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Long-term test review: Audi RS3

Long-term test review: Audi RS3
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Audi RS3 long-term test review - front

28 Jan, 2018 10:00am

Steve Sutcliffe

First report: Audi’s latest mega-hatch arrives with more power and more performance, and gets a thumbs up for driver appeal

Mileage: 4,021
Economy: 31.8mpg

The previous-generation RS3 was a fast, extremely well made and highly desirable car. But as with so many Audi RS models from the past, it never quite hit the sweet spot in terms of driver involvement. It was an effective enough machine, but not one that pulled hard enough on the heartstrings. This, at least, was the conclusion we reached after running one for six months a couple of years ago.

Now, though, Audi has tweaked the RS3 to give it more power and more performance, but also – according to the maker – more of the involvement that was lacking in the car’s predecessor.

Best hot hatches you can buy

And that’s why we’ve decided to find out for ourselves, by running this new Sportback model on our fleet. Power is up to a vaguely surreal-sounding 395bhp, while torque from the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo has swollen to 480Nm.

What’s more important than this, however, is the fact that the engine itself weighs 26kg less than before, plus the quattro all-wheel-drive system has been tuned to make the car more playful near the limit.

On a recent return journey to Anglesey race circuit in North Wales, I discovered an awful lot about the RS3. I went there the twisty way, and mostly I found the car to be a delight. It now has a much sharper front end, steering responses that are perhaps a little too quick and, at last, a decent level of ride comfort – at least with the £995 adaptive dampers within the magnetic ride system set to Comfort.

When the roads got really twisty I did set the dampers to Sport for a bit, at which point the body control got quantifiably better. But the ride does suffer when you do this, so most of the time I left it in Comfort, with everything else – the steering, transmission and engine – set to Sport. Our car also has the seven-speed dual-clutch auto, which works a treat in conjunction with the five-cylinder turbo engine. The RS3 is now not only a very quick machine to drive, but it’s genuinely enjoyable, too.

It’s also surprisingly comfortable on the motorway, as I discovered when I took the more relaxed route back home from Anglesey. I arrived at my destination five-and-a-bit hours later, still feeling pretty fresh after a very long day. I had the RS3’s new-found sense of civility to thank for that.

Total on-the-road cost for the fast Audi is an eye-popping £56,380, although the standard RS3 Sportback can be yours for a more reasonable £44,725. It’s an expensive choice, especially our model with all its options. But it’s also a lot of car for the money. At the moment, I’m a big fan of this mega-hatch.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Upgrades to the latest version of the Audi RS3 have transformed it into a true driver’s car. It’s more responsive, faster and more fun than ever, thanks to its tweaked chassis. Performance is astounding as well, and the five-cylinder engine sounds incredible.

  • Model: Audi RS3 Sportback
  • On fleet since: November 2017
  • Price new: £44,725
  • Engine: 2.5 5cyl petrol, 395bhp
  • CO2/tax: 192g/km/£450
  • Options: Metallic paint (£775), Driver Assistance Pack (£1,250), RS Sport exhaust (£1,000), RS Sport suspension (£995), panoramic sunroof (£1,075), 174mph top speed (£1,600), 19-inch alloy wheels (£695), Comfort and Sound Pack (£995), Pre-sense basic (£200)
  • Insurance*: Group: 46 Quote: £1,745
  • Mileage: 4,021/31.8mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

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