Don't let the big wings and alloy wheels fool you. Some of today's so-called hot hatches aren't the tarmac-munching supercars the manufacturers would have you believe.
Extra luxury, refinement and safety have added weight to these machines, blunting performance and eating away at driveability. It's a fact that has been taken on board at Audi, a company that's bucked the trend with a discreet-looking A3, powered by a 3.2-litre V6.
Acting as the performance flagship until a V8-engined S3 arrives next year, the 3.2 quattro has a tough band of sporty Audi fans to please. This is the most powerful A3 ever and, after a few miles, you realise it's a serious Q-car.
At idle, the 247bhp unit is near-silent, but as you prod the accelerator there's a wonderful growl that gives a clue to the awesome performance on offer.
The A3 3.2 is available with Audi's hi-tech double-clutch DSG semi-auto gearbox, but our car had the slick six-speed manual. It covered 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, while top speed is limited to an autobahn-crushing 155mph.
Make no mistake, this Audi feels as quick in everyday driving as the figures suggest. Four-wheel drive allows all the power to be put down smoothly and easily and, when coupled with the A3's superb new chassis, it gives the car confidence-inspiring handling.
Our only criticism concerns the ride quality. As a result of firmer suspension settings, the car lacks composure on tricky roads, and is unsettled by uneven surfaces. However, it's still much smoother than more focused rivals.
So where has Audi pitched its super-hatch? The DSG version will cost you £25,065, but the manual V6 looks better value at £23,665.
Standard equipment includes electronic climate control, an unusual sun blind which stows away in the parcel shelf and a Thatcham category one immobiliser. However, the Audi is £1,145 more than Alfa Romeo's V6-engined 147 GTA, and several thousand more than two-wheel-drive hot hatches from less prestigious manufacturers.
Costs are also likely to mount up thanks to the 3.2's thirst for fuel. The company claims combined economy of 26.7mpg, but we managed little better than 20mpg on our varied test route. Drive gently and you should be able to achieve the official figures, but CO2 emissions of 254g/km will mean big tax bills for company car drivers.
However, if you are seeking a composed and refined three-door performance car, as opposed to a raucous bodykitted hot hatch, this A3 could be your perfect match. We look forward to driving the even more powerful S3 V8 - but for the moment, the V6 is well up to the job of leading the A3 range.