Audi RS3 review 2020

Find out more about the Audi RS3 in the latest MOTORS Review

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Out of 5


  • Amazing performance
  • Characterful five-cylinder engine
  • Good practicality


  • Hefty price tag
  • Not particularly engaging to drive
  • Rather high running costs
Model review

Audi introduced the first generation A3 in 1996, marking a return to the production of smaller cars after killing off the compact Audi 50 in 1970. During the car’s lifetime, it saw a sporty S version, the S3, which houses a nippy 1.8-litre motor under the bonnet. However, it wasn’t until the second-generation car, which began production in 2003 – and quite a bit into its lifecycle as well – that the model received the full-fat RS treatment for the first time. 


And with that, in 2011, the original RS3 was born. With a 335bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder under the bonnet, it was, and still is, a proper pocket rocket – 0-60mph takes just 4.4 secondsUnfortunately, however, the model didn’t last long, and Audi killed it off just a year later. This resulted in fans waiting until 2015 for a second versionwhich is the current RS3 

Current model

As mentioned before, the latest RS3 began life in 2015, building upon its already bonkers predecessor in every way. Naturally, it’s more modern and technically advanced, but – more importantly – even more devastatingly quick. It retains the use of a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder, but now horsepower has been upped to an even more juicy 394bhp.  


Thanks to that motor, quattro all-wheel-drive and a quick shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the RS3 can launch from 0-60mph in just 3.9 seconds – that’s supercar quick. On planting your right foot, the otherwise unassuming family hatch turns into a complete weapon. So, while it may not be as involving dynamically as, perhaps, a Ford Focus RS, it certainly puts a smile on your face simply due to how savagely fast it is.  


Another thing worth mentioning is that, for this generation, the RS3 is not only available in Sportback (hatchback) form, but in saloon guise as well. The saloon is arguably the more attractive of the two, with a sleek, aggressive rear end, while the regular hatch offers more practicality and better value for money.  


Value for money

New Audi RS3 models start at £46,285, which is admittedly quite a lot for what’s essentially a family hatchback. But then again, this is no ordinary family hatchback – it’s immense performance on tap being arguably the main justification. In addition, it’s a lot more premium than your average compact car. Just as a quick side note, the slightly more powerful and newer Mercedes-AMG A45 S – a main rival nonetheless – asks even more at £52,145. 


On the used market, there’s some relatively good bargains considering its starting price new. Cheapest examples of the latest generation car go for as little as £27,000, with first generation cars dipping to around £16,000. 


Looks and image

Most hot hatches like to shout about their performance with a bold bodykit and perhaps a rather large wing, but not the RS3. Apart from a slightly more aggressive front bumper and a pair of hefty oval exhausts, it’s easy to assume it’s just a regular A3. Whether the understated looks appeal will be down to personal opinion, but the little rocket ship certainly isn’t an ugly car 

Video review

Space and practicality

In terms of practicality, the Sportback hatch will be the one to go for, as it offers greater boot and overall cabin space over the saloon. Both are great practicality wise, but that being said, the hatch is still the more useful vehicle with a 335-litre boot – compared to the saloon’s 315-litre one. Fold the rear seats down in the Sportback to reveal a massive 1,175 litres of space – more than the saloon’s mere 770 litres. 



The RS3 – being the range-topping, high-performance version of the Audi A3 – gets just one engine, but what an engine it is. There aren’t many five-cylinder motors being produced nowadays, making the RS3’s even more special and characterful. The 2.5-litre turbocharged five-pot produces an impressive 394bhp – much more than most hot hatches and on par with some sports cars – making the car properly rapid. 


Running costs

Being a performance-orientated motor, the RS3 isn’t exactly built with cheap running costs in mind. That being said, fuel economy figures aren’t terrible – both saloon and hatchback are said to achieve 34mpg, while emitting 188g/km of CO2 – and, for the kind of performance on offer, the running costs are decent. Plus, those wanting a fuel-efficient mile muncher won’t be looking at a near-400bhp hot hatch in the first place – a diesel A3 will suffice.  

Things to look out for

In the driver survey’s, the A3 in general has fared well, with buyers praising their car’s engine and gearbox. In addition, the percentage of faults uncovered by owners within the first year of ownership is low. What’s more, the RS3’s brilliant motor has been utilised in Audis before, and hasn’t proved particularly unreliable. All this adds up to make the RS3 a hot hatch buyer can count on. 



The RS3’s main rival and fellow hot hatch, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S, poses quite the threat, especially now there’s a new version with a 415bhp engine under the bonnet. Other notable rivals include the Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R – none of these can match the Audi’s mind-bending speed but are still definitely worthy of consideration for sheer driving enjoyment. 



Despite the RS3’s amazing performance and sportiness – which of course works in its favour when it comes to retaining value – it’s subtle looks and the fact that it’s still a hatchback means it’s bound to depreciate quite a bit. Not massive amounts, but seeing as the latest generation is only around four years old and its already dropped in value to around £27,000 on the used market, compared to £46,285 new; the RS3 isn’t proving that desirable second-hand 

Trims explained

In both Sportback (hatchback) and saloon form, two trim levels are offered with the model – RS3 and RS3 Sport Edition.


This is the entry-level trim and comes equipped with 19-inch ‘five-arm blade’ alloy wheels in galvanised silver, RS Sport suspension, MMI Navigation, a Virtual Cockpit and Audi Parking Plus.

Priced from £46,285.

'RS3 Sport Edition'

Topping the range is RS3 Sport Edition. By opting for this trim level, the RS3 is treated to 19-inch ‘five-arm blade style’ Audi Sport alloy wheels in glossy anthracite black, black styling pack, a panoramic glass sunroof, front super sports seats and carbon inlays.

Available from £50,285.


  1. The Audi RS3 is one of the fastest hot hatches on sale today
  2. The first generation came about in 2011, with the second, latest generation arriving in 2015
  3. New RS3s start at £46,285
  4. Cheapest examples on the used market go for as little as £16,000, jumping to around £27,000 for the current generation car
  5. It’s undeniably rapid, with an impressive 394bhp under the bonnet thanks to a potent and characterful five-cylinder unit
  6. The Sportback (hatchback) is more practical and better value for money than the saloon version
  7. The 415bhp Mercedes-AMG A45 S, the RS3’s main rival, proves tough competition
  8. Two trim levels to choose from – RS3 and RS3 Sport Edition
  9. Don’t expect the RS3 to be the cheapest family hatch to run
  10. The understated looks are sure to divide opinion

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