The Audi A3 Sportback is, arguably, one of the two best small hatchbacks on the market.
Like all Audi cars it is superbly built inside and out and does all that could be required of a small family car. The range-topping RS3 costs around £40k new. The featured car, packed as it is with optional extras, costs just over £50,000. The trouble is, all the extras are wholly desirable, not least the superb seats.
As if the 2.5L Turbo-charged engine with a six-speed tiptronic auto box wasn’t enough to get you off the line, this car also features ‘Launch Control’. The necessity for this is dubious. Certainly when I tried the feature, it was mighty impressive, the car going from nought to warp-speed in seconds. It was also fun when I did it again – but then what? If I’m honest, it’s not something I crave. It has a use on a race track, but otherwise it has little point on British roads.
It’s an Audi so you know what to expect. Although this is a very hot hatch there is none of that wild extravagance used to perk up lesser cars.
If anything, it is understated and demure with a familiar dashboard and, as usual, the build quality is superb. I loved the optional Nappa leather sport seats with the fancy quilting; otherwise indications of the car’s real purpose are kept to a minimum. Also, the car is as practical as the regular models with Isofix and an entirely usable boot.
On the move
Again, subtlety is the key as the RS3 doesn’t at first glance look a lot different to the regular Sportback, but the clues are there: gloss black grille, LED headlights, gorgeous 19” alloys and a deep roof spoiler. The wheel arches flare out to accommodate the RS3’s wider track and big tyres and, when the keen observer walks around the back, there’s a pair of exhaust outlets straight off the back of the Starship Enterprise. The sound upon start-up is symphonic; Wagnerian even and truly, deeply addictive.
The all-wheel drive system’s multi-plate clutch is mounted on the rear axle for better weight distribution and up to one hundred percent of the available torque can be directed to the Audi RS3 Sportback’s rear wheels, with the intention of improving both agility and neutrality of the chassis. In short, this car is planted on the road and never once in normal and legal fast driving did I have any untoward moments. The grip goes on forever and the power just keeps on coming. Some might blanch a bit at emissions of 194g/km but when you think that just a few years ago that figure would have been in the four hundreds then it ‘s really not so bad. If fuel consumption around 26mpg in the real world or a BIK rate presently at 33% bothers you then you don’t want this car anyway.
It is pleasing that cars like this can still be made. As I have pointed out, driven properly The Audi RS3 Sportback can deliver all the power you want to satisfy your base urges whilst still being perfectly happy pootling round to the office. Certainly, for business users, this car is unlikely to feature on your preferred list but, even today, it doesn’t all have to be about work, surely?