Auto Express Test: Audi RS3 vs BMW M2 vs Ford Focus RS

Just a few months back, the Audi RS3 had only the Mercedes-AMG A45 to worry about, as it was the only other small, premium hot-hatch in its class. However, Ford then launched its new Focus RS, which should seriously frighten both the RS3 and A45 AMG, as it’s a sensational little car. But, to make matters even worse for Audi, BMW shook up the segment by offering a rear-wheel drive sports coupe in the form of the BMW M2 that will compete in this price bracket as well. So how will the RS3 fair against its new competition? Auto Express got all three together to find out.

The three cars share some interesting similarities, while also being quite different. All three cars use turbocharged inline engines, while both the Audi RS3 and Ford Focus RS are turbocharged all-wheel drive hatchbacks. However, the Audi RS3 is only available with a dual-clutch auto while the Ford only uses a six-speed manual. The BMW is available with either, but has BMW’s DCT in this test. However, the do make very similar power figures from their turbocharged engine, with the Focus RS making 350 hp, the RS3 making 362 and the M2 making 365. It’s also somewhat funny how each of the cars have inline engines that increase by one cylinder as you go through the lineup. The Ford uses an inline-four, the Audi an inline-five and the BMW an inline-six. The BMW M2 is clearly the outlier here, as it’s the only rear-wheel drive coupe.

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Audi RS3 Sportback
Audi RS3 Sportback

So let’s see how they all made out.

In third place came the Audi RS3. While its engine is a masterpiece and sounds incredible, the RS3 suffered from a slightly boring chassis and very numb steering. It’s brutally fast and it also has tremendous all-wheel drive grip, thanks to its Quattro all-wheel drive, so will likely be the fastest car of the three in the real world and especially in bad weather. However, it was somewhat un-engaging to drive and lacked the sort of fun-factor that the other two had. So, unfortunately for Audi, the RS3 comes last. It’s still a great car, but the to newcomers have just outgrown it.

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BMWM2:AudiRS3 1

The BMW M2 came in second place and sounds like it could have been first. The BMW M2 has a tremendous rear-wheel drive chassis and fantastic steering. Its engine is also superb and makes all of the right noises. While the M2 isn’t quite a brutally fast as the RS3, it’s certainly quick enough. The BMW M2 was just the more fun car than the RS3 overall and was more enjoyable to drive. However, there’s another car in this test that’s about as fun to drive as the M2, albeit in a much different fashion, but costs quite a bit less.

That’s right, the lowly Ford Focus RS takes first place here. It’s the slowest car of the bunch and has the lowest-rent interior. However, it’s an absolute riot to drive. While it won’t be the tail-happy sports car that the M2 is or the straight-line monster that the RS3 is, it’s a very fun blend of all thing. It has great steering, a great chassis and fantastic dynamics. It’s also quick, economic and practical. And it all costs significantly less than either of its competitors. So the fact that the Focus RS can offer similar levels of fun and performance at a fraction of the price, means it takes first place for Auto Express.

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Some fans may disagree with the results and would rather own an Audi RS3 or BMW M2 and we wouldn’t blame them. However, Auto Express deemed the Ford Focus RS the victor.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.