When this generation RS3 Sportback first hit the market, it was a sort of revelation. It was the fastest hot hatch on the market, boasted a raucous five-cylinder engine and was all-weather capable in the tradition of Audi’s Quattro. However, since then, its shine has waned, thanks to the newer entries in the segment, such as the VW Golf R, Ford Focus RS and Mercedes-AMG A45.
To combat those new cars, Audi has given its Audi RS3 Sportback a bit of an update. The same 2.5 liter five-cylinder engine remains but it now develops 400 hp, just like its newer sedan sibling. It also received some tweaks to its design, with new headlights, a slightly revised grille and some new taillights. It looks more aggressive than before and the new looks certainly freshen up a design that’s starting to show its age.
On the inside, the RS3 Sportback gains Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster and latest MMI system. The cabin of the RS3 was always great but now it’s superb and is the best looking in the segment. It also has some of the best technology in the class, maybe even the best (depending on if you count the BMW M2 in the segment or not).
But is it enough to entice customers to leave the newer hot hatches for the RS3? I’m not so sure. Yes, the new Audi RS3 Sportback has more power than before but it isn’t much quicker. Audi claims 4.2 seconds from 0-60 mph and the old car had a 4.3 second claim (admittedly, it’s probably quicker than that in the real world). That’s around the same performance you’l get from the other two cars, but it’s nothing new. It’s also still built on the same platform as before, so it still understeers at the limit and lacks the sort of dynamic thrills that make the AMG and Ford so exciting.
However, the Audi RS3 Sportback is still probably the best combination of power, performance, style and practicality. It looks better than the other cars, with a sort of refined aggression, and it sports a far better interior. It’s also more practical than the other two cars, boasting more cargo and rear passenger space, and, with Audi’s magnetic dampers, is extremely comfortable and luxurious. And all of that is on top of the fact that it still has incredible performance and all-weather capability, with the best all-wheel drive system of the bunch.
So is it enough to bring the Audi RS3 back to the top of the hot-hatch heap? We’ll find out.