Prices, Specs and Rivals
The Audi RS3 is £40,795 on the road without any options, a fairly steep price for what is essentially a very fast hot hatch. Add-ons like lightweight super sports seats cost £795, while the 'RS3 style pack' which adds dabs of Alcantara to the interior, will cost £895.
Standard tech includes LED lights, 19-inch wave design brakes, Alcantara trim on the wheel and nappa leather seats. Audi Connect is also included, meaning your RS3 will get one of the best in car nav systems on the market.
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Also included as standard is a rear diffuser, rear roof spoiler, and a redesigned front and rear bumper exclusive to the RS3. A dual-branch exhaust system is standard with the sports exhaust costing £1495 as part of the RS3 Dynamic Package.
Rivals include the Mercedes A45 AMG and VW Golf R, both of which offer similar levels of performance. The Golf R is less expensive at £32,340 (in RS3-matching five-door trim). Want something a little more offbeat, and a little more exuberant? The new Honda Civic Type R is worth a look. It's not as talented as the Golf, but it's hugely exciting in the right circumstances. And if you prefer two driven rear wheels to all-wheel drive, then BMW's satisfying 335bhp M140i (and M240i Coupe) is worth a look, feeling like an ideal fit for UK roads.
But it's the Ford Focus RS that provides the biggest challenge to the RS3. The Focus might be quite as powerful, have such a great sounding engine or the interior feel as premium as the Audi but it is almost £10,000 cheaper. What's more, the Focus is far more entertaining to drive; it doesn't understeer like the RS3 and provides a really engaging driving experience.
The Focus RS's 'Drift Mode' might be a bit of a gimmick, but the Focus can often feel rear-wheel drive even in its less aggressive settings. The Focus RS isn’t just an brilliant hot hatch to drive, it’s a great car full stop and bested both the Audi and the Golf R when we tested the trio in Spain in issue 220. While the Audi feels every bit of its extra price tag in the cabin, the Ford (and indeed the Golf) are better in tune with how we want a powerful, all-wheel drive car to drive.
With a 394bhp Audi RS3 saloon on the way that will also open the door to comparison with a few more rivals, most notably the saloon version of the Mercedes-AMG A45, better known as the CLA 45. There's actually little to choose between the A-class and CLA in the way they drive so we're not expecting much difference in how the Mercedes eventually compares to the Audi - though we already know the Audi's five-pot engine is much more satisfying than the Merc's growling four-cylinder turbo.