Powering the Audi RS3 is the same 2.5-litre, forced-induction motor as in the TT RS, which produces 335bhp – a headline figure which, Audi claims, is unequalled by any other fast hatchback you can currently buy. We have seen better-endowed performance hatchbacks over the last few years, however. Ford’s special-edition Focus RS500 and the Cosworth Impreza are obvious examples.
Standard fit on the Audi is a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with a launch control mode, which not only means that Audi can quote a remarkable 0-62mph dash of just 4.6sec for the RS3 but also, thanks to a tall seventh gear, similarly remarkable economy and emissions performance (31mpg combined and 212g/km).
When we first drove the TT RS, we hoped that its 335bhp five-cylinder motor would get another airing, and we’re delighted that it has one here. And it’s official: with performance such as this, compact hatchbacks have joined all-out sports cars in becoming ludicrously rapid.
How fast? At one end of the straight at MIRA’s test facilities, there’s a run-off area with a dusty surface, allowing a touch of useful wheel slip at take-off. Sit the RS3 on the loose stuff, place its dual-clutch gearbox in Sport, push hard on the brakes with your left foot and the software will automatically allow a launch control start. Burying the throttle disengages the clutch and holds the engine at around 3500rpm.
Side-stepping the brake, one-up and without too much fuel on board, our test RS3 reached 60mph in a remarkable 4.05sec in one direction. The test figures we quote for cars are recorded two-up and with plenty of fuel, yet still the RS3 will reach 60mph in just 4.5sec over a two-way average.