Think of a hot hatch capable of everything from commuter trundling to Sunday morning thrashing, and it's hard to avoid thinking of the Golf GTI. But the Audi S3 has been doing the same job with more power for three generations now. Arriving in 1999, it had more than 200hp mark from the off, arriving with the VW Group's once ubiquitous 20-valve turbocharged 1.8, which was also shared with recent PH Hero, the Mk1 Skoda Octavia vRS. But the Audi got 210hp to the Skoda's 180hp, although at well over 1.4 tonnes, the Audi was the podgier offering.
It was quick enough, though, hitting 62mph in 6.9 seconds and topping out at 148mph, but without a serious dosage of engineering Slim Fast, the S3 really needed more power to garner proper attention. So with the arrival of the second-generation model in 2006, that's exactly what it got. Using Audi's 2.0-litre TFSI engine it now had 265hp and could sprint from zero to 62mph in 5.7 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 155mph.
Moreover, the 8P was a much more dynamic hot hatch than its rather stodgy 8L predecessor - thank the Golf Mk5 underpinnings for that, which had arrived a couple of years beforehand and made the GTI great again. When Autocar ran a huge hot hatch grudge match in 2007, it was the S3 that in fact surpassed the GTI - finishing in second place, ahead of a Clio 197 and only behind an R26 Megane. "Incredibly fast and surprisingly engaging" was how the Audi is described in the video - so there.
Combine all that with effortless performance, understated style and trademark Audi quality and it was easy to understand the S3's popularity in the UK. If anything it doesn't quite the recognition it deserves, lost in the limelight of the cheaper, probably more stylish GTI, and the seriously potent S3s and RS3s that have succeeded it. As an entertaining hot hatch that was compact, quick and decently luxurious, there was a lot to be said for this generation of S3.
Sales were therefore always strong in Britain, but Audi residuals are such that even the popular Mk2 S3 - there are 26 to choose from on the PH classifieds - hasn't exactly hit rock bottom prices yet. The cheapest is on for just under seven grand, while you'd need £17,497 to bag the priciest without haggling. Of course, we've picked a car from the lower-end of the listings that looks to be of a standard that might otherwise have placed it further up the order, were it not "priced to sell" by the dealer.
It's a 2008 three-door in ideal discreet S3 spec: black bodywork, silver wheels and black leather interior. With 66,000 miles on the clock, this manual car is said to be in very good health, while the spec list includes a full leather heated interior and Bose speakers for the sound system, so it's not lacking equipment. Plus, it seems a previous owner appreciated the potency of the engine, as they've fitted an upgraded cat-back exhaust and Revo induction kit, which may give the motor better responses and vocals. A recent full service adds weight to the claims that this is a well-maintained machine.
So no, it's never going to be a laugh out loud, lift-off oversteering hooligan. But as a fast car to live with every day, the case for an S3 like this is probably stronger than it's ever been. Sure, it's more expensive than some alternatives, but if this glacial depreciation continues then it shouldn't cost a fortune, either. There's a lot of be said for more subtle performance cars every now and then...
SPECIFICATION - AUDI S3
Engine: 1,984cc, four-cyl turbo
Transmission: six-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@2,500-5,000rpm
First registered: 2008
Recorded mileage: 66,000
Price new: £27,000
Yours for: £8,995