Audi RS3 Sportback long-term test

Back in January, we named this 394bhp rocketship the best hot hatch for daily usability, but we've since been putting that verdict to the ultimate test by actually living with an RS3...

Audi RS3 Sportback with classic Audi S3

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 15,928 List price £59,305 (Carbon Black) Target Price £58,590 Price as tested £62,590 (based on Carbon Black with equivalent specification) Test economy 31.3mpg Official economy 31.0mpg Dealer price now £62,966 Private price now £55,970 Trade-in price now £53,559

18 October 2022 – Goodbye RS3

Back in January at our annual Car of the Year Awards, we declared the Audi RS3 the best hot hatch for anyone with a keen eye on daily usability. You might argue that’s a bit vague – but the point is that some of the most thrilling hot hatches can become a bit, well, annoying when you aren’t in the mood.

Audi RS3 front cornering

In my 20s I wouldn’t have been remotely fazed by rock-hard suspension, rowdy cruising manners or poor low-speed drivability; if those things helped make a car more fun to drive on the right road, they were a tiny price to pay. And to be honest, I’d still feel that way if I were looking for a second car and had something a bit more cosseting on the driveway already.

But I don’t. And with two kids and increasingly less patience (yes, the two things are related), the RS3’s relatively easygoing nature had big appeal. Nearly 11,000 miles later and my admiration for Audi’s hot hatch has only grown. Yes, I’d still take a Mercedes AMG A45 for a blast along an empty country road, but I reckon 70% of the time I’d be happier in the RS3.

To be clear: that doesn’t make the RS3 a better hot hatch. It just means it was better suited to my lifestyle, and the comfortable ride has definitely been one of the most agreeable aspects. One reason for that is that my car was a Launch Edition, which came with adaptive suspension as standard. I say ‘came’ because the Launch Edition is sold out. Buy our favourite Carbon Black version now and you’ll need to stump up £960 for the adaptive suspension, something I’d highly recommend doing.

RS3 trip information

The supple ride combined with relatively quiet cruising manners made the RS3 a surprisingly good car to cover long distances in. At the legal limit it averaged around 33mpg, which admittedly isn’t going to win any efficiency challenges, but isn’t half bad for a car with nearly 400bhp that’s faster than an entry-level Porsche 911. Overall average fuel economy was a respectable 31.3mpg.

I’m pointing out some of the sensible things because you might not expect them, but don't go thinking that the RS3 isn’t an absolute riot when you want it to be. It has, without doubt, the best-sounding engine of any hot hatch currently in production – possibly ever made. I couldn’t help but stick the sports exhaust into Dynamic (loud) mode whenever I started the engine, although thanks to Audi’s RS Individual mode, you can do this without also stiffening the suspension or adding weight to the steering – unless you want to, of course.

The RS3 wasn’t perfect, mind. To make room for the four-wheel drive system, Audi has had to raise the height of the boot floor compared with the regular A3. That’s cut capacity quite a bit to the point there’s only about the same amount of room for luggage as you get in a Ford Fiesta.

Long-term Audi RS3 France update boot

A family driving holiday with the RS3 required selective packing, and a second break, during which the RS3 was tasked with getting the four of us plus luggage to an airport carpark, was touch and go. The 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats saved the day, allowing me to slot a couple of longer bags through from the boot, in between two child seats.

Curiously, though, perhaps the most attractive aspect of living with an RS3 has been financial. A strange thing to say about a £60,000 performance car, you might think – but because of how well it’s held onto its value, it’s actually worth about the same now as it was when brand new.

That’s because demand is still strong and supply limited (expect to wait more than a year if you place a factory order now), but also because we’ve seen new car prices rise consistently throughout 2022. But before you run off and put down a deposit assuming the RS3 is a rock-solid investment, remember the economical outlook is rather different now than it was at the earlier in the year when I took the keys to the mine, and used car values may well be hit.

One thing's for sure: this latest generation of RS3 is the best hot Audi A3 there's ever been. Its ancestors, including the original S3 from 1999, had an upmarket charm and were certainly easy to live with – they just weren't much fun. Finally, Audi has melded that easygoing nature with proper thrills quite literally at the flick of a switch. 

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