First Look: Audi RS3

First Look

If you thought Volkswagen was being a bit short-sighted by not selling some of their smaller cars (like the Polo/A1/Ibiza/Fabia) in the US, then you have seriously underestimated VW's ability to shoot themselves in the foot. They seem to have an uncanny ability to produce cars that create a demand, and then simply hand that segment of the market in the US to their competition. The Ford Fiesta needs to be as good as it is to compete with the VW Polo in Europe.

You can buy a Fiesta in the US, but US VW dealerships don't get the Polo. I'm sure Ford is grateful. Audi recently decided that they wanted to rule the upscale performance hatchback market in Europe, and brought out the awesome RS3. This caused panic at BMW, who are countering with the 1-Series M Coupe. Now guess which one you can actually buy in the US. Mechanically, the RS3 is pretty much the same as the TT RS, which Audi is finally (but almost reluctantly) bringing to the US. They are built on the same platform and use the same 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine.

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That means 340 horsepower in a car based on the Golf. By contrast, the Golf GTI has 200hp and the much-anticipated Golf R has 270hp. It is also important to note that the 2.5's peak torque of 332lb-ft is available from 1600rpm all the way to 5300rpm. This is a fairly typical torque plateau for a turbocharged Audi, and that kind of usable power makes a big difference. 62mph comes in 4.6 seconds as a result, and goes on to a limited top speed of 155mph. The RS3 also comes with Quattro all-wheel-drive as standard, although for the equivalent of $68,000 it damn well better.

It would be safe to assume that the price would be somewhat lower if the RS3 ever made it to the US, but that RS badge never comes cheap. Audi showed off the RS3 in Canada as a way to demonstrate how well the Quattro deals with snow, but this unfortunately also demonstrated how the very firm suspension makes driving in the snow quite unpleasant anyway. The exterior of the RS3 follows the standard Audi formula for turning an A into an RS. Chrome side view mirrors, bigger wheels, side skirts and more aggressive front and rear fascias.

The interior as well is bang-on what you would expect, basically a really nice version of the Golf interior. Audi does occasionally do some perplexing things when it comes to transmissions, and the lack of a three-pedal option in the RS3 doesn't surprise us too much. The dual-clutch for the RS3 is very good, but when the TT RS can be had with regular manual transmission, you can't help but wonder why they wouldn't do the same with the RS3. The shortcomings of the RS3 are not many, on the whole, and the RS3 is in every way deserving of the RS badge.

The hatchback makes it practical as well, and it could even be thought of as a smaller version of the RS6, which is a very good thing indeed.