Auto Review: 2024 Audi RS3 Sportback will drive you to ride fast

The Audi RS3 Sportback is the superhero hot hatch version of the tame Audi A3 commuter

By George Kuruvilla

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Dynamic photo,Color: tango red
Dynamic photo,Color: tango red

Published: Mon 8 Jul 2024, 4:22 PM

Hot hatches are great fun. They started out as cheap, fun-to-drive and easy-to-park alternatives for those who couldn’t afford the fancy sportscar prices and wanted more practicality. The Volkswagen GTI is a great example. Now, we have more expensive options like the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and the lesser known, but equally enticing Audi RS3 Sportback.

This car is the superlative hatchback of the tame A3 sedan. We drove one quite recently and here’s what we thought of the pint-sized powerhouse that’s worth an astounding Dh300k.


Language of speed

As I walked into a local garage, my eyes lit up, not just for the myriads of hyper cars that were parked inside, but for the RS3 Sportback. It was like a life-size Hotwheels car, especially in the splendorous green paint job (not pictured), that sat among them unabashedly. You see, even the regular top-trim A3 looks like a proper sports sedan. They’ve taken that recipe and given it the necessary go-fast accessories to match its performance, thus making the RS3 look like a real racer for the road. Everything that was in chrome is now black. The air intakes were enlarged, and large diameter oval exhaust tail pipes were added to the rear. It even sits lower by an inch. And, it also has large 19-inch black alloys with ultra-low-profile tyres with stacked widths i.e., the front wheels are surprisingly wider than those in the rear (265 mm vs 245 mm). Without doubt, the RS3 Sportback is a sharp looking hatch that speaks the language of speed and for those who prefer the sedan silhouette, that too is available.

It's business as usual on the inside with that familiar Audi format interior populated with black surfaces in a Germanic layout, but this time with more trapezoidal shapes. Even the door design has more facets than an engagement ring. With soft touch plastics, colour-coded trims and a carbon-fibre dash, the cabin feels rich without being vulgar. The main deviation from its Audi brethren is the asymmetrical dash vents which some liked, and others didn’t. But even in its complexities, there is a simplicity in its design that you’d appreciate. The driving position is near perfect with electric seat adjustability to get you there. The 3-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel is wrapped in alcantara for the ultimate grip like in racing cars. The transmission shifter is a nice little toggling stub that is easy to operate. Then there is the leather-wrapped bucket seats that are equal parts comfortable and supportive. And betwixt all of this sportiness, they haven’t forgotten technology. They’ve integrated a customisable 12.3-inch instrument screen (albeit with an odd rev counter) and a 10.1-inch infotainment display on the centre console. But perhaps, my favourite part is the physical A/C controls -- the most tactile I’ve seen in the recent cars.


Keeping it real

As for accommodation, let’s keep it real. While being spacious in the front, it lacks rear legroom expectedly. Also, it’s practically a 4-seater although classified as a “fiver”. And because the battery was moved to the rear to accommodate the larger engine, boot spaced was compromised. It’s now at 281 litres, some 100 litres less than the A3’s. But worry not, it will easily fit a full-size suitcase, some bags and more with the seats folded.

Cockpit
Cockpit

Answering one’s desire for speed is a motor that most won’t expect. It’s a turbocharged 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine. In full song, it makes a mighty 400 horses and 500 Nm of torque which is enough to make auto enthusiast quiver in excitement. The 1-2-4-5-3 firing also order gives it a unique exhaust growl that can sound nasty, in a good way. All that torque is multiplied using 7-speed dual clutch transmission and it is put down on all fours using Audi’s famed quattro.

When you’re driving around leisurely, the RS3 feels comfortable and easy to steer. But the speedy outfit and the throbbing engine can make you feel stifled at slow speeds. This thing begs to be driven fast. And when you do it’s a ton of fun. In comfort mode, step on the throttle and after a moment’s lag (and kickdown) it rockets forward eagerly with that glorious exhaust calling on bystanders. In Dynamic mode, it’s even more responsive and relentless. How fast? Think 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. That’s as quick as a BWW X5 M. And if chasing horizons is your thing, it will hit 290 km/h (with the RS pack). In short, the RS3 will quite happily turn both static scenery and moving cars into a blur.

Daily drives

The compact dimensions and the grip from the quattro all-wheel drive system make the RS3 move like a shadow to your directional intentions, hugging the tarmac at all instances. The steering feel isn’t the most connected or direct, but its right up there with best. That slight give makes it a great “daily driver” too. And for that extra edge in terms of yaw control (especially on the track), they’ve given it a torque splitter that will put all the rear axle torque to the outer rear wheel providing more rotation, to counter the mild understeer at speed. It’s the next best thing to a rear-wheel drive setup.

The one caveat though is the transmission. It can feel jerky and unintuitive at slower speeds, but it makes up for it as the numbers climb. The RS3 also provides powerful braking performance thanks to large steel discs all around. It delivers a smooth and predictable bite at all speeds.

The 2024 Audi RS3 Sportback is a full-blown superhero hatchback version of the A3 entry-level luxury car. Its compactness and ergonomics make it a comfortable city car, while its turbo power and quattro grip makes it a road racer built for the lanes of speed. The more I drove the more I loved it. It has a few minor gripes, like lack of rear space, but its real handicap is the Dh300k price tag. Furthermore, at that rate, it doesn’t even come with an electrically adjustable steering column or 360-degree camera. Without doubt the Audi RS3 Sportback is a fine vehicle, a true hot hatch. But has the German automaker overestimated the disposable income of the typical hot hatch aspirant? Well, time will tell!

2024 Audi RS3 Sportback

GOOD: Go-fast looks; build quality; everyday drivability; speed, lateral dynamism and soundtrack

BAD: Pricey; no electrically adjustable steering column or 360-degree cam at this price; smallish rear quarters and boot

EDITOR’S RATING: 7/10 stars

SPECIFICATIONS

Body type: 5-seater; 5-door premium high-performance compact hatchback

Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 2.5-litre 5-cylinder; all-wheel drive

Transmission: 7-speed S tronic DCT (automated manual)

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