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In-depth reviews

Audi RS3 Sportback hatchback (2015-2017)

“The Audi RS3 is sensationally quick and its five-cylinder engine sounds fantastic. It’s a bit lacking in driver excitement, however.”

Carbuyer Rating

3.6 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Hugely fast
  • Sounds brilliant
  • Impressively practical

Cons

  • Not as much fun as some rivals
  • No manual gearbox available
  • Pretty expensive to buy

You could argue that the Audi RS3 has taken high-performance hatchbacks beyond merely ‘hot’ status. Many refer to this car and others like it as ‘hyper hatchbacks’, so mind-blowing is their performance.

Let’s face it: the RS3’s 362bhp is a fair bit more than the paltry 110bhp that was offered by the ‘original’ hot hatchback, the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI. In fact, the Audi was, until recently, more powerful than an entry-level Porsche 911 – and with a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds, it was quicker, too.

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Surprisingly, two top speeds are available – both electronically limited. As standard, it’ll do 155mph, but if you pay a little bit extra, Audi will raise that to 174mph. All this from a car that’s based on the same mechanical underpinnings as the humble Volkswagen Golf.

Among the RS3’s hyper-hatch foes are the 376bhp Mercedes-AMG A45, the 365bhp BMW M2 and the recently launched 345bhp Ford Focus RS, while you could also include the Volkswagen Golf R (with ‘just’ 296bhp) and the 306bhp Honda Civic Type R on that list. All of these – but especially the RS3 – offer vast amounts of power and performance in otherwise practical and reasonably ‘normal’ bodies.

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That’s not to say that you can’t tell the RS3 from the regular Audi A3, however. The roof spoiler, flared wheelarches, gaping air intakes and vast twin oval exhaust outlets at the back are something of a hint at its high-performance potential. In terms of boot space, some room is taken up by the quattro four-wheel-drive system, meaning there’s only 280 litres available – 100 less than in the standard A3 Sportback, but still slightly more than in the Ford Focus RS.

Like most fast Audis, however, the RS3 isn’t necessarily as much fun to drive as some of its rivals. It prioritises outright grip and straight-line performance over driving engagement and while there’s a huge amount of grip available, it’s never quite as exciting as the likes of the Focus RS or Civic Type R. As a way of covering huge distances at great speed, however, the RS3 is likely to be considerably quicker than some much more expensive cars.

On those long journeys, you won’t have to stop for fuel as often as you might think you would in a car this powerful. According to official figures, it’ll return around 35mpg, while CO2 emissions of 189g/km mean a £290 annual tax bill – less than other cars of similar performance.

Inside the RS3, you won’t be surprised to find that everything is beautifully made and exceptionally well laid-out. As it sits at the top of the A3 range, it gets quite a lot of equipment as standard. Satellite navigation, Bluetooth, DAB radio, leather upholstery and front sports seats all come as standard. You also get driver mode selection, 19-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control.

Just like the standard A3 hatchback, the RS3 has a full five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating. You get loads of safety equipment as standard, including airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes and stability control. You also get a tyre-pressure monitoring system, front and rear parking sensors and the added security of four-wheel drive.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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