From £38,705
Quick, very secure, hugely entertaining and an aural delight. You’re going to want one

Our Verdict

Audi RS3
The Audi RS3 Sportback is Ingolstadt's hottest hatchback

The Audi RS3 Sportback is fast and practical, but a £40k performance car needs to offer more

  • First Drive

    Audi RS3 Sportback

    Fast and spacious hot hatch offers little subtlety or involvement for a considerable asking price
  • First Drive

    2011 Audi RS3 Sportback

    Effortlessly combines speed and practicality - it just lacks dynamic flair
3 January 2011

What is it?

Audi's long-held plan to reach beyond the S3 with an even more powerful and narrowly focused mega-hatch appeared to have hit the skids following the company's decision not to reveal the RS3 as originally planned at last year's Paris motor show. Now, however, with the second-generation A3 Sportback edging closer to replacement and recent investments providing added production flexibility, Ingolstadt has finally come good on its promise to produce a car to take on Europe's performance-hatch elite.

Looking for a review of the 2015 Audi RS3? Click here to read it.

The RS3 is differentiated from the S3 Sportback by a deeper front bumper, wider front wings, aluminium-look exterior mirror housings, chunkier sills, a larger spoiler above the rear window, a reprofiled rear bumper and unique 19-inch wheels. And, unlike the S3, it will not sell in three-door form.

Powered by the same turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder petrol engine used in the TT RS, at 335bhp the RS3 packs 74bhp more than the 2.0 turbo, four-cylinder S3. Drive goes to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch S-tronic gearbox.

What's it like?

The engine makes some wonderful noises; there's an alluring warble through the exhaust under moderate loads, as well as the odd splutter of back pressure on the overrun. Hit the Sport button on the dashboard to tap into the more aggressive of the two throttle maps and unleash the full 1.2 bar of boost pressure on offer. You even get some old-school turbocharger whistle to go with it.

The upgraded driveline is supported by a reworked chassis that uses a 22mm wider front track, along with firmer springs and dampers, beefed-up anti-roll bars and subtle changes to the valving of the electro-hydraulic steering.

Predictably, this imbues the RS3 with a more eager nature than the already highly capable S3, with a greater willingness to turn in, improved body control and added precision to placement on the road. The RS3 sits a full 25mm lower than the A3 Sportback upon which it is based – and a further 5mm lower than the S3. On the icy roads on which we drove the early production example pictured here, the ride was acceptable. Yes, it's firm, with less travel than either of its siblings, but the suspension – a combination of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link set-up at the rear – was compliant enough to soak up the bumps without any undue harshness.

Still, for all its dynamic excellence, the engine is the defining feature of this car. The characterful five-pot provides the RS3 with a wonderfully user-friendly nature. With a solid 332lb ft of torque at just 1600rpm, it pulls taller gears at typical motorway cruising speeds with real conviction and, according to Audi's figures, can be coaxed into returning over 30mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle.

Even so, heady levels of performance – the sort to shame many cars costing twice as much as the RS3 – are just a drop of a gear or two away. Plant your foot in the lower ratios and you're treated to truly memorable on-boost acceleration. Audi says the RS3 will do the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.6sec – and reaches a limited top speed of 155mph.

Should I buy one?

No doubt about it, Audi's most affordable RS model to date has what it takes to trouble the likes of the Ford Focus RS, Renaultsport Mégane 250 and Volkswagen Golf R.

The RS3 is an exciting and entertaining car, but with our experience of it limited to a brief run on icy Canadian roads, a definitive conclusion will have to wait until we get to drive it in more favourable conditions closer to home. Suddenly April can’t come soon enough.

Audi RS3 Sportback

Price: £39,900; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 4.6sec; Economy: 31.0mpg; CO2: 212g/km; Kerb weight: 1575kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 2480cc, turbo, petrol; Installation : Front, transverse, 4WD; Power: 335bhp at 5400-6500rpm; Torque: 332lb ft at 1600-5300rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch auto

Join the debate

Comments
48

10 January 2011

It might be good.

£40k ? for an A3 !

FFS !

R32

10 January 2011

[quote Old Toad]£40k ? for an A3 ![/quote]

Yes thats what I thought, then I realised that was just the list price - not the "after speccing up with must-have options" price. So lets say at least £45k - or nearer £50k if you're splashing out. Simply ludicrous.

I wonder if and when the five-cylinder engine will make it into the Golf though - that would make a nice limited-edition ultra fast Golf model above the R.

10 January 2011

And for the not beautiful 5 doors A3...

10 January 2011

My glass is definitely half full on the RS3, not half empty. A fully specced VW Golf R costs around £43K. A TT-RS comes in at £46K before you've added anything to it. So, the £39K price of the RS3 isn't that bad, especially considering that it comes laden with a very high level of standard equipment including Satnav, alloy wheels, leather, and rear parking sensors. Indeed, the only major optional extra is the matt aluminium pack which weighs in at £668. So, the the price is not only good value compared to the Golf R, but you really don't need to add anything. Considering that the M3 costs well north of £50K and the RS5 costs almost £60K, i don't think the price is too bad. I have only three small gripes about this car. One, it has taken ages to release the RS3; it should have arrived at least a year ago. Two, I would have liked to have seen a more aggressive body kit with blistered wheel arches that would have done to the A3 what the Lancia Integrale did to a humble Delta all those years ago. Three, I would have liked to have seen magnetic ride offered as an option as I fear the standard suspension may prove to be too hard on UK roads. All things considered, I think the engine and new 7-speed hi-torque S-tronic gearbox are truly excellent and are what make this car worth buying irrespective of its imminent replacement date.

10 January 2011

Not difficult to spec the Golf R to over 37k, makes the Audi a bargain no?

10 January 2011

As someone who likes proper quick cars, wants room for stuff like dogs, but doesn't want something the size of a small county, this looks like my perfect next car.

jer

10 January 2011

Belting drive train and seats, would love to see much more of it. Is it true it's based on the US 5 cylinder Jetta?

... The leather look so much finer than some alternatives.

As for the money seems where the market is for a premium engine, Audi I'm sure have done their homework and there are people prepared to spend their £40k on an A3. I'd guess (for that's what it is) it will cost in deprec 8k in the first year. They'll settle at 23-25k in 3 years.

10 January 2011

[quote jer]Is it true it's based on the US 5 cylinder Jetta? [/quote]

Yes and no. The achitecture is the same, but reinforced and made in a much stronger yet lighter CGI iron, it's not comparable. And the head is, I hear, very similar to that of the Lambo V10.

I'm stating to like it much, will make a great sleeper car...

10 January 2011

This is why the Focus RS should have been 4WD

R32

10 January 2011

[quote brakedust]So, the the price is not only good value compared to the Golf R, but you really don't need to add anything.[/quote]

I disagree - the price is not good value compared to a Golf R. The Golf R 5-door is listed at £31,680 which is £8,220 less than the RS3 in standard form with no factory extras. A like-for-like comparison.

[quote brakedust]A fully specced VW Golf R costs around £43K.[/quote]

That may be true, but comparing a fully-specced Golf R with a basic RS3 is not a like-for-like comparison. The RS3 Price List on the Audi UK website shows a whole raft of options for the RS3 (this is an Audi after all, and we know how Audi loves to fleece it's customers for extra dosh - even RS customers). Metallic paint £510, Audi exclusive paint £1735 or Audi customised paint £2,450. Audi Exclusive floor mats £450! Design Pack £2,895... I could go on but there's too much to list. I managed to spec "my RS3" on the Audi configurator to £51, 175 - yes £51,175. And that's without choosing any of the hugely expensive "Audi Exclusive" options.

I rest my case, a fully loaded RS3 is well over £51k and rather a bit more expensive than an equivelant fully-loaded Golf R.

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