Audi RS3 Review 2023

Lawrence Allan

Written by Lawrence Allan

heycar ratingEmbarrass supercars in a hatchback
  • 2021
  • Hot hatch
  • Petrol

Quick overview


  • Characterful engine with hilarious performance
  • Now a more engaging driver's car...
  • ...yet also comfortable and easy to live with


  • A lot of money for a hot hatch
  • No longer available to order new
  • Boot space is reduced over Audi A3

Overall verdict on the Audi RS3

"The Audi RS3 is one of two ultimate 'mega hatches', and probably the best of the breed. Its astonishing pace and theatrical engine combines with huge grip and more of a driver focus than previous generations. It's also brilliantly liveable day-to-day. It's expensive to buy and run, though, and there are more stylish options."

Audi RS3 Sportback 2023 front driving

Driven an Audi S3 lately? You might think that's a quick car, but you haven't seen anything until you've upgraded to the RS division's smallest model. Keep reading our Audi RS3 review to find out what you've been missing. 

Twenty years ago a hot hatchback with about 200PS was considered pretty rapid. But while Audi had the first S3 out way back then, BMW and Mercedes-AMG weren't truly in the game yet. 

How that changed. When these three German manufacturers get competitive over fast cars it guarantees an 'arms race', where each new car tries to outdo its nearest rivals with more power, more grip and more noise. But it was Audi that blew the lot of them out the weeds in 2011 with the first RS3 Sportback. 

Here was a hatchback runabout turned Frankenstein's monster thanks to a 340PS five-cylinder turbocharged engine and Quattro four-wheel drive. The pace took this breed of car into another dimension, while the noise conjured up memories of the insane Audi Quattro rally cars of the 1980s. 

The recipe hasn't changed much after two further Audi RS3 generations, with a bit more power and sophistication every time. But that engine remains familiar even in this latest model, launched in 2021 with a significant 400PS. A bit of extra power isn't this new car's biggest advance, though.

While punters loved them, driving enthusiasts bemoaned the old RS3's lack of handling agility. It felt like a blunt instrument, going seriously fast down the straight bits and feeling nose-heavy and unsatisfying in the twisty bits. That's why this new car doesn't have loads more power than before, because Audi RS has focused on making the handling keener and the all-wheel drive system cleverer. 

And it's worked, because you can finally enjoy the Audi RS3 on your favourite road. Grip levels are huge but it'll now give you options when you turn into a bend, and even has a drift mode that we wouldn't be going near on the road. Even more impressive, though, is how comfortable and quiet the RS3 can be when you've had enough of driving like you're possessed.

It also retains most (if not quite all) of the practicality of the regular Audi A3, and has a high quality cabin with good tech. Oh, and you can also get it in saloon form if that floats your boat. Few other cars are this easy to live with yet so entertaining, although electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 are now sending the performance into even higher levels. 

Downsides? Well, it won't be all that cheap to run, but then if you're rich enough to buy one in the first place you may well not be bothered by that. Even used examples of the latest RS3 are well over £50k, but why not keep an eye out for a good deal with heycar's trusted dealers

Looking for a used car for sale? We've got 100s of Audi Approved Used Cars for Sale, for you to choose from, including a wide range of Audi RS3 cars for sale. If you're looking for the older version, you'll need our Audi RS3 (2015-2020) Review.

There are many car enthusiasts that would prefer to be having more fun at modest speeds, and brilliant though the Audi RS3 is it can't offer the sheer entertainment of something like a Toyota GR86 or Honda Civic Type R

While those cars are great driver's tools, the Audi RS3's all-weather security and refinement is well ahead of both, and if you're after straight-line pace there's not much short of £100k+ supercars that can live with it. As an all-rounder that'll tackle anything you throw at it from the commute to a back-road blast, the Audi RS3 is the hot hatch king. 

The Audi RS3 has one car firmly in its crosshairs: the Mercedes-AMG A 45. Similarly priced and very nearly as quick, both also have a trick four-wheel drive system and are usable every day. The RS3 is more comfortable and refined, however. 

Currently BMW doesn't make a super-fast version of the 1 Series (the M135i is as close as it gets), so other rivals come from the performance coupe sphere. Chief among those is the cheaper BMW M240i xDrive, another four-wheel drive weapon that's surprisingly sensible when needed. Really, the RS3's monstrous performance is more closely aligned with the upcoming BMW M2, however. 

Other options include Audi's own TT RS (less space, more grace) and lesser-but-still-quick hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R or a used Ford Focus RS

Comfort and design: Audi RS3 interior

"The Audi RS3's cabin feels pretty solid and built to last, with plenty of standard kit. It's not as cool-looking as what Mercedes-AMG are turning out and BMWs feel a bit more plush."

Audi RS3 Sportback 2023 interior

Audi hasn't felt the need to go to town on the RS3's interior and make it overtly showy. In fact, if you weren't paying attention you might just think you've stepped in an A3 S-Line. 

Depending on where you live you can specify your RS3 you can make the cabin stand out a bit more, though. We love the Alcantara flat-bottomed steering wheel option, while you can also get red stitching in the sports seats and red air vent trim to help it stand out a bit. None of that is available in the UK, however. 

Further little details like RS-specific door sill trim and puddle lights help add a more special feel. Of course the same odd-looking, plasticky air vents remain from the A3 - we miss the really slick circular ones on the previous generation. 

The fundamentals are pretty bang-on, though. The driving position is excellent, with plenty of wheel and seat adjustment, although the latter is not electric on every version and adjustable lumbar support is only standard on Vorsprung spec. Those seats do feel suitably sporty and premium, though, hugging you in the bends without irritating on long distances. 

All-round visibility is better than most sports cars, too, with good-sized windows and a decent view out the back. Standard parking sensors help when, erm, parking, but you really want the 360-degree camera system that comes as standard only on Vorsprung trim.

The Audi RS3's cabin feels generally solid and built to last, with enough of an upmarket feel that it doesn't feel like an interior way below the car's price point. The Nappa leather seats look and feel of high quality, while there's no noticeable creaks and rattles and plenty of soft-touch materials on upper dash and door parts.

The steering wheel also feels very pleasant to the touch, but poke around a bit and there is the odd bit of cheaper plastic that reveals this is a cabin also used in an A3 which costs half the price. However, we also don't reckon it's as nicely finished and attractively designed as the previous generation RS3, which is a pity. BMW's interiors are that bit better these days. 

We're glad to see that, given the money Audi asks for the RS3, you're not wanting for any infotainment extras. As standard there's a 10.1-inch central touchscreen which combines with a 12.3-inch digital dial display, called Virtual Cockpit.

The touchscreen is pretty responsive and has smart enough graphics, but it's not as easy to use as some competitors because you're fully reliant on jabbing the screen icons for many functions. However there is at least a physical climate control switch bank and (praise be) proper buttons on the steering wheel, plus shortcut buttons for things like the drive mode selector and traction control on toggle switches. 


If you'd prefer to not fiddle with a screen while driving there's voice control for various functions, too. It's not foolproof, but it works better than some systems. Having said that we like the BMW M240i's rotary infotainment controller and screen combination even better.

However, the Audi RS3 beats all of its competitors with the digital dial display. It remains one of the best on the market, with a crisp, clear screen, plenty of customisation and fantastic Google Maps navigation integration. 

The standard sound system does a decent enough job, but if you upgrade to the Comfort and Sound pack (or plump for the Vorsprung model) you get a deeply impressive Bang & Olufsen surround sound system to enjoy your tunes with. 

The Audi RS3 doesn't ask its passengers to compromise on space for the added pace. In fact it's one of the major appeal factors over something like a TT RS or M240i Coupe, with rear doors that open widely enough and decent head and legroom for two medium-sized adults, or three for a short trip. The RS3 Saloon has slightly less headroom due to its different roofline. 

Space is comparable to a Mercedes-AMG A45, but if you don't mind travelling quite a bit slower something like a Skoda Octavia vRS offers noticeably more space still. Up front, a pair of six-footers have plenty of space for their legs and headroom to spare, however. 

That's the good news; the bad news comes when you open up the boot lid (electrically on top-spec models). Because of the all-wheel drive system you're robbed of nearly 100 litres of space over the standard A3, with the RS3 Sportback's boot capacity of 282 litres about the same as most small cars

The RS3 Saloon gets more boot capacity at 321 litres, but it's still not amazing. It's a shame also because Mercedes-AMG manages to retain a 370-litre capacity in the A45, while there are much more luggage-friendly hot hatchbacks out there. 

On the upside the RS 3 has 40/20/40 split-folding seats as standard, allowing you to make the most of the back seats if one isn't occupied. Cabin storage is decent enough, with a pretty good glovebox, big door bins, some storage under the centre armrest and a couple of cupholders front and rear.

In terms of exterior dimensions the Audi RS3 Sportback is 4389mm long, 1851mm wide and 1436mm tall. The RS3 Saloon, meanwhile, is 4479mm long, the same 1851mm wide and 1412mm tall. 

Handling and ride quality: What is the Audi RS3 like to drive?

"One option box we'd really consider ticking is adaptive dampers, which are standard on the Audi RS3 Vorsprung. With them fitted the car's dynamic range is really impressive."

Audi RS3 Sportback 2023 rear driving

Previous generations of Audi RS3 drew criticism from keen drivers for feeling numb and unengaging when you upped the pace. Audi clearly took note of this with the new model which - while not being the absolute last word in sensory pleasure - is a lot better. 

Key to the new car's extra driver appeal is something called a 'torque splitter'. We won't bore you too much with the detail, but it allows the four-wheel drive system to shove power to an individual rear wheel during hard cornering. That helps reduce understeer (where the front wheels lose the ability to keep you on your chosen line) and makes the RS3 feel surprisingly agile. 

Keen drivers will enjoy the way it's able to tuck itself neatly into a bend and yank itself out with huge grip levels and much less of a nose-heavy feel than older models. There's even a feature called 'RS Torque Rear', which is polite speak for 'drift mode' - it pushes all the rear-axle power through the outside wheel to make the car skid around a bend. It's really only useful for track driving but gives you an idea of the effort Audi's RS engineers have put in.

The only slight letdown in the package is the steering, which is nicely weighted and precise but isn't brimming with feel to connect you to the front wheels. Sticking the car into Dynamic mode just makes the steering heavier, which doesn't really solve the problem. Still, it's only a minor thing and the vast majority of the time the Audi RS3 is very confidence-inspiring. 

We've only tried an RS3 with adaptive dampers fitted, and while we can't comment on the ride in a car without those we can say it's impressive how composed the ride quality is on all surfaces when the car is in comfort model. Even Sport isn't too firm, either. It's barely any less comfortable than a regular A3. 

The brakes are strong and the pedal response is consistent, but if you're planning on using your RS3 on track regularly you might consider the optional carbon ceramic brakes. It's a pricey option for road users, however. 

There's only one engine available with the Audi RS3, and it's the familiar 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo unit that's been used by Audi for years. You'll also find it in the TT RS coupe and the RS Q3 hot SUV. 

It's more powerful than it's ever been these days, despite lots of work to make it meet tougher emissions rules. With a mighty 400PS and 500Nm of torque putting power through all four wheels it'll officially rocket from 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds. We've seen that figure beaten, too. The only hotter hot hatch is the Mercedes-AMG A45 with its frankly ludicrous 421PS. 

If you're planning to head over to the Autobahn or happen to have access to an airfield, you can pay extra for Audi to remove the speed limiter. A 180mph top speed in a hatchback seems pretty mad, doesn't it?

Even if you're not doing a full-bore standing start the RS3's engine's flexibility means it feels quick in any gear and almost any revs. There is a bit of lag below 2000rpm while the big turbo wakes up, but once on song it feels extremely rapid. You'll certainly need to exercise restraint on the road.

The figures only tell part of the story, because the engine delivers character in spades. Ramp it up into the sportiest drive modes and you'll get pops and crackles when you lift off the throttle, and flooring it brings a wonderfully sonorous five-cylinder warble. It may be a bit quieter than it used to be due to the latest regulations, but we still reckon it's a better noise than any hot hatch on sale including the A45. One caveat: we've only tried examples with the RS Sport exhaust, which is optional on base trims. It's definitely a box we'd tick. 

The engine pulls strongly right to the redline, when the dual-clutch automatic gearbox selects the next gear pretty rapidly. It can sometimes be caught out if you stamp on the throttle in Comfort mode, taking a bit of time to pick a gear, but the response in Sport or RS is very good indeed. Settling down to a cruise the engine mooches along nicely and the gearbox slurs changes as well as you'd hope, too.

The beauty of the Audi RS3 is its ability to be loud and boisterous when you want it to be, but relatively serene and quiet when you're not in the mood. Take it out of the sportiest drive modes and the exhaust noise dies down, the engine and gearbox react more smoothly and it'll be perfectly refined for a long-distance cruise. 

The only real issue is road noise from those fat tyres and big wheels, but it isn't intrusive and it's something that afflicts pretty much every modern performance car. 

The Audi RS3 comes with the same array of active safety kit as the regular A3. So you get standard Front Assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection and lane keep assist. You don't get adaptive cruise control as standard from the base trim, however.

Another option that you may well find as standard on some rivals is Traffic Sign Recognition - it's either optional or standard on the top-spec Vorsprung model. Still, the regular Audi A3 received a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, with strong protection scores for both adult and child occupants. The RS3 is only less safe because you might find yourself going far faster in the event of an accident.

MPG and fuel costs: What does the Audi RS3 cost to run?

"The sacrifice you make for the Audi RS3's incredible pace is in fuel economy, although if you take it easy it'll drink less than you might expect."

Audi RS3 Sportback 2023 boot

Cars with heavily turbocharged engines and four-wheel drive usually pay a price at the pumps, and the RS3 isn't exactly frugal. Having said that, given the performance on offer it really isn't all that bad. 

Official WLTP combined fuel economy puts it at 31.4mpg, which is hardly diesel-like. Yet that's a pretty realistic figure in our experience, and one that you might even beat at a steady motorway cruise. Of course if your right foot is heavy you'll be looking at a mid-twenties figure at best. 

Granted, you'll get better efficiency out of a BMW M240i xDrive, which manages a nearly impressive 34.9mpg.

As a brand Audi sits mid-table for reliability in the latest Satisfaction Index, above Mercedes-Benz but below BMW. 

The RS3 itself didn't feature in the survey, but we've not heard of any serious reliability issues. That five-cylinder engine is well-proven, too. But beware that the dual-clutch gearbox and Haldex all-wheel drive system do both need oil changes and increase the potential for expensive things to go wrong once the warranty is over. 

Hot hatchbacks like the Audi RS3 are often bought (and promptly crashed) by over-confident young people, and are a popular target as getaway cars for thieves. That pushes insurance premiums up dramatically, particularly if you live an in area with a high crime rate.

Happily the RS3 isn't in the very highest insurance groups, starting from group 35 for the base variant and rising to group 40 for the Vorsprung model. Don't expect it to be cheap if you're under 25, however. 

The Audi RS3 puts out a fair bit of CO2 thanks to that powerful engine, so if you're looking to win the traffic light grand prix with something cheaper to run we'd check out one of the fastest electric cars

The first year road tax (VED) rate isn't an issue now it's not a new car, though, as the first owner will have swallowed that hefty £1420 figure for the RS3. What will be an issue is the £355-a-year additional rate for cars that cost over £40,000 - you'll need to pay this for five years after the car's first registration date. Still, after that it defaults to the £165-a-year flat rate like everything else. 

How much should you be paying for an Audi RS3?

"Want to know the biggest thing wrong with the Audi RS3? The cost of buying one (even used) may well make you wince a bit."

Audi RS3 Sportback 2023 front wheel

When the latest generation Audi RS3 went on sale in late 2021 prices started at just under £51,000 and rose to nearly £59,000 for the top-spec Vorsprung model. As with all new cars those prices crept up a bit throughout 2022 so the starting price increased to around £54k. The RS3 Saloon added another £1000 or so. 

That's all in the past, though, because Audi has taken the RS3 off sale. Whether it will return remains to be seen but given the huge industry-wide focus on reducing fleet emissions it's unlikely. So, for now, your only option is to buy used. 

Think you'll save a packet doing so? Don't count on it. The RS3 is highly sought after and the fact it's no longer on sale (combined with the existing chip shortage) means even a 2021 model with about 10,000 miles on the clock is £54k or upwards. 

Want a 2022 model that's barely run in? You'll be needing upwards of £60k. And high-spec Carbon Black or Vorsprung models are commanding £65-70k. Ouch. Still, a Porsche 911 that accelerates as quickly will be nearly twice as much. 

There were four Audi RS3 trim levels available across its (seemingly) short two-year lifespan.  All feature a good level of standard equipment, but quite a few options were available.

The 'entry-level' Audi RS3 comes equipped with 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, Nappa leather sports seats with front seat heating, the full infotainment suite and Audi's RS Monitor providing performance and temperature data. 

Stepping up to the Audi RS3 Carbon Black brings black-painted 19-inch alloys, black carbonfibre exterior detailing including the rear spoiler, side skirts and mirror housing and Matrix LED headlamps.

A limited-run Audi RS3 Launch Edition featured several upgrades including adaptive suspension, a sports exhaust, red brake callipers, a panoramic sunroof and gloss black exterior detailing. There's also a head-up display, electric front seats, the Audi Comfort and Sound Pack (including wireless phone changing and a Bang & OIufsen stereo) and an enhanced Driver Assistance pack, while the top speed is raised to 180mph. 

Finally the flagship Audi RS3 Vorsprung builds on the launch edition with a new design of black 19-inch alloys, a 360-degree camera system and an electrically operated tailgate.

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

The Audi RS3 is no longer available to order new in 2023, but when it was prices started at nearly £55,000. Used prices have stuck firm so you'll end up paying about that for a year-old one with 10,000 miles on the clock.
The combination of that immense 400PS five-cylinder turbo engine, a quick-shifting dual-clutch gearbox and a trick four-wheel drive system makes the Audi RS3 a seriously fast car in all conditions.
In a way, yes, simply because its acceleration and grip levels means it would keep up with almost any supercar on a typical country road. But it doesn't have the visual drama and special feel of a supercar.

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