Hot hatches offer tremendous performance in a practical and generally affordable package – but now that the new RS3 has been revealed, will Audi stay on top?
When the previous generation Audi RS3 stepped onto the blocks back in 2015, the world was still driving hot hatches, not hyper hatches.
The fizzing five-pot RS3 changed all that, kicking off a power war for the ages with its arch-rival, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S.
With the second-generation A45 S punching back hard with a 310kW four-cylinder, redefining the level of performance offered in a practical small car, more affordable alternatives like the Golf R have become unbelievably popular, given their stock bang-for-buck and easy tuneability.
In light of the reveal of the 2022 Audi RS3, Chasing Cars has compared how the next generation of one of Australia’s most popular performance cars stacks up against the competition.
Many were pleased when Audi announced the RS3 would keep its 2.5L five-cylinder engine engine, which retains the same 294kW power figure but torque is now up to an impressive 500Nm.
That beefed up engine combined with a seven-speed dual clutch and a revised all wheel drive system gives the RS3 a 0-100km/h time of just 3.8 seconds.
This time just nudges out the more powerful Mercedes-AMG A45 S which uses a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder to send 310kW/500Nm to the all wheel drive system.
Even with the optional Trofeo R tyres, the A45 S takes 3.9 seconds to reach 100km/h, which is the definition of splitting hairs – but a win is a win.
It’ll take a session on the drag strip to confirm in the real world which car is faster, but on paper, the Audi should put its new masked grille a fraction ahead.
The Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R is the next closest competitor, using the same type of engine configuration as the Merc to nab a 0 to 100kph in 4.7 seconds. This is fair enough given that the R produces notably less grunt at 235kW/420Nm.
Perhaps hurting some feelings at Audi is the fact the RS3’s little brother in the S3 is slower than the Golf R with a 4.8 second 0-100km/h time, though this is certainly not slow.
Opting for the S3 lops off an extra cylinder from the engine block for a turbocharged four-pot arrangement making 228kW/400Nm but the hatch retains an all wheel drive system.
The somewhat controversial BMW M135i uses this same type of setup to produce a healthy 225kW/450Nm and achieve a time of 4.9 seconds under the same conditions, which earns it last place in this lineup – notably slower than its rear-driven M140i predecessor that made 250kW of power and completed the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.6sec.
Far away from Australian roads – say on a runway in Sydney for example – top speed is king, and it’s this figure that could also see you embarrass some rivals as the track.
Once again, it’s the Audi that takes the crown. While the top speed is technically limited to 250km/h adding on a few goodies like ceramic brakes unlocks the full 290km/h potential.
Following close behind is the AMG A45 S with an electronically limited 270km/h top speed, while the Golf R, M135i and S3 are all restricted to 250km/h.
The question of price is perhaps the most important and puts the context of these performance figures into the proper focus.
At the time of writing the Audi RS3, S3 and Volkswagen Golf R do not have official prices but we can make reasonable assumptions based on the current trends and previous prices.
The most expensive of the bunch right now is the Mercedes-AMG A45 S which commands $94,100 before on-road costs, which is enough to get you into a traditional two-door sports car like the Toyota Supra.
Based on the $5,000 price rise of the mechanically similar Audi RSQ3 from its first to second generation, we expect the new Audi RS3 to start just under $90,000 (before on roads) for the hatchback version.
The less potent Audi S3 is likely to get a similar bump from its previous $64,200 entry price, and should command around $70,000 in our estimates.
BMW currently offers two grades of the M135i with the cheapest being the Pure that starts at $64,990 before on-road costs.
Volkswagen has raised the price of the cooking Golf models by around $4,000-5,000 this generation and, given the advanced new all wheel drive system, we expect this to carry across to the Golf R – putting the price around $61,000 before on-roads.
With all of these cars expected to arrive in Australia by the end of next year its going to be an exciting time to be a car enthusiast, as competition heats up in one of the most accessible performance segments in the market
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