The RS3 wasnt available at the time and is also 20K more than a like for like new S3.
25K +Ł500 remap got me a car that ticked all the boxes and fit the budget.
I looked long and hard before buying and remapping my S3 and the only other cars that were close at the time was the Golf Gti ED30, and the Golf R32, did also consider an E46 M3 but for various reasons chose the S3.
And nearly 3 years on still Im still enjoy the ownership experience, and this is largely due to the mild tuning and personalising of my car.
It would have cost a lot more to change the car.
Ive spent Ł750 on tuning (springs & remap) which isnt a lot on a 25K car over 3 years IMO. Of course I will never get that back, in the same way you, I, or anyone will get our depreciation back!! Premium/performance cars such as ours are a luxury purchase and very personal and therefore there is a cost attached to that.
Without the tweaks I doubt I would have kept the car as long and it would have cost me a lot more to change it.
The best bit is that my car can be put back to standard for Ł80.
I have mates that think paying 20+K for any car is daft, never mind tuning it. Thankfully we all have differnent views.