Much as we all love sports coupés, practical considerations such as taking the dog to the vet or the pram to the beach mean that, by the time we can afford them, most of us wind up driving SUVs or station wagons.

But that doesn't necessarily mean giving up driving fun.

Audi has long catered for parents who also enjoy driving for its own sake with a series of high-velocity family wagons and practical hatches and the latest five-door protagonist is the new S3 Sportback, due to debut at the Geneva motor show early in March and on sale in Europe from the third quarter of 2013.

The South African launch is scheduled for August of this year.

And it is all new; the only thing its turbopetrol four has in common with the previous model is its 1984cc capacity. Dual fuel-injection, a new valvelift system, innovative thermal management and an exhaust manifold that forms part of the cylinder head combine to deliver a quoted 221kW at 5500rpm, with 380Nm on tap from 1800-5500rpm.

Driving through the optional six-speed S tronic, a redesigned multiplate centre clutch and quattro all-wheel drive, that's good enough for a 0-100 sprint in five seconds flat, with just a hint of wheelspin, in Launch Control mode. The six-speed manual needs half a second more, says Audi; we'll take that under advisement until we've driven one.

Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h, and Audi promises that lightfooted drivers can record an average 6.9 litres per 100km - that's 1.5 less than the previous S3 Sportback.

A lot of that is due to the paddle-shift, dual-clutch transmission's tightly spaced intermediate gears for sparkling performance and a long-legged top gear for economical cruising.

FANGS CLIPPED FOR SA

Audi SA warns, however, that SA-spec S3 Sportbacks may possibly come with a slightly detuned version, due to our high ambient temperatures, that's rated at 206kW.

The new engine is not only five kilograms lighter than the previous lump, it's also tilted 12 degrees backwards, which has the dual benefits of moving the front axle 52mm further forward and bringing more of the engine's weight inside the box defined by the four tyres' contact patches.

The new S3 Sportback is 4324mm long, 1785mm wide and 1404mm high, but it's 70kg lighter at 1445kg than its predecessor, due to increased use of high-tensile steel in the passenger cell, while front/rear weight distribution is a near-ideal 51:49, thanks to an aluminium bonnet and front wings.

S sport suspension lowers the body 25mm compared to its A3 sibling, and progressive steering tightens up as the speed builds, while huge ventilated discs (340mm in front) and low-rolling resistance 225/40 tackies on 18” alloys help keep things on the black and narrow.

BELLS AND WHISTLES

Audi drive select is, of course, standard issue, giving the driver S3 Sportback driver the choice of comfort, auto, dynamic or efficiency modes - and if you've opted for the MMI radio, you get an extra mode, individual, which you can set up to your own parameters using the MMI screen.

And if you've opted for Audi's magnetic adaptive shock absorbers, drive select will tune those on the fly as well.

Aluminium-look double horizontal bars and a matt grey grille insert tell everybody this is an S-model Audi, as do the aluminium-look side mirrors and the dark grey diffuser with aluminium-look double bar housing the four oval tailpipes and roofline-stretching tailgate spoiler.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

The cabin is trimmed in black leather with colour-contrast stitching; two-tone trim in black and red is an option, as are diamond-quilted S sports seats with integrated head restraints and shoulder inserts, and a leather-trimmed multifunction sports steering wheel with a flat-bottomed rim.

Standard kit includes dark-grey instruments with white needles, a boost gauge inset in the rev-counter face, and a colour display for the trip data computer.

The wide range of infotainment modules includes MMI navigation plus with MMI touch, while Audi connect delivers tailored internet services. Audi also says it can deliver your S3 Sportback on request with any driver aid that's available for the A3, including adaptive cruise control.