Audi RS3 hatchback (2011-2012)
"As hot hatchbacks go, the RS3 is one of the fastest around, yet delivers this performance in a practical and easy-to-drive package"
- Impressive performance
- Solid build quality
- Decent practicality
- High price tag
- Steering lacks feel
- BMW M135i is more fun
The Audi RS3 is the fastest version of the A3 hatchback. It's based on the five-door A3 Sportback (there's no three-door version), but it sits on lower suspension, while silver trim and large alloy wheels leave no doubt that the RS3 means business. Under the bonnet is a 335bhp five-cylinder turbocharged engine, which puts power to all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. While it packs a punch, this high performance model's five-door body, large boot and comfortable interior mean it's perfectly suited to everyday use. The high price tag will put off some buyers, though.
This generation of A3 has now been replaced. Read our full review of the current Audi RS3 Sportback.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Despite the performance on offer, the Audi RS3 is relatively economical, with an official combined economy figure of 31mpg. However, if you use all of the engine's power regularly, it will be hard to come close to that figure. Emissions of 212g/km are reasonable and keep it out of the highest tax bands, although you will still face an annual bill of £260.
Engines, drive & performance
The Audi RS3 uses the same 335bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine as the TT RS, so acceleration is ferocious. It can sprint from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, which is the same time as Audi's own R8 V8 supercar. There's lots of grip in corners, thanks to the four-wheel-drive transmission, but the RS3 isn't quite as fun to drive as models such as the BMW 1 Series M Coupe or Renaultsport Mégane. A Sport button on the dashboard enhances the bassy tone of the exhaust and sharpens acceleration.
Interior & comfort
Take things easy, and the Audi RS3 is a pleasant place to be. It has stiffer suspension than the standard A3, but it's still comfortable for everyday use, and absorbs bumps in the road well. Sports seats covered in suede-style Nappa leather look fantastic and provide plenty of support and adjustment. Interior space is decent, although the dark colours of the cabin can make it feel claustrophobic for some.
Practicality & boot space
The Audi RS3 offers sizzling performance, but it's easy to live with on a daily basis. There's room for four adults inside, and luggage space is good. With the rear seats up, there's a 350-litre boot, which rises to 1,100 litres with them folded. However, there's a step in the floor, which makes loading large items difficult. Standard rear parking sensors are a useful addition, as the thick rear window frames cut visibility.
Reliability & safety
The standard Audi A3 has been around for a while now, so a lot of problems will be ironed out by now. Solid build quality should mean trips to the garage are few and far between, while fit and finish are second to none. High-performance engine components are tried and tested, and should prove to be very durable.
Price, value for money & options
A price tag touching £40,000 is a lot for an A3 Sportback, but the Audi RS3 comes with aggressive looks, a long kit list (sat-nav, climate control and leather trim are all standard) and high performance which merits its price. Audi's desirable badge means that while you pay a premium at the dealer, the RS3 should hold on to its value well.