Audi RS3 review
The new RS3 is the latest version of the Audi hyper-hatch, and features a thrilling five-cylinder engine. It’s better to drive than ever, but it isn’t quite as practical as some alternatives.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Audi RS3
If you’re after a car that doesn’t take itself too seriously until you have a winding back road to tackle, then the Audi RS3 could be what you’re after. It’s bold and it’s fun – but when you need it to be accurate and efficient, the RS3 can deliver. But what sets it apart from the standard A3, or even the hot S3, so much?
First-off, you can’t really miss the RS3 in a crowd. Audi has taken the large grille of the standard A3 and made it even bigger, and has even added some extra vents either side. The RS3 is wider and lower than the regular A3, too, and it gets an extremely aggressive bodykit and some sporty 19-inch alloy wheels. Add a bright colour into the mix and you’ll never lose it in a car park.
Inside, Audi has done a great job of combining sportiness and style. With many of the panels and trim pieces offered with coloured detailing, the RS3’s cabin cocoons you to help you focus on driving. Nappa leather seats are a great optional extra to add a dash of extra luxury to the cabin, although the standard microfibre and faux-leather seats still look great, and are comfortable too.
Audi has fitted a 12.3-inch digital instrument screen with a new RS Runway mode, which displays the engine revs and speed using two vertically-aligned bars. It doesn’t look as good as a standard circular dial if you ask us, and it’s harder to read, too. A 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is also included as standard, and it features all the toys that you’d expect.
But the headline news for the RS3 is its impressive 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo petrol. It produces the same 400hp as the previous RS3, but torque has been increased by 20Nm to 500Nm – adding a bit of extra punch to this hyper-hatch.
The RS3 is faster and more fun than ever before thanks to a series of tweaks. It also looks pretty mean, making it a proper hyper-hatch.
With this firecracker of an engine under the bonnet, Audi claims the RS3 can dash from 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds, but we’ve managed to do that sprint in just 3.6 seconds. That’s almost supercar-beating numbers from a (not so) humble hatchback.
By adding some clever mechanical upgrades, the RS3 is more nimble and entertaining out on your favourite twisty road than ever before, and on track it’s even more of a scalpel-sharp driving weapon. If you feel like it, there’s even a drift mode to help you do some big skids with ease (on a closed circuit, of course).
But the RS3 isn’t hardcore all of the time, and can in fact settle down very nicely when you want it to. In town, it doesn’t feel too firm like some hot hatches do, and it behaves over bumps and cracks – just be careful not to kerb those black alloy wheels! On the motorway, it feels comfortable and smooth – and you have that massive power on tap whenever you need it.
If the Audi RS3 sounds like the car for you, we can help you get the best deal possible. Prices start from £50,900 for the Sportback model and £51,900 for the saloon, but check out our RS3 deals page to see how much you can save when you buy through carwow.
Adding the four-wheel-drive system and high-performance 2.5-litre engine makes the RS3 less practical than an A3. But it’s not small inside.
The front sports seats wrap around your sides and have strong bolstering to keep you comfortable when you’re going quickly round a corner. They’re also well cushioned and very adjustable thanks to electric seat controls.
In the Sportback (read hatchback) version, head and legroom is good in the front seats, while people in the rear won’t be struggling much either. That being said, particularly tall passengers may find headroom to be a bit tight, and those chunky sports seats do block the view forwards.
Still, four adults should be able to fit in the RS3 easily enough. Five passengers might be a bit of a push, though, as middle seat is on the small side, and the prominent transmission tunnel takes up a fair amount of space.
You can choose from either microfibre and faux leather upholstery, or plush Nappa leather, which we would recommend. If you have the Nappa leather, you can get contrast stitching to help make the honeycomb seat-pattern design pop.
Even though this is an extremely sporty car, the RS3 is still a hatchback – so in-cabin practicality is pretty good. There are good-sized door bins and plenty of cubby holes, and cup holders too. However, they’re a bit useless, as when you fold them down, they don’t hold your drink very well and they slosh around.
In the back, you get netting on the back of the front seats, and some good-sized door bins – all of which helps make the RS3 more than practical enough for most people.
By fitting all the performance-related equipment, Audi has had to sacrifice a lot of storage space in the RS3. In fact, in both the Sportback and Saloon models, you lose about 100 litres of boot space by going for the RS3 over the A3.
If you go for the Sportback, you get 281 litres, which is roughly 90 litres less than in an A45 S. The saloon version isn’t that much better, where you get 321 litres.
Audi has made the RS3 more accomplished overall and it feels great to drive. The automatic transmission is a bit jerky in traffic, though.
Where the RS3 majors is its performance, and in the world of Mercedes-AMG A45s and BMW M2s, the RS3 is the new king. The 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine produces 400hp – the same as the previous RS3 – but it produces 500Nm, 20Nm more than the older car.
Both the Sportback and Saloon have the same 0-60mph time of 3.8 seconds. But we managed to beat that by a further 0.2 seconds, comfortably making it the quickest hatch on sale.
Depending on whether you choose the Dynamic pack or not, the RS3 is limited to a top speed of 155mph. If you pay £5,500 for the pleasure of the Dynamic Pack, the top speed increases to 180mph – but unless you live in Germany with plenty of derestricted autobahns at your disposal, it’s unlikely you’d need that higher top speed.
Fuel consumption might not be your highest priority when considering a hot hatchback as powerful as the Audi RS3, but it’s worth mentioning here. Audi claims the Sportback version will return 31.4mpg, while the more streamlined Saloon will do 31.7mpg. Emissions for both models are both around 200g/km CO2.
Take one look at the Audi RS3 and you might think it’s a firm, aggressive riding car that’s horrendously uncomfortable around town – but that’s not the case.
At slower speeds, the large 19-inch alloy wheels do transfer some bumps into the cabin, but these impacts aren’t too bad. And with adaptive dampers specified, the sports suspension can be softened off into comfort mode to help you better waft over those craggier stretches of road. The RS3 doesn’t feel too wide despite growing in size slightly, so navigating traffic won’t be too much of a problem.
When you get onto the motorway, there isn’t anything majorly different to report. The RS3 copes with long distances pretty easily, with regular non-adaptive cruise control fitted as standard to make highway driving a breeze. If you need to overtake, you’ve also got plenty of power available to help you fly by slower vehicles. Adaptive cruise is available as a £270 extra.
But where Audi has made a major improvement is how the RS3 feels when you’re hooning down a country road or around a track. Audi has fitted what it calls a modular vehicle dynamics controller, which is essentially a big electronic brain that takes all aspects of the car’s setup into account to make the RS3 as agile, grippy and fun as possible when you’re putting your foot down.
By fitting some clever mechanical upgrades to the rear axle, the RS3 is much more playful on track than before, and with the ‘RS Torque Rear’ driving mode, you’ve basically got drift mode on hand. That means skidding around a track will be a pretty easy undertaking, but remember to use this responsibly!
Audi ensures you can get comfortable while being completely focused on the road ahead. It isn’t as exciting as other hot-hatch cabins, though.
Audi RS3 colours
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.