I was having an end of year cleaning up of the hard drive and came across this, given the price stated I'd imagine it's from 1999 as the price dropped to £25k. I'd still love to see an S3 on Top Gear. It's Mika Hakkinen in a Marks & Spencer suit; Motoring. (Features) Jeremy Clarkson. I MET a food stylist the other day and wondered. How did that come about then? How do you start out in life wanting to be an astronaut or a film star, and end up with a Davey lamp on your head, using surgical tweezers to arrange sesame seeds on a bun? And then I wondered some more. What a sham. It is this person who builds up my hopes in hamburger restaurants. I see a photograph of a bulging, steaming snack that bears no relationship whatsoever to the tired old cowpat I'm actually given. Apart perhaps from the steam. And that brings me neatly to the Audi TT. When they first showed me a photograph of this Bauhaus barnstormer, I was positively moist with anticipation. But then I went for a drive and, within half an hour, found myself wearing that detached, middle-distance expression normally reserved for dinner parties when I find myself next to a man who services reservoirs. The Audi TT looks like a sports car, but it isn't one. It's an automotive Ginger Spice, superficially lithe and speedy, but beneath the clothes all droopy and loose. Like a soggy walnut. Interesting then that I've fallen madly in love with the new Audi S3, a car that shares the same turbocharged engine as the TT along with the same four-wheel-drive system and the same six-speed gearbox. This is because the S3 doesn't try to look like a sports car. Apart from bigger wheels, wider arches and more crouching stance, it looks like a normal A3, which is an unpretentious hatchback. And because I wasn't expecting it to garnish the road with Tabasco sauce, I didn't really mind that the gearbox was vague and that the brake pedal acted like a switch. And so what if it doesn't have electric responses when you turn the wheel. Audi, bless them, have never been able to make a car that handles properly but, for the thousands of doctors and solicitors who buy such things, it doesn't really matter. If you want a sharp suit, go to Subaru and buy the Armani Impreza. If you want Boss badging buy a BMW, but if you just want something for work there's always good old Audi and Spencer. But then I pressed the accelerator pedal and thought: whoa, hold on a minute. The S3 may not be up to much in the bends, but in a straight line it is positively explosive. Even in sixth gear at 70mph, it hurtles off toward the horizon like a rabbit. I simply wasn't ready for such vivid performance from what is basically a 1.8 litre, three-door hatchback. And that's where the S3 really scores. By maintaining low expectations, you're constantly being delighted - by the epic night-time dashboard that glows like Los Angeles, by the blue tinted headlamp beam and, most of all, by the Recaro seats. Not since I drove an old Renault Fuego have I ever been quite so comfortable. In a car, that is. It's also been a while since I felt so comfortable with a car. While it doesn't actually turn heads, it has real-world good looks. What I'm trying to say is that it isn't Brad Pitt or David Beckham; it's just a handsome bloke on the other side of the bar. And that four-ringed badge comes with no unpleasant baggage. When I see an Audi coming up our drive, I'll rush to the door to see who it is. When I see a BMW, I close the shutters and pretend to be out. You buy an Audi because you want a practical, well-made tool to convey you, and some passengers, sensibly and with the minimum of fuss from your agreeable house in the country to, let's say, Assaggi in Notting Hill. People with Bee Ems go to Quaglino's, so they can shout. And finally we get to the price: £ 27,000. Which is a lot for what, as I said, is basically a hatchback. But it is not a lot for a car that does quite so much, quite so well. For the same money, you could have a Mitsubishi Evo 6, but you'd arrive everywhere looking like Gary Rhodes. Or you could have the BMW 323 coupe. But you'd arrive everywhere late. For the past year or so, I've been singing the praises of Alfa Romeo's GTV6, which is £28,000. In fact, I've come awfully close to telling strangers in traffic jams that they've bought the wrong car. "Oi, you. Why are you driving around in that p.o.s. when you could have had an Alfa? You are a moron and I hate you on a cellular level." Well, now there is an excusable alternative. If you really, really need back seats and you absolutely must have a boot that can take more than one prawn, you may buy an Audi S3. It's the second-best car in this class, which is like being the second-best racing driver after Michael Schumacher. There you are. The S3 is Mika Hakkinen. Cool. Detached. Handsome. And much, much faster than you'd think.