Audi RS3 Sportback long-term test: report 1

Back in January, we named this 394bhp rocketship the best hot hatch for daily usability, but now we're putting that verdict to the ultimate test by actually living with one...

LT Audi RS3 Sportback header

The car Audi RS3 Sportback Launch Edition Run by Will Nightingale, road test editor

Why it’s here To see if this 394bhp hot hatch is as easy to live with as we initially thought

Needs to Be the ultimate all-rounder: fast and thrilling when asked, but also relaxing on longer jaunts

Mileage 2865 List price £58,480 (Carbon Black) Target Price £58,480 Price as tested £62,590 (based on Carbon Black with equivalent specification) Test economy 30.2mpg Official economy 31.0mpg Options fitted Python Yellow metallic paint (£575)

6 March 2022 – Hot on arrival

The latest Audi RS3 has only been on sale for a short time, but it’s already made quite an impression here at What Car?, picking up a couple of gongs at our annual Car of the Year Awards ceremony in January. The first was for being the best hot hatch for daily usability and the second for being the best value performance car.

And those awards pose an interesting question that we’ve yet to really answer: is the RS3 a hot hatch in more than just appearance? Or is it actually a de facto performance car masquerading under the body of an Audi A3 family car?

LT Audi RS3 Sportback side

You might think that’s a moot question, and in some ways it is. But given that we review cars in objective ways relative to their rivals, it’s something we need to consider. Hot hatches have traditionally been highly strung cars with four-cylinder engines that sacrifice some civility in return for thrills on every journey. The RS3’s main rival, the Mercedes-AMG A45, does exactly that.

Performance cars, on the other hand, are supposed to be a bit more grown-up. Indeed, in a recent reader survey, ‘interior quality’ was revealed to be the third most important consideration for buyers of such vehicles, only beaten by performance and handling. So, is the RS3 better off picking a fight against something like the fast but not too frenetic new BMW M240i? (Spoiler alert: that match-up is already in the diary.)

I'm genuinely torn on this at the moment, but I ultimately decided that the hatchback (or Sportback) version would suit me better than the saloon, because it's more practical yet cheaper. More specifically, my car is a Launch Edition; only 100 of these were destined for the UK and they’ve already been snapped up.

Audi RS3 Sportback rear space

Fortunately, there’s nothing intrinsically unique about Launch Edition cars; you just get lots of standard luxuries – more than you do on the mid-level Carbon Black model, but less than on the range-topping Vorsprung.

In short, you can think of my RS3 as a Carbon Black with the following options added: the Driver Assistance Pack (£1380), the Comfort and Sound Pack (£1195) and RS adaptive suspension with Audi drive select (£960). It also has a sunroof, which you can’t have on the Carbon Black; if you want one of those, you’ll need to go for a Vorsprung.

Interestingly, Audi predicts few buyers will choose the entry-level trim, which is simply named RS3, and more than half will opt for Vorsprung.

Audi RS3 Sportback rear 3/4

The only actual option fitted to my car is the rather lovely Python Yellow paint (£575). I reckon it makes the RS3 stand out from common or garden A3s without shouting ‘look at me’ in the more desperate way the luminous Kyalami Green or Turbo Blue colours do.

That said, I can see why many buyers will opt for one of the greys to make the RS3 even more of an understated ‘street sleeper’. Remember, this is a car that can do 0-62mph faster than an entry-level Porsche 911, and there’s something appealing about having that much performance and only those in the know realising you’re driving something so special.

It’s early days, but the RS3 is already demonstrating what a good all-rounder it is. Ride comfort is quite remarkable for something this capable – at least it is with adaptive suspension fitted; we’ve yet to try the RS3 without this – and I’m averaging a respectable 30mpg. That’s only slightly down on the official 31.0mpg.

LT Audi RS3 Sportback alloy wheel

The RS3 has several tough tests ahead, though, including a family holiday with my wife and two young daughters. Its small boot (relative to lesser A3s) is my biggest concern here.

It’s also scheduled to appear in several videos on our YouTube channel, so subscribe to that and switch on notifications if you want a heads-up when the videos go live. And don’t forget: if you have any questions that we haven’t answered here or in our main Audi RS3 review, just drop me an email.

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