Half Price Hot Hatch: Audi RS3

It might have officially been the ‘entry-level’ RS model during its brief run from 2011 until 2012, but don’t let that fool you: the Audi RS3 is still a very serious hot hatch.

Indeed, the term ‘hot hatch’ might not even do it justice, the Audi RS3 instead one of the pioneers of the ‘super hatch’ class, in which both performance and price reached whole new levels. Not that Audi’s decision to market the RS3 at a hefty £40,000 did it any harm. Quite the opposite in fact, this car being so desirable that it bagged what were at the time market-leading residual values, helped by the fact that only 750 came to the UK. This in turn explains why it’s taken until recently for the RS3 to slip comfortably into half price hot hatch territory.

What a car it still is, though, built around a 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbocharged engine that kicks out an impressive 335bhp and 332lb ft of torque (from just 1,600rpm), giving a 0-62mph time of just 4.6 seconds. Unlike lesser A3s there’s no three-door version of the RS3, but with its unique front wings (made from a carbon polymer to save weight), 19-inch alloys, a lowered ride height, and deep front bumper it certainly still looks the part.

As much is true on the inside, where despite clearly coming from an older generation of A3 you can still see how neatly Audi’s typically polished build quality marries with RS touches such as sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

When it arrived in the RS3, Audi’s 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine had already proven its worth in the TT RS, where it dazzled not only with its power delivery but also its soundtrack. Although that same characterful sound isn’t quite as loud in the RS3, it’s still there as an ever-present reminder that there’s something special under the bonnet. Put to full use this engine is devastatingly effective too, squeezing you into your seat under hard acceleration as if you’re in an aircraft taking off from a particularly short runway.

There are a couple of elements helping out with this, namely the inevitable inclusion of quattro four-wheel drive to put the power to the road, but also the fact the RS3 was only offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. This might lack the tactility of a manual, but the way it fires through changes so quickly certainly adds to the RS3’s ability to offer near supercar pace in the body of a practical family hatchback.

What you won’t find is the ride and handling delicacy of something like a Renaultsport Megane 265, the RS3 instead preferring to simply grip and go. Mind you, that it’ll do this regardless of conditions is all part of the appeal of one of the fastest family cars around.

For piece of mind with any hot hatch, and particularly one as powerful as the RS3, we’d strongly advise conducting an independent vehicle history check, possibly even as part of a full used car inspection. Among other things, this will tell you if the car has ever been recorded as written off or stolen, giving you peace of mind that the example you’re look at is genuine.

If you do choose to skip this step it’s still worth bearing in mind that Audi interiors wear miles well, so have a look at the car’s online MOT record to ensure the advertised mileage tallies with what’s shown on past MOTs. While you’re there also check there’s nothing that rings alarm bells in the advisory notes.

When it comes to condition, those 19-inch wheels are vulnerable to kerb damage, while wear and tear items including tyres and brakes are also expensive to renew, so either ensure they are in excellent condition or factor the cost of replacements into the price you pay. Again, if you don’t know what to look for, a specialist vehicle inspection can help identify any looming bills.

The good news is that properly maintained RS3s are proving to be extremely durable, and any early problems that were reported, such as squealing brakes, should have been fixed as part of the ongoing maintenance regime.

Obviously running costs won’t be cheap, particularly if you drive the car hard, but by the standards of true super hatches a used RS3 is starting to look extremely tempting.

Audi RS3
Built: 2011-2012
Power: 335bhp @ 5,400rpm
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
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