The hot hatchback segment is consistently one of the most exciting on the market, and at the moment we have some of the very best. One of the manufacturers that produce well-built and punchy models is Audi and this is its latest offering – the RS3 Saloon.
Also coming in a Sportback guise – essentially a five-door hatchback – this is the first RS3 to come as a saloon, and we have to say it looks quite handsome.
But with other premium rivals like the BMW M140i and Mercedes-AMG A45 posting impressive performance figures, as well as being in the same price bracket, can the RS3 stand up to the test?
Under the bonnet of every RS3 is 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that kicks out an impressive 395bhp to all four wheels with the help of Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive. It comes as standard with a seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox with shift paddles there if you want to use them.
The RS3 is limited to 155mph and can get from 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds – which for a car this size is pretty staggering. Audi also fits the RS3 with a launch control function as standard, so if you want to get away from the lights just that little bit quicker, you can.
Ride & Handling
In a rather fortunate turn of events, the RS3 is suited almost perfectly to the UK’s roads as you can find grip in any gear very easily. It’s also very balanced and feels composed through the corners, although there isn’t a great amount of feedback. It’s accurate, but you can get more feedback from other models.
Unlike many other hot hatches, it is very liveable day-to-day and can take on the motorway miles pretty easily.
The quattro system is a standard feature on RS cars, but it feels very good on this car as when you chuck it into a corner, the power is transferred between all four wheel seamlessly so that you can get the best drive out of the corner. When you do exit the corner, you are catapulted away as the power is put down in the right place just when you need it.
Interior & Equipment
As with every other Audi model, the build quality of the RS3 is excellent, as you are welcomed by a leather-upholstered interior with aluminium detailing and red accenting. The flat-bottomed sports steering wheel comes in black leather and alcantara, with the body-hugging sports seats coming in white or black Nappa leather.
Also like other top-end Audi models you get all the latest equipment, such as the Virtual Cockpit display behind the steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a central seven-inch infotainment display with satellite navigation and LED head and taillights. Safety systems like adaptive cruise control, cross rear traffic alert, parking sensors and traffic jam assist also add to the RS3’s appeal.
Our car came with optional extras such as a Bang and Olufsen surround sound system, a full sports exhaust system and matrix LED headlights. The cost of these extras were extensive mind you, as they put the price up of our test vehicle by over £2,500 – with plenty of other options available to add.
The starting price for the RS3 Saloon is £45,250 – which when you think about it is quite reasonable considering the rivals it has. But by adding multiple options, our test car came out at £55,335 – which is frankly quite ridiculous when you consider about what else you could buy for that money.
However, the RS3 is surprisingly frugal with fuel and you can get upwards of 33mpg on long drives, which is quite impressive considering this car’s performance capabilities. Emissions are quite high at 188g/km CO2 though, and as the car starts at above £40,000 you get a price hike on road tax too, so make sure you know what you’re getting in for before looking at one of these.
Yes, it can seem expensive to run and spec to your tastes, and yes, it may be in a competitive sector – but the Audi RS3 Saloon is a lot of fun. Although all the feel may not be there in the steering, it is composed, well-balanced and ballistic in a straight line. Teamed with an excellent suspension setup and masses of power on offer, this car is truly excellent and if you’re looking for something small and fast, as well as offering practicality when you need it, the Audi RS3 Saloon should be one of your first ports of call.