Audi A3 RS3

£39,900 Driven March 2011
Rated 12 out of 20
Three hundred and forty horsepower in a hatchback isn't unprecedented. But it's still pretty special. If the Adi RS3 can't quite scale the power heights of the Focus RS500 or (ultra-rare groove) Impreza CS400, be assured it's ruddy fast.
Probably quicker at overtaking then either of those actually. That's because the Audi's sweet five-cylinder engine never hangs about taking a breather: turbo-lag is a non-issue. And the flappy-paddle twin-clutch gearbox shifts without interrupting the relentless vacuuming of scenery towards the windscreen.
And because it's got four-wheel-drive, the Audi will always get out of a corner better than the Ford if it's wet. Or even MM (mildly moist).
In fact the Audi's grip is positively epic. You don't have to do much. Just point the steering through the bend, mash the accelerator and hold on tight.
Now, you could get picky here. Ask for more steering feel. A bit of extra attitude adjustment on the throttle. I would. Perhaps you'd have more fun in the upcoming 1-series M, which has the same power and the same price sticker.
But the RS3 is eyeball-compressingly fast on a twisty narrow road. And most special of all, unlike other quick cars, rain doesn't much ratchet the RS3 down.
Anyway, let's look at the whole picture. This thing might be £40,000 but it ticks a huge number of boxes. For a start, 0-62 in 4.6 seconds is hard to find at this price. Especially when it's wrapped in a five-door with Audi's usual class of cabin quality. OK OK the chassis might lack a little charisma, but the engine has it by the bucketload.

More info in next month's Top Gear magazine, on sale 23 March

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