Fairly quick, but not daft. It's a normally aspirated, 2 litre DOHC engine without VVL or VVT, so it's of paramount importance to keep the revs up in order to really give it beans, but if you do it is a good laugh to drive. There's decent torque in the 3000 to 6000 range, and the engine sounds different in this band too - you get a low hum escalating to a nice grunt. Under 3000 it's very quiet and relaxing to be in.
OK on running costs, servicing is cheap, parts are cheap, fuel economy depends entirely on the driver. If I drive with the revs under 3000 at all times, I'll get 30 mpg in an urban area. Drive like you stole it and it'll be down to 20 mpg. I can get 37 mpg on a motorway doing 75-90 mph.
Handles fairly well for such a solid, heavy car. Front wheel drive equals understeer, so you have to drive accordingly. There's great feedback through the controls - everything feels very direct and engaging to use. The stiff chassis and suspension emphasise this - although on bumpy roads this can be a little too unforgiving.
A great characteristic of this car is that it will judder and skip for quite a while before starting to slide, so it lets you know in plenty of time if you're pushing it too hard - of great use in wet conditions. If it does start sliding, all you do is lift off the gas and straighten the front wheels, and it snaps back.
The steering, although power-assisted, is heavy at low speed and the turning circle is quite large. The clutch is pretty heavy too, although I don't mind that too much. Parking or turning in tight places is bit of a pain.
The price is right - half as much as an equivalent A3, £1500 less than an equivalent Mondeo. Insurance is cheap as chips for what you get - 150 bhp and 0-60 in 8.5 from a group 9 car is pretty good. Great features for the money too - 6 cd changer, ABS, alloys, full electrics, sunroof, onboard computer, aircon, power steering, full leather, comfy as sports seats in the front, loads of room for rear passengers and a truly enormous boot with fold-down rear seats in a subtly sporty, yet fairly unassuming looking car.
Brilliantly reliable, fun to drive, incredibly practical and excellent value for money.