What is it?
The new 395bhp Audi RS3 makes light of the way we tend to think about new cars.
In five-door Sportback trim, as tested here, it is nothing short of the fastest-accelerating and most powerful hot hatchback you can currently buy and one of only two left on sale still to offer the mechanical richness of a multi-cylinder petrol engine. In four-door saloon form, on the other hand, it’s a car with a much less clear selling point: a cheaper, smaller alternative to a Jaguar XE S or a Mercedes-AMG C43, perhaps.
Those positions would seem to have an awful lot of notional clear air between them; you wouldn’t imagine people to struggle to remember which version they were interested in. But try telling that to the guy in the Audi showroom who has learned there are very few technical differences between the two RS3 siblings beyond what his eyes can see and who is on this third eeny-meeny-miny-moe decision-making attempt. Which one should he have? “Well, which one do you fancy, sir?” It really needn’t be any more complicated than that.
The RS3 saloon has a wider rear axle track than the hatch, as well as a slightly lower roofline and a lower roll axis – but not by much. The five-door version is the lighter of the two, but only by 5kg. Plumping for the Sportback means you save £950 – but that’s on a car you’ll likely be spending five times as much on options with. And as we’re about to explain, the influence of the individual options you choose will be much greater than the influence of the car’s bodystyle on its driving experience.