In an effort to remain at the pointy end of the hot hatch horsepower pyramid, two German firms have been locked in an intense battle of numbers for more than half a decade. First, the Audi RS3 took the honour of being the most powerful hot hatchback when it was launched back in 2011, only for it to be edged out by the monstrous 355bhp Mercedes-AMG A45 just two years later.
Audi’s response was to increase power to a whopping 394bhp from its TT RS-sourced engine. Not only is it bigger in capacity than most modern hot hatch powerplants, it has an extra cylinder, too. Although it makes the engine smoother whilst remaining compact, the main upshot of the five-cylinder layout is a distinctive soundtrack that’s reminiscent of the far pricer Audi R8.
Naturally, power is sent to all four wheels and there’s only one gearbox option, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. With standard fit launch control, acceleration is on par with some serious sports cars, while inclement conditions shouldn’t prove too much of an issue for this five-door missile. Of course, being the priciest A3 of all, you can also expect plenty of standard equipment, too.
Will that be enough to lift the historically straight-laced Audi above the far less expensive, Honda Civic Type-R and Renault Megane RS? Read on over the next few pages to get our in depth impressions on all aspects of the RS3, and to see how this musclebound A3 compares with the competition.
And, before you settle on your new hot hatch, remember that What Car? can save you an awful lot of money without any painful bartering with dealers. Just head to our New Car Buying pages for savings on thousands of new cars.