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Audi RS3 sedan 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.5
The idea of paying $80,000-plus for a small sedan seemed laughable not long ago. Then the Merc A45/CLA45 changed the game. And now, for the first time, RS is slapped on the boot of a small Audi sedan.

The idea of paying upwards of $80,000 for a small sedan - even if it were trimmed with the fur of baby seals - seemed laughable not that long ago. Then the Mercedes A45 and CLA45 came along with its poppy-bangy turbo four-cylinder and changed the game forever.

Audi's RS3 joined the game in 2011, to great fanfare but in Sportback form. Whether Audi is being cutesy or not we'll never know, but the five-cylinder turbo fits well between its four and six-cylinder rivals while cranking out the right amount of power and driving all the wheels.

Completing the A3 upgrade that landed late last year, we now have a new, upgraded RS3 to rejoin the fray after the second generation's debut in 2015. And for the first time, RS is slapped on the boot of a small sedan.

Audi RS3 2017: QUATTRO
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$70,888

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The RS3 sedan is based on an S3, which is based in an A3, but, obviously, with a few tweaks. The RS3 sits 25mm lower than the standard car, rolls on 19-inch alloys and rides on the same wheelbase as the hatch.

The usual Audi Sport tweaks are along for the ride too, with a new grille, headlights from the A3 general update and the usual skirts and matte aluminium mirror caps. The new front bumper is a bit snarlier and the grille is gloss black with a 3D effect.

  • The usual Audi Sport tweaks are along for the ride too, with a new grille and headlights from the A3 general update. The usual Audi Sport tweaks are along for the ride too, with a new grille and headlights from the A3 general update.
  • The RS3 also runs a few mods over the A3 - both front and rear tracks are wider. The RS3 also runs a few mods over the A3 - both front and rear tracks are wider.

As with most Audi designs, you'll be very hard pressed to spot the differences to lower models. The first and obvious change are the new headlights from the update, now sporting a more jagged lower edge. Bumpers and skirts are tweaked and the wheelarches flared to contain the fat rubber.

Inside is basically the same too, carrying on with Audi's "if it isn't broke" mantra and, to be fair, there's not much to complain about in the cabin. As befits its price, you get a lovely set of RS front seats, the RS steering wheel with Alcantara inserts and other RS-ey accoutrements, and if you want more, there are plenty of boxes to tick at the dealer.

  • As befits its price, you get a lovely set of RS front seats, the RS steering wheel with Alcantara inserts and other RS-ey accoutrements. As befits its price, you get a lovely set of RS front seats, the RS steering wheel with Alcantara inserts and other RS-ey accoutrements.
  • The cabin carries on with Audi's "if it isn't broke" mantra. The cabin carries on with Audi's "if it isn't broke" mantra.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

As it's available in both sedan and hatchback, the big difference is mostly the boot size. The sedan's boot will take an okay 315 litres and 770 litres with the seats down, while the hatch's cargo area holds 335 and 1175 litres. You've a choice of four cupholders and four bottle holders as well as a centre console just big enough for a larger-size phone. A netted pocket is also placed in the passenger footwell.

Four adults can squeeze in to the sedan. Four adults can squeeze in to the sedan.

Four adults can squeeze in to the sedan which is slightly less tolerant of taller rear seat passengers than the hatchback version.

The sedan's boot holds 315 litres. The sedan's boot holds 315 litres.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

You spend a lot and you get a fair bit. The RS3 leaves the factory with 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dash, 10-speaker stereo with 7.0-inch touchscreen and MMI (including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB+), heated RS seats, leather trim, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto LED headlights, auto wipers and a comprehensive safety package.

Audi's brilliant 12.3-inch digital dashboard, known as Virtual Cockpit, has the RS mode added to it, which means a big rev-counter with digital speed reading (good) a turbo and g-meter (neither of which are especially useful when you're firing down the road at velocity).

As ever, Audi's MMI is controlled through a rotary dial and a 7.0-inch screen that eases out of the dash on startup. You can up the grunt with a 705W B&O system if you fancy it, but the 'basic' one is a bit of alright.

he RS3 leaves the factory with a 7.0-inch touchscreen. he RS3 leaves the factory with a 7.0-inch touchscreen.

The usual Audi rule applies for options - packages. You can have extended black high gloss for $1600 or matt aluminium for the same amount. The 'RS Performance Package' is $7600 and swaps the alloys for a different design of your choice, adds magnetic ride,  carbon inlays and the thumping 14-speaker stereo from B&O. The front wheels also wear 255/30 Pirelli P Zeros.

Some of these bits are available separately, such as the stereo, the wheels, and you can also option the excellent Matrix LED headlights ($1690). Eight colours are also available, with just one ('Nardo Grey') a no-cost option.

Amazingly, you can also spec a whopping set of carbon-ceramic brakes for $9500.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

There may still be five cylinders under the bonnet, but they're now all-aluminium. Lighter components and various other mods means more power - 294kW, up by 24kW - and torque is a fairly decent 480Nm. The biggest weight-saving was a switch to an aluminium crankshaft. Overall, the weight loss totals 26kg.

The new seven-speed 'DSG' dual-clutch auto sends power to all four wheels. In the RS3, there's a quicker power transfer system courtesy of an electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch. Between 50 and 100 per cent of power can find its way rearward which is good news for those who like a lively RS.

And lively it is - all of that power sends the RS3 to 100km/h from rest in a supercar-baiting 4.1 seconds, no doubt helped by a 1510kg kerb weight.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Audi claims 8.4L/100km on the combined cycle. Our time with the RS3 included some heavy thrashing around Hobart's Baskerville Raceway, so the drive was unrepresentative of anything approaching real world driving.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

One of the best things about a five-cylinder engine is the noise it makes. It's distinctive and forms a key part of the RS3's character while referencing Audi Quattros of the 1980s. Sporty German cars have a delightful habit of producing obnoxious pops and bangs from the exhaust and, as ever, the RS sports exhaust is bi-modal, meaning you can go for stealth or glory. Only thing is, this new engine seems less exuberant than the one it replaces, which is a pity.

Loud or not, the 294kW unit is an absolute cracker - not as smooth and deep-chested as the BMW six but nowhere near as highly strung as the Mercedes' four-pot turbo.

The RS3 also runs a few mods over the A3 - both front and rear tracks are wider, the former by 20mm and the latter 14mm. Tyres are 235/35s all around unless you go for an RS pack and the fronts jump to 255/30s and they're lovely sticky Pirelli P-Zeros (as fitted for our drive).

We had the chance to try the car on track and on some brilliant roads around Hobart. The RS3's wheelbase is identical to the hatchback's (a few mm down on the 'normal' sedan), so with the extra track, it's a proper quick brick and, to my eyes, better looking than the Sportback. We'll know for sure when it arrives late this year.

On the road it's terrific fun, slinging itself between corners while keeping the body in check. On the road it's terrific fun, slinging itself between corners while keeping the body in check.

On the road it's terrific fun, slinging itself between corners while keeping the body in check. It's quite happy to change direction with a flick of the small, flat-bottomed steering wheel but don't get too excited on the throttle. Give it a bit, wait for the power shift to kill the mild understeer, then really get on it.

On the track it's terrific fun, but probably a little soft. But who cares? The blare from the five cylinder turbo was pretty good to listen to and even with all the systems on, didn't mind squirming a bit under braking.

That power-on understeer - again, mild - was magnified in the environs of the track but what was also magnified was my view of the steering. Audi has gone for a good weight in dynamic mode, without pointless heft but having enough feel for you to stay connected. The steel brakes took the pounding of the track well.

And the best bit? The RS3 has a very impressive ride. If anything, it's more sorted than the S3 we tried in our recent Torquing Heads review. The magnetic ride is a nice-to-have but I really enjoyed the standard car. Unless you're super-keen, you don't need it.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The RS3 comes with a decent array of safety gear. Six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, adaptive cruise with traffic jam assist (semi-autonomous stop-start traffic driving), road sign recognition, rear-cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning. It scores a maximum five star ANCAP rating.

The rear seat also has three top-tether child seat anchorages and two ISOFIX points.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Audi offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with service intervals of 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Roadside assist is part of the package, lasting for the first three years of the car's life.

Annoyingly, there is no up-front service plan for RS models, so you'll be rolling the dice on service costs.

Verdict

The RS3 now has the most power in its class and, if you're looking for a sedan, is cheaper than the CLA45 by quite some margin, while also undercutting BMW's epic M2 (yes, that's missing a couple doors, I know). It's an absolute rocket on road and track and has that distinctive five cylinder beat.

The RS3 isn't a particularly sensible car when you look at the price but it's got a decent sized boot, fits four people and is a bit of a sleeper, something Audi is very good at. It's also a bit more fun than its Mercedes rival while offering an all-wheel drive alternative to similarly-sized BMWs.

Can you hang on for the Sportback or do you have to have an RS3 now? Or do you want neither and are looking further afield? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$79,995
Based on 30 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$70,888
Highest Price
$97,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Sportback Quattro 2.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $78,990 – 81,490 2017 AUDI RS3 2017 Sportback Quattro Pricing and Specs
QUATTRO 2.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $70,888 – 97,990 2017 AUDI RS3 2017 QUATTRO Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$70,888

Lowest price, based on 27 car listings in the last 6 months

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