AUDI’S S3 is the automotive Clark Kent

AUDI’S S3 is the automotive Clark Kent of the compact car world.

Its innocuous looks give the impression that it’s an A3, in itself a classy number, but the little red badge on the grille and tail, four exhaust pipes peeping out of the rear diffuser, bigger wheels, and subtle front and rear style changes identify it as an undercover Superman.

It will happily play its Clark Kent role in city traffic, and return quite remarkable fuel economy, but it’s one that can be taken to a track day with confidence, and take on all comers.

Its 2.0litre four-cylinder motor has been tuned to give a few more kiloWatts – 213 of them – and it runs line-ball with a 911 to 100km/h in 4.8seconds.

S3s come in sedan, Sportback and cabriolet body styles, all with similar mechanical bits, quattro (all-wheel drive) and a slick seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Our steed was the Sportback, which some might translate to hatch, and at a list price of $62,900 – or about $10K more driveaway – it’s the least costly of the trio.

It comes pretty much fully kitted with lovely 18-inch alloy wheels, beautifully shaped and finished leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch pop-up screen, satnav, CD and DVD player, digital radio, multi-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Bluetooth connectivity.

The driver gets Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’, a clear digital instrument cluster that can be configured to your preferences and the console houses the five-mode drive selector. So just a few buttons and twirls and the S3 is set up exactly as you want it.

The cabin design is elegantly simple, with quality materials, neat air vents, and well located and pleasant to use switches.

Standard fare includes a good reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors. LED headlights and dynamic indicators that sweep across the lens, rather than blink.

Enthusiasts will love the S3’s quick and precise steering, its composed, if firmish ride, its responsiveness, and its nimble and sure-footed handling.

Drive it gently and you can get very close to the 6.6litres/100km average claim. We got it down to 6.8 on a country run, and averaged about 8.5 in the city.

But select ”dynamic’ mode and put the 213kW to full use and the fuel economy will of course go skywards; but you’ll be rewarded with a decent shove in the back and the pop-pop-pop of exhaust burp as the S3 hurries through its close ratio seven-speed transmission.

Front seat accommodation is superb, though it’s a bit squishy in the back, and the boot, at 340litres, is not the world’s biggest.

But you can turf out the back seat passengers, lay the seats flat and you have 1180litres waiting to swallow up whatever you’ve bought from Bunnings.

Safety features include electronic stability and traction control systems, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, Audi pre-sense collision warning and eight airbags.

Verdict: Resident rallymeister Rob put the Sportback through its paces and gave it a 4.5-star rating. ‘A great car’, he said.

We concur.