Here are five things you need to know about the Audi RS3 that makes it cheaper than its main rival.

Audi makes some of the world’s most desired machines, and its smallest performance hero kick is an absolute beast.

Audi’s RS3 performance hatch and sedan are some of the most desired sports cars on the planet – the duo are fast, fun, stylish and packed with tech and equipment. But how do they hold up against the latest wave of premium hot hatches? Here are five things you need to know about the Audi RS3.

It’s a relative bargain

The Audi RS3 ’s closest rival is the Mercedes Benz A45 sedan, which is $93,325 plus on-roads compared to the Audi’s asking price of “just” $86,136. The Mercedes has more power (310kW and 500Nm to 294kW and 480Nm) and the brand claims it can sprint from zero to 100km/h in 4 seconds flat, one-tenth faster than the Audi. But that is splitting hairs, as both are ludicrously quick and easy to drive fast, thanks to all-wheel drive traction and slick shifting dual-clutch automatics. The real difference is in the cabin, where the Mercedes looks more modern and classy, thanks to twin digital screens that dominate the dash. While Audi’s “digital cockpit” in front of the driver is on par with the Mercedes, the centre screen looks a little small and dated. It’s a car at the end of its model life — a new one is due towards the end of the year — while the Mercedes is all-new.

You know you’re in the sports version

Audi has always excelled at cabin presentation and the Audi RS3 is no exception. The Nappa leather bucket seats offer great support and look the part with red stitching in a diamond pattern and RS logos embossed in the head rests. The flat-bottomed Alcantara and leather steering wheel feels like it belongs in a race car, while there are splashes of carbon fibre on the doors and red surrounds on the air vents. From the outside, the RS 3 looks relatively subdued, save for the gloss black honeycomb grille at the front and the twin exhausts and diffuser at the rear. Big 19-inch wheels with dinner plate discs and hug RS-branded calipers also point to the car’s sporting intent, while the matt grey paint job is a winner.

The equipment list is long

Luxury European car makers are notorious for charging customers for options that should be standard, but the RS 3 is suitably equipped for a model that sits at the top of the A3 tree. The digital cockpit is a highlight, allowing the driver to configure its layout to focus either on Google Maps and infotainment menus or sports-focused readouts such as g-sensors, power and torque outputs and shift lights. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported, while later model phones can be wirelessly charged. There’s also a high quality Bang and Olufsen audio system in the unlikely event you get sick of the sound of the five-cylinder at full noise. There are still a couple of omissions at this price, though. There’s no head-up display and the boot operation is manual.

Time for a rethink

Car makers are rushing headlong into the world of touchscreens and Audi has done away with buttons on its most recent models. The RS 3 is a reminder that it’s far easier and less distracting to navigate the infotainment system via a rotary dial. The RS 3’s dial works well, as do the steering wheel controls and voice-activated commands. A touchscreen works well when you’re standing still – not so much when you’re on a bumpy, twisty road.

The fun factor is off the charts

Point the RS 3 at a winding country road and you’ll begin to understand how Audi can charge close to $90,000 for a Corolla-size sedan. The five-cylinder turbo is a ripper, delivering enormous grunt off the mark and great response at higher revs. It sounds like nothing else as well, although Audi appears to have dialled back on the noise a little with later variants. Traction off the mark and grip through corners are outstanding, while the brakes possess plenty of bite and the steering is precise and well weighted.

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