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Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI vs Audi S3 - weighing up the hot hatch icons

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2021 has been somewhat of a special year for fans of the hot hatch. Toyota's incredible pocket rocket, the Yaris GR, was introduced locally - much to the relief of myriad keen drivers who were itching to get behind the wheel.

However, fans of the iconic GTI badge had something to celebrate, too. Available from September 1, the Golf 8 GTI is set to take the local hot hatch scene by storm. But it hasn't got the spotlight to itself - Audi has recently unveiled the restrained S3 hot hatch (and sedan). Let's take a look at what these Teutonic performance hatches are all about.

STYLING

Next to the GTI, Audi's classy S3 looks far more low-key, the subtle looks giving it that "under the radar" persona that so many performance Audi's do well. The GTI, especially when painted in Kings Red Metallic. The Audi can be specified in an equally eye-catching shade, called "Python Yellow Metallic."

Following an evolutionary rather than revolutionary design, both models are obviously new - but still recognisable as a Golf GTI or S3. The GTI retains the classic Honeycomb grille and red detailing. The Audi, while less forthcoming about its performance prowess, does hint at its capabilities - sporty bumpers, vents and lower suspension mark it out from lesser models. Both the GTI and S3 offer a number of wheel options. At extra cost, the Golf is available with 19-inch, black-painted 'Adelaide' alloy wheels (R12 000) while the Audi is available with up to five options, all ranging in price.

PERFORMANCE

Both make use of a two-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol - but that's where the similarities end. The GTI packs a healthy 180 kW and 370 Nm of torque under the bonnet. This translates to a pretty brisk 0-100 km/h time of just 6.4 seconds (claimed). The eighth-generation of the GTI makes use of a quick-shifting seven-speed DSG gearbox which sends its power to the front wheels.

The Audi, with its slightly more powerful engine, pumps out 213 kW and 400 Nm of torque. Unlike the Golf, power is sent to all four wheels courtesy of the Quattro drivetrain system. 0-100 km/h is dispatched in a blisteringly quick 4.9 seconds (claimed), with the Audi using a seven-speed S tronic 'box. Both have a top speed of 250 km/h, with the Golf GTI beating the S3 in fuel economy (7.0 L/100 km for the GTI vs 8.0 L/100 km for the S3).

INTERIOR AND FEATURES

While we're yet to experience the interior of either car, based on previous generations, we can assume that both will offer a refined ( yet exhilarating) experience - with high levels of perceived build quality and plenty of premium materials. The Audi S3 has a particularly appealing interior, mimicking larger, plusher Audi's with the inclusion of the standard 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen. A digital instrumentation cluster adds to the high-tech feel, while buyers can opt for various trim finishers to further personalise their hot hatch. A number of seat upholstery options are available, with Fine Nappa Leather being a R21 500 optional extra.

The Golf, while not as inherently premium as the Audi, is still a fine place to be. Sporty details - like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, GTI-specific trim elements and a comprehensive infotainment system make the innards of the Golf rather appealing. Driver-centric options, like a Head-up display (R10 500), are available.

PRICE

Slower it may be, but the Golf 8 GTI is significantly cheaper than the quicker Audi S3. At R795 000, the Audi is over R120 000 dearer than its cousin from Wolfsburg. The R669 300 GTI has, as standard, a three-year/120 000 km warranty plan and a five-year/90 000 km service plan. The Audi has a shorter warranty period (just 1 year) but counters with unlimited mileage. Besting the VW's service plan is the S3's standard five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.

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