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.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Audi RS3 hatchback?
This is a performance car, so check for obvious signs of misuse, including black smoke from the exhaust, the steering wheel not sitting straight and kerbed alloys. Check the bodywork very carefully for dings and dents picked up in car parks, and check the underside of the car for any damage it might have picked up going off road.
Reported problems with the RS3 are few, and owners seem happy with their cars. However, one or two reports exist of owners who have had very expensive issues with the engine, so as mentioned it’s worth buying a car with a full service history to it. Other issues centre around non-engine electrics, most of which on newer cars were fixed under warranty and speedily.
Audi as a brand finished in a disappointing 15th place out of 37 manufacturers in our most recent reliability survey. The RS3 didn’t feature as a standalone model, but its sibling the A3 finished high up in the family car class.
What are the most common problems with a used Audi RS3 hatchback?
Is a used Audi RS3 hatchback reliable?
What used Audi RS3 hatchback will I get for my budget?
About £28,000 represents the kicking-off point for putting a good RS3 on your driveway. This will buy you a 2015 car with an average mileage for the year and a full service history, which we’d say is essential. Post-facelift 2017 models will still cost you around £35,000, all satisfying the same criteria as above, and you can spend up to £40,000 on a nearly new car from a franchised dealer.
How much does it cost to run a Audi RS3 hatchback?
The official figure for the later, more powerful RS3’s fuel consumption is an average 34mpg, with corresponding CO2 emissions of 188g/km, and those cars registered before April 2017 will pay annual car tax based on that, so expect reasonably large bills. Those registered after that date will pay the current flat rate charge of £140 a year, plus a supplementary luxury car tax of £340 a year for cars costing over £40,000. Expect insurance costs to be hefty, too, as it sits in a high group 46, and servicing costs likewise, especially if done at an Audi dealer, which we would recommend.
Which used Audi RS3 hatchback should I buy?
There is only the one engine and trim option, and the automatic gearbox is your only option too. You can, however, choose between the hatchback (Sportback) and the four-door saloon. For its extra practicality, we’d choose the hatchback.
Our favourite Audi RS3: 2.5 RS3 Sportback
What alternatives should I consider to a used Audi RS3 hatchback?
The BMW M140i is a staggeringly good hot hatch. Its performance is blisteringly quick, and its engine sounds great. The infotainment system is great, too, and the driving position ace. Its rear-wheel drive, so its handling is pure old-fashioned fun.
The Honda Civic Type R is quite brilliant, too. It handles brilliantly, yet is surprisingly comfortable and easy to live with. It’s an incredibly well-engineered machine that’s practical and enjoyable to drive.
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