Audi RS3 Review & Prices
The 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 – a 2023 carwow Buy It Award winner – could be what you’re after. It’s bold and it’s fun – but when you need it to be laid back and efficient, the RS3 can deliver.
This is the Sportback (read hatchback) version, but it’s also offered as a saloon. The hatch's main competitor is the Mercedes-AMG A45, but you could also throw the BMW M2 coupe into the mix, or the cheaper and less powerful (but still excellent) Volkswagen Golf R.
Being the high-performance version of the A3 family hatchback, it’s a bit like going for the Extra Hot Peri-Peri option at Nando’s. The A3 is like your regular, Extra Mild chicken, the S3 is Medium, but the RS3 adds enough spice to blow your socks off if you’re not careful.
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, adding 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 paint 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 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 vertical bars. It’s not as easy to read as a typical round dial, and it’s all the more confusing because the revs roll towards you instead of away as you might expect. A 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is also included as standard, and it features all the toys that you’d expect.
The RS3 is faster and more fun than ever before – it also looks pretty mean, making it a proper hyper-hatch
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 what was already a rapid hatchback.
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 it even faster - 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’s comfortable and smooth – and you have that massive power on tap whenever you need it for swift overtakes.
If this sounds like the car for you, check out our Audi RS3 deals page to get a great price on a new model. You can also browse the latest used RS3s from a network of trusted dealers, as well as a wide variety of other used Audi cars. And if you’re selling your current car first, you can do that through carwow, too.
The Audi RS3 has a RRP range of £54,050 to £63,150. The price of a used Audi RS3 on carwow starts at £46,920.
If you’re looking for affordable performance from a hot hatch, this is the wrong end of the market. In hyper-hatch territory you’re lucky to get change from £60,000 and the Audi RS3 is no different, though it is similarly priced to the Mercedes-AMG A45. Budget allowing, you should avoid the entry-level RS3, because you don’t get some choice extras, namely the RS exhaust that really allows you to enjoy the five-cylinder engine’s angry warble.
Audi has made huge improvements to the way the RS3 handles, but it’s a little less comfortable than a regular A3
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 its chunky body kit, so navigating traffic won’t be too much of a problem.
On the motorway
When you get onto the motorway, there isn’t anything too 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 an optional extra.
On a twisty road
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 a drift mode on hand. That means skidding around a track will be a pretty easy undertaking, but remember to use this responsibly!
Passenger space is decent for those in the front and the back, but the boot is pretty small
Even though this is an extremely sporty car, the RS3 is still a hatchback, so in-cabin practicality is pretty good. There are large door bins and plenty of cubby holes. However, the cup holders are a bit useless, as when you fold them down, they don’t hold your drink very securely so it sloshes around.
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.
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.
Space in the back seats
In the Sportback 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 the middle seat is on the small side, and the prominent transmission tunnel takes up a fair amount of space.
As for practicality, 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.
Audi has sacrificed a lot of storage space in the RS3 to fit the clever all-wheel drive system. 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 a good chunk less than the 370 litres you get in an Mercedes-AMG A45 S. The saloon version isn’t that much better, where you get 321 litres, plus a less practical boot opening than the hatch.
The RS3’s driver-focused interior makes it easy to focus on the road ahead, but it isn’t as exciting as other hot hatch cabins
Audis are known for having cabins that play it safe style-wise, and although the RS3’s cabin is a nice place to be, it’s a bit dark and bland next to the likes of the A45 S – which is all about visual wow-factor. You can add colourful trim upgrades to give it a lift, though, which appear across the air vents, on the seats and the steering wheel.
The version we tested came with the Nappa leather seats, which feature a honeycomb design with red stitching to match the exterior colour. The air vent trim and steering wheel trim also matched the exterior colour. The Alcantara-trimmed sports steering wheel is another excellent feature, and lends the RS3 a proper race-car feel.
There are some carbon-effect trim pieces on the dash that aren’t particularly great and feel a bit cheap, but on the whole, good quality materials are used and it feels suitably upmarket.
The RS3 gets a 12.3-inch instrument display alongside a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, which is housed within the dashboard.
Audi’s infotainment system certainly works well in the RS3 and it’s all very simple to use on the move. You can also use either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto if you want to. Audi still doesn’t allow your phone maps to be mirrored on the digital instrument display though, which is a bit of a let down.
Sticking with the instrument screen, Audi has introduced a new display mode with the RS3 called ‘RS Runway’. Designed to look like a runway, the vertically-aligned rev-counter and speedometer bars move towards you from the top of the screen as you accelerate, rather than moving away from you or round a dial. It just looks odd.
Still, at least you don’t have to rely solely on the touchscreen to control a lot of the car’s basic features. You still get plenty of buttons and switches for the climate control and chassis setup, all of which means you spend less time taking your eyes off the road if you need to make a few quick changes.
The RS3’s 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine produces 400hp – the same as the previous RS3 – but torque has increased to 500Nm, 20Nm more than the older car. Power is down on the AMG A45 S’s 421hp and new M2’s 460hp, but at this point it’s all just numbers on paper, because the Audi still feels ludicrously quick for a small family hatchback. Not long ago these were the sort of outputs you’d expect from a supercar.
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. Officially, 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, which means they’re in one of the higher first-year tax bands. They also face the annual extra cost for cars costing more than £40,000 which must be paid in years two to six after the first registration.
The RS3 has not been specifically safety tested by Euro NCAP, but the A3 it’s based on scored five out of five, scoring 89% and 81% for adult occupant and child occupant protection respectively.
You get selectable drive modes so you can adapt the car’s driving characteristics to the conditions, as well as all the usual driver assistance features such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist.
Audi has a fairly average reputation for reliability, while the RS3 specifically is sold in such small numbers that it’s not easy to build a full picture of how likely it is to go wrong. There are no recurring tales of woe from owners, and being based on the A3, itself sharing many components with other popular Volkswagen Group models, means it shouldn’t need regular trips to the local mechanic.
The RS3 comes with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty, with a limit of up to 60,000 miles in the third year. You can extend this to fourth and fifth years for a little extra cash, too.