The Audi RS3 isn’t just faster and easier to live with than most high-performance hot hatches, it’s also much more expensive…
If you want a small family car that’s fast enough to out-accelerate some sports cars yet practical enough to carry four friends or a bike, then the Audi RS3 Sportback is certainly worth a look.
This tempting blend of speed and space comes thanks to a powerful 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine shoehorned into the practical body of an Audi A3 Sportback – although you can also get an RS3 saloon, which we review separately, if you don’t need as much practicality.
Thankfully, plenty of racy touches inside mean you won’t mistake this RS for a bog-standard diesel A3.That flat-bottomed steering wheel, for example, looks just like it was pinched from a racing car, while comfortable bucket seats, sumptuous trims and an intuitive infotainment system all make this range-topping RS model’s interior appear more modern and easier to live with than the slightly dated cabin in a Mercedes-AMG A45.
Unfortunately, the Audi can’t quite match Mercedes’ boot capacity and rear-seat space, but it can swallow a few large suitcases with the back seats up and a bike with them folded away.
Old Audi RS3s were fast, but not necessarily fun – thankfully, this new model is an absolute riot
Not that you’ll want to be cycling anywhere when you’ve got a 400hp hot hatch to play with. The RS3’s turbocharged five-cylinder engine will happily blast it from 0-62mph in a searing 4.1 seconds and on to a top speed of (if you pay £1,600 to remove the limiter) 174mph – that’s serious sports car pace in a fairly practical five-door family car.
Even more impressive is just how easy the Audi is to drive quickly. It soaks up bumps and potholes much better than the Mercedes (especially with the optional £995 adaptive suspension fitted), feels even more agile in tight corners and has seemingly endless grip thanks to its quattro four-wheel-drive system.
Sure, it might not be quite as engaging as the no-holds-barred BMW M2 on a racetrack, but the Audi’s still a real hoot to drive and mature enough to live with every day. It isn’t the most frugal five-door car on sale (even with a gentle touch on the accelerator you’ll struggle to better 30mpg) but it’s a doddle to drive, fairly relaxing at motorway speeds and safe – it’s based on the solid A3 Sportback, after all.
Sadly, the RS3 still has one inescapable flaw – its price. It’s one of the best all-round performance cars on sale but it’ll set you back around £3,000 more than a Mercedes-AMG A45 and a whopping £14,000 more than a Honda Civic Type R. If you have that kind of money to spend, however, it’s a high-performance hatchback that’s well-worth considering.