Audi’s sporty RS line-up is filled with some of the best all-round cars available – as they take the practical base of the production model and add a bucket-load of power on top of it.
The RS3 Sportback is one prime example, as the hot hatchback takes the useful yet compact A3 Sportback and adds a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine that develops close to 400bhp.
But this pillar of the hot hatch market is one that continues to impress in whatever guise, so it will be interesting to see how this updated version copes against rivals such as the BMW M2 Competition…
This updated version of the RS3 comes with a five-cylinder 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine – the only five-pot in the segment – that has been developed with improved efficiency and performance in mind. Producing 395bhp and 480Nm of torque, the RS3 can sprint to 60mph from a standstill in just 3.5 seconds and reach an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph.
All of that power is directed to the quattro all-wheel drive system through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission – with between 50 and 100 per cent of the power sent to the rear wheels at any time. As you would expect from a car that has close to 400bhp, the RS3 is very fast, and with the help of the quattro system it was able to comfortably put that power down on damp roads we tested the car on.
Ride & Handling
On standard suspension, the RS3 can feel quite unsettled at times – especially around town – but the faster you go, the more stable the setup becomes. Our test car, however, came with the optional adjustable dampers and when it was put in comfort mode, the RS3 felt much more accommodating and was able to soak up the bumpier sections of road we drove on.
The steering offers plenty of weight, but as with many electrical steering systems, not as much feel as we would like. When left in the lighter comfort setting, the car felt much easier to place, as dynamic mode added too much weight for our liking. With the help of the legendary quattro all-wheel drive, the RS3 was able to find grip almost anywhere, and the combination with the seven-speed ‘box meant that you could settle into the cruise or attack any road with ease.
Interior & Equipment
As you would expect from Audi, the interior fit and finish of the RS3 is at a high level, as is the equipment you get as standard. On the outside, you’ll find 19-inch alloy wheels, black brake callipers and a series of RS-specific features, including a sports exhaust system, brake system, Sport suspension and body styling kit. RS designation and logos are also dotted around the car.
In terms of space, the RS3 offers a 335-litre boot with the rear seats in place, which can be extended to 1,175 litres when the back chairs are folded flat. You’ll also find plenty of small storage spaces to use throughout, too, so you won’t be wanting for much extra space.
Equipment inside is up to a very high level, with standard features including dual-zone climate control, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch instrument display, a seven-inch central infotainment touchscreen with smartphone interface, Bluetooth, heated front seats, an RS leather and alcantara sports steering wheel, stainless steel pedals and aluminium trim finishers.
In terms of driver assists, the RS3 comes with cruise control, parking sensors and cameras for the front and rear and hill-hold assist – while the £1,250 driver assistance pack adds further equipment, such as adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, active lane and side assist, emergency assist and pre-sense front with pedestrian recognition.See Available RS 3 Sportback deals
Considering the performance and equipment on offer, the £44,755 starting price is what you might expect – especially when rivals such as the BMW M2 Competition start from £49,285. As our test car was fitted with many of the equipment packs available, it cost a heft £56,380 – but there’s no need for you to spend that much on the RS3 at all.
Despite the rather ferocious performance on offer, you can get surprisingly good returns from the five-pot engine – with Audi quoting 34mpg and 192g/km CO2.
It’s difficult to find fault with the RS3 Sportback, as it comes with more than enough performance and equipment to keep you entertained for an awfully long time. But it’s also its quattro system that makes it perfectly suited to the ever-changing British weather and the impressive driving setup that goads you on when navigating your way down twisty avenues. Although more steering feel would be preferable, it’s a difficult model to ignore – just be cautious of the options list.