Currently reading: Used car buying guide: Audi RS3
Audi’s powerful hatchback offers plenty to raise your temperature, but beware the pitfalls that could make you sweat
John Evans
News
5 mins read
25 November 2019

Such is the allure of Audi’s RS badge that despite the car having a chassis dating back to 2003, the RS3 of 2011-12 sold out before hitting the nation’s showrooms. Later on, in 2012, a few more were made for those who had missed out first time round.

Given the model’s lukewarm reviews, most notably from this magazine, you have to applaud their faith. Then again, it would have been hard not to be stirred by the RS3’s promise of 335bhp and 332lb ft of torque from 1600rpm, courtesy of a 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine shared with the TT RS.

Four-wheel drive and a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox were the icing on the cake. Launch control was the cherry.

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

It cost £40,000 but that was a few thousand less than the TT RS, and you got a couple of extra doors and some useful load space into the bargain. Meanwhile, it could, said Audi, do 31mpg, although Autocar’s testers achieved 28mpg and, when in a hurry, single figures only.

Today, a healthy one should still return similar figures but cost considerably less to buy. In fact, prices start at around £15,000. An example is the 2012/62-reg with 62,000 miles and full Audi service history that we found. Ah – sorry: it’s a category S car, which means it sustained structural damage and was written off by an insurer before being repaired. If that’s not alarming enough, there’s no requirement for the repair to have been independently inspected. Steering and suspension may also have been damaged.

It’s a useful introduction to the world of used RS3s. As with any used car but especially one whose appeal can blind you to its faults, you must keep your wits about you.

Fortunately, there are unscathed examples for the same money but they’re usually high mileage. Instead, from about £17,500 is where cars in good condition and with sensible mileages begin. Private sellers’ prices tend to be bullish but at least you get to size up the owner and quiz them about their driving style and attitude to maintenance. Better still, if they’re the first and only owner.

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The fact that the model spans just two years and, but for specials such as the Exclusive edition, was unchanged throughout that short time means year of registration is less important than condition, provenance and specification.

On that last point, from around £18,500 specifications improve noticeably with options such as wingback seats, Alcantara interior and the smarter diamond-cut rotor arm alloys making an appearance. From around £20,000, mileages are typically below 50,000.

There are few tuned ones around but specialists say a healthy engine is perfectly capable of handling an increase in power. Those we found were producing a claimed 400bhp, but keen drivers might prefer their RS3 to have more feelsome steering and a more agile chassis… As always, you can’t have everything.

How to get one in your garage

An owner's view

Anne Baker: “I bought my RS3 new in 2012 after running a Golf R32 from new. The Audi is perky but the R32 was more intense. It felt quicker off the line, too, and generally more responsive. The RS3 is quite sedate; you have to get it into the mood. But I can’t fault its reliability and it’s versatile. I’ve done 72,000 miles in it, packing it with people and luggage. Pressing on it does about 30mpg but I’ve seen almost 35mpg on the motorway. I’m selling it now for a Mercedes-AMG A35. I’ll be interested to see how the two compare.”

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Buyer beware...

■ Engine: Beware variable servicing history; 10,000-mile oil changes are best for chain and tensioner life. An early warning sign is rattling on start-up. The ignition coils can be troublesome. All five should be replaced together to ensure equal resistance.

■ Transmission: Check the gearbox has been serviced at 40,000 miles with fresh oil and filters. Problems with the mechatronic unit should light up the PRNDS display. Check if the car was the subject of an update to the Haldex system in response to propshaft failures during launch. Listen and feel for drivetrain rumbles caused by multiple launches.

■ Brakes: There was a campaign to fix squeaky brakes, the cure being Copaslip or, if necessary, new discs and pads. In any case, a used RS3 should be on its second or third set of brakes by now.

■ Suspension and tyres: Clonks and looseness on poor surfaces suggest the bushes are giving up. Look underneath to check if the car was recalled to have deflector fins fitted to the front suspension arms, intended to direct cooling air to the brakes. The front tyres should be 235s (255s are okay), with smaller 225s on the rears.

■ Bodywork: Corrosion is likely to be repair-related (front wings are CFRP). Check the scuttle drain holes are clear and that the tailgate seals are in good condition.

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■ Interior: Tough materials hide age and mileage very well, so do that mileage check and keep an eye out for warning lights.

Also worth knowing

To check the Haldex four-wheel-drive coupling is working, find a slippery patch and accelerate hard from a standstill. A flashing traction light, wheelspin and reduced power will suggest it isn’t. A decent scanning system will detect the fault codes. Changing the oil, servicing the pump, then performing the ‘pump learn’ procedure in basic settings may cure it.

How much to spend

£15,000-£17,999: Mixed bag of medium to high milers, the scuffed and the tuned. Not all bad.

£18,000-£18,999: Hotly contested price point with mileages between 50,000-80,000.

£19,000-£23,999: Mainly 35,000- to 50,000-mile cars, most described as ‘immaculate’ and some with rare options including wingback bucket seats. Includes a 2012/12-reg with 53,000 miles and full Audi service history for £19,995.

£24,000-£25,000: The best, sub-20,000-mile cars with stacks of kit.

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One we found

Audi RS3 2.5 TSI Sportback, 2012/12, 72k miles, £18,900: Strong money for a private-sale car but, as a one-owner example, there’s the chance to gauge their character. Car looks fairly standard and it has full Audi service history. The high-ish mileage is an excuse to haggle.

READ MORE

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Comments
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si73 26 November 2019

Whilst these are impressive

Whilst these are impressive performance wise there's a lot I'd rather have, in fact I'd happily sacrifice the extra performance for a standard golf GTi, the performance is more useable and to my eyes it's a better looking car and GTi has more appeal to me than rs3.
Deputy 25 November 2019

Crime target?

No mention in the article that the S3/RS3 are the most stolen cars in the UK (by % on the road).

 

xxxx 25 November 2019

Deputy wrote:

Deputy wrote:

No mention in the article that the S3/RS3 are the most stolen cars in the UK (by % on the road).

SOURCE?

Rodester 25 November 2019

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Deputy wrote:

No mention in the article that the S3/RS3 are the most stolen cars in the UK (by % on the road).

SOURCE?

Wouldn't be surprised, they're a favourite with the ball bags of the roads. They're great for ragging around ring roads and killing other road users.

xxxx 25 November 2019

RS3 killer

Rodester wrote:
xxxx wrote:

Deputy wrote:

No mention in the article that the S3/RS3 are the most stolen cars in the UK (by % on the road).

SOURCE?

Wouldn't be surprised, they're a favourite with the ball bags of the roads. They're great for ragging around ring roads and killing other road users.

"Killing other road users" SOURCE?

Rodester 26 November 2019

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Rodester wrote:
xxxx wrote:

Deputy wrote:

No mention in the article that the S3/RS3 are the most stolen cars in the UK (by % on the road).

SOURCE?

Wouldn't be surprised, they're a favourite with the ball bags of the roads. They're great for ragging around ring roads and killing other road users.

"Killing other road users" SOURCE?

DO A GOOGLE SEARCH!

Deputy 26 November 2019

National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service

I can't post a link but google Audi S3 most stolen and you'll find the 2016 report.  Included RS3 as a variant of S3.  I remember it because at that time two friends who had S3/RS3 had theirs stolen via a break in, so we looked it up.

xxxx 25 November 2019

Progress?

"with smaller 225s on the rears." just shows how todays cars are over tyre'd a 1.4 A3 can have wider tyres.

Amazing car, Amazing engine.