest and greatest version of the VW Group's 2-litre direct injection petrol engine, which has an unusually high 9.3:1 compression ratio and a large turbocharger that boosts up to 1.2 bar.
FEELING THE HEAT
However, the flagship engine battles to cope with warmer climates when in its highest state of tune, which is why South African versions have been detuned from 221kW to 206kW, although our models retain the overseas version's 380Nm torque output, delivered from 1800rpm. Despite reaching its power peak at 5500rpm, the S3 redlines at 6800rpm, something rev-heads will no doubt appreciate.
According to the German spec sheet, the seven-speed S Tronic S3 will dart to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, while the six-speed manual version takes 5.2 sec, although no figures for the detuned model have been provided as yet so you'll have to knock off a few split seconds.
Sport-tuned suspension along with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system and beefy 18-inch alloys aim to keep the S3 intimate with the tarmac. The S3 is also set apart by Xenon Plus headlights (Full LED lamps are optional) as well as an S-specific grille and bumpers, pronounced side sills and 'aluminium-look' mirrors.
The standard drive select system allows the driver to choose between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency or Individual modes, which collectively fine-tune the steering, accelerator response and shift points in the case of the S Tronic.
Standard kit inside includes S-specific instrumentation and badging, sport seats in a cloth/leather combination, aluminium pedals, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and an MMI radio with LCD screen.
Clients will need to tick the options list for items like the flat-bottomed steering wheel and Alcantara or Nappa leather seat trim.
If you're hankering after all these trappings but need more practicality, the S3 Sportback will answer your prayers when it arrives in November.
S3 manual - R457 500
S3 S Tronic - R474 500
The front-wheel drive Opel Astra OPC - with its identical 206kW output and R453 500 price tag - remains the closest German challenger, until the Golf R arrives next year, although if you can live without the all-wheel drive you might as well look at Renault's 195kW Megane RS Sport at R359 900.