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Audi RS3 Review

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Audi RS3
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heycar review

      Launch year
      2015
      Body type
      Hot hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Power mad premium hot hatch

Best bits

  • Outrageous performance
  • Practical interior
  • Raucous exhaust note

Not so great

  • Thirsty five-cylinder engine
  • Very expensive to buy
  • Numb handling

Read by

Audi RS3 Sportback Exterior Front

Overall verdict

Audi RS3 Sportback Interior

On the inside

Audi RS3 Sportback Driving Front

Driving

Audi RS3 Sportback Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

Audi RS3 Sportback Exterior Side

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The idea behind a hot hatch is simple enough. Take any ordinary family car, give it a little more power and cooler styling than standard, and fine-tune the handling to make it a smidgen more fun to drive. The Audi RS3 takes this basic concept and stretches it to breaking point - with sports-car rivalling pace and a price to match."

Audi RS3 Sportback Exterior Front

Based on the old Audi A3 Sportback, this range-topping flagship feels like its on borrowed time, a dinosaur from an age where buyers were more interested in stratospheric power figures than the lowest CO2 emissions.


Launched in 2015 with 367PS, it was the fastest accelerating hot hatch we'd ever seen, and retook that title in 2017 after a mid-life facelift that boosted its power, lightened its engine and improved its numb handling.  This nip-and-tuck also introduced more standard kit, and a new sleeker body style too: The RS3 Saloon.


As with all of Audi's flagship models the RS3 comes with a solitary engine option, but it's a real firecracker. It produces a staggering 400PS and 480Nm of torque, but brings a lot more to the party than just performance.


An unusual five-cylinder layout and above average 2.5-litre capacity make it feel brawnier (and sound better) than most of its four-cylinder hot hatch rivals, and the fantastically raucous noise it generates is addictive. 


Predictably, it comes with a standard quattro four-wheel drive system to help marshal all that power into real straight-line speed, and sends the propulsive force to each corner via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.


Bring those attributes together and you have a car that is shockingly fast at covering ground in all types of weather. The unshakeable cornering grip, decent composure (on the optional adaptive suspension) and the glorious soundtrack from the oval sports exhausts make the RS3 feel every bit as extreme as its RS siblings.


Yet this is no white-knuckle ride. Despite its bombastic engine and rampant power delivery, the RS3 still feels like a family hatchback to drive. The steering is light, the gearbox is smooth, and it won't intimidate its driver.


Some buyers want their high-performance machines to provide a challenge, to reward them for skilful inputs and scare them when they get it wrong. This is not the car for them, and a BMW M2 Competition, or even the cheaper Honda Civic Type R provide the same outrageous point-to-point speed in a more engaging way.


Still, the Honda is not exactly what we'd call subtle, and one of the RS3's main strengths lies in its relatively restrained looks and classy cabin. There aren't many cars at this price that let you fly under the radar so well.

In Sportback five-door form it's almost as practical as a normal A3, and its interior is just as beautifully made.


So the Audi RS3 is not only faster than most of its hot hatch peers but also easier to live with everyday. It also has one of the best cabins - with almost all the standard equipment you could possibly need. However, if you add a few tasty options this is a £50,000 car and all the major running costs will be comparably senior.


That high price just seems impossible to justify, if only shaving a few fractions of a second from the performance figures, especially when the cheaper S3 Sportback delivers such a similar driving experience for much less.


Ready to get your top quality Audi RS3?

  • All cars come with a warranty
  • Selected dealers only
  • All quality checked

Audi RS3

2.5 TFSI RS 3 Quattro 4dr S Tronic

  • 2018
  • 16,998 miles
  • Peterborough Audi
  • Peterborough, PE45BH
Price (ex VAT):£41,990
PCP: £687.73/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £687.73, Customer Deposit: £6,298.00, Total Deposit: £6,298.50, Optional Final Payment: £18,630.00, Total Charge For Credit: £7,009.05, Total Amount Payable: £48,999.05, Representative APR: 8.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 8.84%, Excess Mileage Charge: 13.2ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Audi RS3

2.5 TFSI RS 3 Quattro 4dr S Tronic

  • 2018
  • 13,288 miles

Manufacturer Approved

  • Marshall Audi Croydon
  • Surrey, CR52AR
Price:£42,000
PCP: £720.21/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £720.21, Customer Deposit: £6,300.00, Total Deposit: £6,300.00, Optional Final Payment: £17,380.00, Total Charge For Credit: £6,887.35, Total Amount Payable: £48,887.35, Representative APR: 8.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 8.88%, Excess Mileage Charge: 13.2ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Is the Audi RS3 right for you?

If you are the type of person who scans straight to the bottom of every wine list, ticks every option box, and enjoys going for a seven-course tasting menu instead of the pre-theatre special, the RS3 is definitely for you.


Putting supercar-like performance into a sensible family hatchback is conspicuous consumption alright, but for a time, the RS3 held the title of being the fastest, most expensive five-door money could buy. It's since been usurped from its throne as the hot hatch king by the Mercedes A 45 S, losing some of its raison d'être.


Its brilliant engine remains a compelling reason to buy one over and above the already very fast S3, but you can get the same 2.5-litre stick of dynamite in the considerably sportier TT RS for similar money. In fact, for the £50,000 or so you'll need to afford one, there's a lot of fast and very desirable machinery to choose from.


Nevertheless, most of these rivals will not be able to play the Jekyll and Hyde roles of ballistic road missile and sensible shopping car quite like the RS3 Sportback - it's a really unique car. Excessive, but charming.


What's the best Audi RS3 model/engine to choose?

Originally Audi offered the RS3 as a Sportback - brand speak for five-door hatch - but from 2017 buyers were given the choice of a four-door saloon. Both feature the same stonking 2.5-litre engine and S tronic gearbox. 


Picking between them may be as subjective as deciding which you think looks the best. The RS3 saloon has a lower roofline, wider rear track and a more streamlined profile, where the Sportback looks a bit stubbier.


The tradeoff is in practicality. The boot is around 20 litres smaller in the saloon, with reduced access due to the absence of a hatchback tailgate. The load bay is actually a bit longer than the Sportback's but shallower.


We'd pick the flexibility of the hatch over the saloon (and save ourselves a grand in the process) but if you tend to drive solo and storage space isn't a big priority, the saloon is a little rarer, giving it an air of exclusivity. 


There are no trim levels as such, but Audi does offer a - confusingly named - Audi Sport Edition. It's similar to the Black Edition on other models in the range, with cosmetic styling tweaks, plus a smattering of extra kit.  A sunroof, carbon fibre cabin trim, and Super Sport seats with quilted Nappa leather are the main highlights. However, since the standard car is £4,000 cheaper and nearly as well equipped, it's definitely not worth it.


What other cars are similar to the Audi RS3?

Audi and Mercedes have been locked in a literal power struggle to produce the most extreme hot hatch ever, and this fierce competition has created one clear rival with a big title: The Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4MATIC Plus - the high performance version of the Mercedes A-Class.


Unbelievably, it's even quicker than the RS3, producing 421PS from a smaller 2.0-litre engine. It'll sprint from 0-62mph in under four seconds, and like the Audi, it has a four-wheel drive system to help it deploy that grunt. It's also more expensive, but a recent facelift means the flagship A-Class looks and feels very modern inside.


Buyers less interested in bragging rights and more concerned with driving dynamics will prefer the BMW M2. Its six-cylinder engine is just as characterful (and thirsty) as the RS3's but a rear-drive layout and the option  to have a manual gearbox make it more engaging on a B-road blast than either of its German competitors.


Of course, if you want a powerful, usable four-wheel drive hot hatch then a Volkswagen Golf R provides a very similar driving experience at a far lower price, even if it can't match the RS3's overtly aggressive image.


Learn more

Audi RS3 Sportback Interior

On the inside

Audi RS3 Sportback Driving Front

Driving

Audi RS3 Sportback Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

Audi RS3 Sportback Exterior Side

Prices, versions and specification

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

What is the Audi RS3?

Based on the highly successful (but far more sensible) A3 hatchback and saloon, the RS3 is the flagship high-performance version, and a junior to cars like the RS4 and RS6 estates.

heycar editorial team

Answered by

heycar editorial team

Does Audi still make the RS3?

Yes. The brand took the RS3 off sale for about a year, while it was adjusted to meet tighter WLTP emissions regulations, but it returned in 2019 with a few tweaks but the same power.

David Ross

Answered by

David Ross

What is the engine capacity of the RS3?

The RS3 has the largest engine capacity of any of its rivals, a 2.5-litre turbo with a sports car-rivalling 395bhp output and a very distinctive sound thanks to its five-cylinder layout.

Andy Brady

Answered by

Andy Brady

What does the ‘RS’ in RS3 stand for?

RS-badged models are the fastest Audi makes for the road. The letters in the badge are translated from the German ‘RennSport’, which literally translates as racing sport.

Russell Campbell

Answered by

Russell Campbell

How efficient is the new RS3?

The mighty performance means that real world fuel efficiency (especially when you really press on) isn’t great. However drive it gently and you’ll get close to the official 33.2mpg.

Andy Brady

Answered by

Andy Brady