As car names go, 'S3' conjures up an image of a 'slightly' sporty version of the A3 - but if ever there was an automotive misnomer, S3 is it!

S3 comes with four-wheel drive 'Quattro' and a whopping 300hp. The German pocket rocket not only delivers outstanding levels of grip, but also a 0-100km/h time of just 5.1 seconds. This rapid acceleration in a compact family-size car feels especially exhilarating.

S3 comes in both hatchback and saloon form. Exterior styling is subtle, but noticeably sporty, with standard 18-inch alloy wheels, aerodynamic spoilers and double twin exhaust pipes.

Motors first drove the S3 hatchback in Germany in early 2013. Back then, we were impressed by the car's sophisticated ride and the understated way the two-litre turbocharged (TFSI) petrol-powered machine could command the outside lane of the Autobahn with little effort.

At the same time, we were also introduced to the stunning RS6, which, as one of the best cars in the world, temporarily pushed the S3 down our wishlist. After a recent week with the car on Irish roads we have become more than smitten with the S3.

Traction is the key to S3's appeal. It is absolutely no use having tonnes of power if you cannot get the tyres to grip the road surface! Quattro allows the S3 tackle wet roundabouts and twisty roads with a confidence you simply cannot get in two-wheel drive performance cars. Even the excellent VW Golf GTI with the 'Performance Pack' and its electronic differential can't match the S3's handling. In fairness to VW, the Golf R is on the way and it uses essentially all S3's bits and pieces, but in a far less subtle way.

Before Christmas, I got to take the S3 onto an aerodrome and really enjoyed pushing the compact family car to the limit of grip and beyond. S3 is a very user-friendly performance machine.

The joy of Audi's S3 is that it doesn't look like an automotive 'Yob'. Irish designer David Caffrey's whole A3 range is a masterclass in understatement. With S3 you can happily nip about town using just a fraction of the 380nm on tap without drawing too much attention to yourself. Should you need to blow off the cobwebs, you can do so in an instant with a flick of your right foot. If you 'go easy' with the throttle you can return an average fuel consumption of 6.9 l/100km. As for emissions, S3 sits in band 'D' with 159g/CO2 - that's not bad for a performance car.

Inside the cabin, décor is restrained, but still a little special. A mix of velvet and Napa leather is standard, or for a few quid more you can opt for the S sport seats that feature beautiful diamond quilting and integrated head restraints. As you'd expect, a host of other toys feature. Depending on which 'drive select' modes you choose, you can dial up or down the car's performance - there is even an active exhaust system that makes a glorious burble.

With Audi S3 there is a lot to like. S3 may start at €47,900 for the manual six-speed version (€50,300 S-Tronic), but it still represents great value for its performance potential.

Michael Sheridan