Car reviews - Audi - A3 - RS3 Sportback
1.8T 5-dr hatch
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Sportback 5-dr hatch range
Quality fit and finish, off-beat engine soundtrack, grip and handling poise, aggressive exterior styling
Room for improvement
Expensive options list, ride a little ruffled even in comfort mode, no manual option, still no USB
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1 Oct 2015
AUDI’S most affordable RS model yet is the latest four-ringed firebrand to take the fight to its corresponding Mercedes-AMG opponent.
Asking a little more than the A45 at $78,900 plus on-roads, it also drinks a little more than the Benz hatchback claims, but delivers extra grunt while doing so.
Not as outrageously overt as some in the hot-hatch sector, it has a brooding low-key presence that becomes more overt once its active exhaust burble is part of the equation.
The distinctive five-cylinder note, with its higher-pitched howl, quickly endears itself as a soundtrack worth hearing while not as theatrical as some of its larger RS cousins or its AMG opposition, it's a nice note thanks apparently to the 1 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 3 firing sequence.
For reference, the engine is a 2.5-litre direct-injection five-cylinder turbo, delivering 270kW and 465Nm and matched with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission driving all four wheels via Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system.
The outputs that come with the noise are considerable and effective, quickly dispatching the little hot hatch toward the horizon with minimal interruption from the gear-changes.
Swapping ratios is a rapid-fire exercise which can – in the most sporting of modes – be manually selected solely by the driver without being overruled by the car.
Audible announcements of gear changes are the only real disturbance but not in a negative way – waffling murmurs and the odd pop are just enough to remind the driver of the special nature of the powerplant.
Different drive manners are on offer, which when combined with the optional magnetic dampers endow the little five-door with largely reasonable ride quality given its sporting intent the most serious of modes – Dynamic – prefers smooth bitumen for its best efforts.
Cruising between twisty back road blasts in Auto or Comfort mode reveals a quiet (apart from the tyre roar on coarse-chip bitumen) cabin with minimal wind noise and precious little droning from the off-beat engine.
The smallish 55 litre tank was drained at a rate of between 10 and 12 litres per 100 kilometres during the 255km launch drive program, but more reasonable use might see the thirst dwell in the single digits – resisting the temptation to make it sing its off-beat tune will be the bigger problem.
Cabin space is snug front and rear for anyone beyond the norms for height or width and cargo space is not overly abundant.
The Audi claims 280 litres, rising to 1120 with folded seats, which falls short of the AMG’s claimed 341 litres and 1157 with two occupants, but there's enough for most general use.
But the RS3 is at its most amusing when biting into bends, something for which it has ample aptitude, turning in sharply.
A meaty leather and suede steering wheel and solid weighting on the helm give the driver few doubts about its intent.
Large manually adjustable leather sports bucket seats keep front occupants well located and comfortable and the rest of the cabin trim is typically Audi-plush.
In-gear acceleration is strong and the part-throttle urge is deceptive – using the easy-to-set cruise control will be a must for keeping the licence from haemorrhaging demerit points and eroding the bank balance.
A hard-drive-equipped infotainment system with standard sat-nav is controlled by the touchpad-equipped dial set-up just aft of the gear selector, which for the most part is straightforward to use.
The absence of a USB port in favour of the awkward Audi cable connector is an annoyance that is hopefully on the endangered species list, as it only benefits the accessories balance sheet at the brand's dealerships.
Nearing $80,000 – and considerably more if you ticked a few main option boxes – is a sizeable asking price for a compact five-door hatch.
But if you are in the market for a seriously-quick sportscar to quell a mid-life crisis, as well as being a practical day-to-day proposition, this could be a viable solution.
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