What's the used Audi RS3 hatchback like?
Think of an RS Audi in the same way as you might a BMW with an M badge or a Mercedes-Benz with an AMG one and you begin to understand that although this RS3 looks similar to a regular Audi A3, a practical family car that has established itself over the years as one of our favourites, it is absolutely first and foremost an extremely powerful hot hatch.
The first RS3 in 2015 packed a 362bhp punch from its 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, but a mid-life upgrade in 2017 replaced this with an all-new aluminium unit that upped the power to a staggering 394bhp. Permanent four-wheel drive helped to keep all this oomph on the road, and results in some truly phenomenal acceleration figures: it dispatches the 0 to 62mph sprint in a mere 4.1 seconds, for example, which is supercar-quick. This last update also introduced the option of having your RS3 as a four-door saloon, which traded in a little of the hatchback’s practicality for what some would see as neater styling.
On the road be in no doubt this is a quick car. There’s plenty of pulling power from low down the rev range, and the RS3 is seldom stumped for speed. It makes a glorious noise, too, and its performance is effortlessly released through its standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. With minimal weight over its front wheels, the RS3 turns into corners with zest. Push it hard and the older car could run wide during fast cornering, whereas the post-facelift car stays locked onto your chosen line. And you can even persuade the rear to step out slightly under power, if that’s the bag you’re in to. Just don't expect the RS3 to match the best hot hatches when it comes to driver involvement. You may be able to cover ground at an unbelievable rate, but the steering still offers little to no feedback and the car is almost too capable. It doesn't challenge you in the way that its rivals like the BMW M140i and Focus RS do, and can instead be driven hard almost instantly.
More positively, the RS3's standard suspension strikes a decent balance between body control and comfort. Yes, you’re always aware of bumps, but the car seems to move with the road rather than fight against it, while body roll is minimal. Tick the box for the optional adaptive dampers and you’ll find Comfort mode is significantly more comfortable, whereas Dynamic mode is too firm for most British roads.
It would be disappointing if this super-sporting version of the A3 wasn’t finished to the same exacting standards inside, but worry not, it is. The minimalist design features plenty of soft-touch plastics as well as well-damped switches and chrome accents. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a lovely thing to hold, embossed RS logos on the Nappa leather seats add a touch of class and you get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit – a digital display that sits behind the steering wheel in place of conventional instrument dials – as standard.
If that’s not enough, you can add a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo, diamond-quilted Super Sports seats and a wireless smartphone charger for compatible devices.
Space is good, too. There's generous room for two adults in the front, and the standard heated electric sports seats (with adjustable lumbar support) are surprisingly comfortable, yet also supportive when corning hard. In addition, three children can sit side by side in the back, even if the middle passenger’s backrest isn’t as comfy and there’s a small hump in the floor for them to straddle.
The RS3's boot is one of the biggest of any hot hatch, and it has a nice wide opening. The boot is also fitted with a height-adjustable floor that reduces the load lip and ensures there’s no step up to the rear seats when they’re folded down. The opening is a decent size and shape, too, while a through-load hatch is an option, allowing you to accommodate lengthy items, such as skis, without folding down either of the outer rear seats.
Find a used Audi RS3 in the What Car? Classifieds here