The new Audi RS3 was, for a brief period, the most powerful hot hatch ever built. Now topped by the 376bhp facelifted Mercedes-AMG A45, it no longer can rely on stats alone to sit at the top of the table. The RS3 utilises four-wheel drive and a twin-clutch gearbox to transform itself into a formidable cross-country machine, boasting enough straight line pace to trouble far more expensive cars.
That said, it was bested by a Golf R on track during testing and by both the Golf and the Ford Focus RS in our all-wheel drive hot hatch test in issue 220, both cars that are down on power compared to the Audi. It's a practical and usable car, but sadly it just isn’t as much fun to drive as a hot hatch should be on an engaging stretch of road, ultimately understeering where others share the load better between their axles.
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The progress Audi has made between the previous RS3 and this one is notable, although it remains a slightly heavy-footed, uninvolving performance car compared to the best in class. The character and sound of the five-cylinder turbo engine is a highlight, though, and with an RS3 saloon on the way there'll soon be another dimension to the RS3's appeal.
Better to avoid optional fripperies like the £495 carbon fibre pack for the engine bay and £325 cost for the red painted brake calipers. Instead money is probably better spent on the comfortable super sports seats which cost £795. They add a bit more of that RS feel to the car which otherwise can appear little more than a standard S3 on the inside.
'This Audi lacks the piercing focus of the hardcore A45 AMG but is a more enjoyable, more rounded car and feels much less one-dimensional. On the ractrack it'll even allow you to throw it into corners in a deliberate near-spin and then pulls you clear in a cloud of smoke and a gale of laughs.
In fact, given the space to really take the RS3 by the scruff, it displays a really indulgent, fun side. It's a shame that for the most part on the road it feels just a little uptight. In summary, much better than the old car but nothing like as spectacular as the spec sheet suggests' - Jethro Bovingdon, evo 210
> Performance and 0-60 time - Very fast on paper, reaching 62mph in 4.3sec. Oddly, doesn't feel as fast as that on the road. Sounds great, though. Read all about the Audi RS3's performance and 0-60 time here
> Engine and gearbox - Five-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 362bhp, through a standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Gearbox will hold your choice of gear, rather than changing up on the limiter. Read about the Audi RS3's engine and gearbox here
> Ride and handling - Better than previous RS3s, for which Audi should be commended. Unfortunately, it's not as involving as the cheaper Volkswagen Golf R also sold within the VW Group. Read about the Audi RS3's ride and handling here
> MPG and running costs - You'll manage up to 30mpg without too much issue, against an official 34.5mpg. Other running costs may be higher though - tyres are not cheap. Read about the Audi RS3's MPG and running costs here
> Prices, specs and rivals - Clocks in at just under £41,000, which puts it in Mercedes-AMG A45 and BMW M2 territory. Perhaps its best rival though - the Golf R - is ten grand cheaper. Read about the Audi RS3's rivals here
> Interior and tech - Won't wow in terms of the latest gadgets, but the tech that is included is well thought-out. As is the cabin itself, which matches Audi's typically high standards. Read about the Audi RS3's interior and tech here
> Design - If you're already a fan of the Audi S3 then the RS3 will certainly tickle your fancy, but as with all Audis, the styling is divisive - some will love it, others will find it wholly unimaginative. Read about the Audi RS3's design here