Man maths is the best, isn’t it? Well, best for what’s sat on the driveway, bank balance aside. I sold my Megane all the way back in February, and with ‘my’ mighty Dacia Duster long-termer to tide me over for six months, I had plenty of time to find a replacement to run alongside my Clio 172 Cup.
The only reason the Megane went was my desperate need for five doors with a growing family and I spent countless hours, if not days, searching for a replacement. Then again, what else is PH for? Good thing I can’t get in trouble for browsing the classifieds while I’m at ‘work’.
Despite having previously written off the idea of buying a Mk5 Golf GTI, our modified PH Project Car inspired me to look at the same drivetrain in Audi A3 format. I do like owning something a little different. But then for just a bit more I could get into an S3. And then a little more than that would get me into an RS3. You can see what happened.
After talking myself into spending more than I’d originally planned, I did consider a Mk8 Fiesta ST and a facelift M135i, but ultimately it was the stunning (in my eyes) example you see here that I couldn’t resist. Matt B had done his best to convince me that the M135i was the way to go, so I did at least test drive both - but my history with fast and dull Audis was too storied to ignore. And I promise this is the least dull one yet.
After all, it isn’t just an S3 with an extra cylinder and a body kit. When Audi charged quattro GmbH with building a limited-run halo model, it fired the starting pistol on the super-hatch era. The return of the iconic turbocharged five-cylinder engine - and its transverse configuration - in the TT RS meant it was only a matter of time before Ingolstadt launched an A3 with 335hp, a seven-speed S-tronic ‘box, all-wheel drive and no direct rivals.
Given what we’ve experienced since 2011, the impression it made at the time has softened in retrospect - but the RS3 was initially greeted with astonishment. It helped that the new model had the look to underpin that enormous output figure with larger air intakes, flared carbon-fibre reinforced polymer front wings, a wider track for the suspension and four-pot Brembo brake calipers with two-piece discs behind those oversized five-spoke wheels. It didn’t necessarily make everyone tingle with the way it changed direction, but it was massively fast and very good looking and that tends to be enough.
It was enough for me anyway. Like a lot of people at the time, the RS3 ticks an awful lot of boxes - and frankly, when you’re coming from a Megane 275 Cup-S, you know any hatchback is going to feel like second best on the handling front. Already the car has proved a fantastic daily: fun enough when I want it to be, reserved and understated when I don’t. It’s no surprise that Audi sold out the first UK allocation of 500 cars and had to make another 250 to satisfy demand. Another two generations, multiple facelifts and numerous rivals spawned later, it’s safe to say the firm was onto something.
My Daytona Grey example popped up after being with the same owner for the past nine years, and kept in fantastic condition with low miles, a comprehensive main dealer and specialist history and well below average miles. It’s no surprise that banger of a five-pot is the standout feature. I like it so much I haven’t once stumbled upon the understeer that everyone moans about. Must try harder.
Car: 2012 Audi RS3
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: September 2023
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