Audi A6

The A6 S line isn't the only hot four-ringed model to arrive this week. While we've put Volks-wagen's Golf GTI to the test for the first time, it is worth remembering that Audi has already adapted its turbocharged engine to power the A3 Sportback.

The combination of a smooth and powerful petrol engine, a surefooted four-wheel-drive chassis and the A3 Sportback's appealing shape makes this 2.0T quattro model a truly attractive proposition. However, opt for a luxuriously trimmed cabin and the price will soon climb out of the reach of most hatch buyers.

Feeding the blown motor's muscle through a quattro 4WD system could give the Audi the edge over its rivals - which will include the new GTI - but does it put the Sport back into the A3?

It is clear that the new powerplant is well suited to a machine of this size and weight. It offers the perfect mixture of refinement and performance, making the Sportback feel like a capable premium five-door model rather than a true hot hatch.

Yet that's not to say this Audi isn't quick. The turbocharged engine pushes the A3 from 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 145mph. With 280Nm of torque available from as low down as 1,800rpm, the 197bhp powerplant is flexible, too, providing similar performance to a high-output turbodiesel.

Over a challenging back road, the four-wheel-drive chassis also proves more than capable of delivering sharp handling, but the A3's numb steering is no better than that of cheaper models. The other weak link in the driving experience is the standard-fit six-speed gearbox. This feels a little notchy, and we think Audi's clutchless manual DSG transmission will be preferable for performance enthusiasts.

So the turbocharged Sportback will tempt plenty of buyers with its handling and performance, but many may lose their enthusiasm when they see the price list. In standard specification, the 2.0T FSI quattro Sport costs £22,705, but with the extravagant options fitted to our car, the bill comes to a huge £29,075! The Golf GTI may have only front-wheel drive, but it offers far better value for money.

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