The 2020 Audi RS 3 is the ultimate high-performance version of the Audi A3 premium subcompact sedan. It uses a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. With big power on hand, the RS 3 isn’t just the ultimate A3, it’s arguably the ultimate subcompact performance sedan. It also flies under the radar, with conservative yet sophisticated styling and an upscale cabin.
The RS 3 is ridiculously fast, outgunning its rivals in the sprint from standstill to 60 mph. The 2020 BMW M2 Competition (with the automatic transmission) and the 2019 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 both take 4.1 seconds to get to 60 mph, while the RS 3 gets there in 3.9 seconds. The RS 3’s unique 5-cylinder engine provides a distinct soundtrack through its quad exhaust tips too.
The less hot but still highly enjoyable S3 is reviewed separately, and the regular A3 lineup has its own review as well.
What’s New for 2020?
The RS 3 carries over unchanged for 2020. See the Audi RS 3 models for sale near you
What We Like
- It’s a subcompact sedan with 394 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque
- Excellent handling
- Under-the-radar styling
What We Don’t
- Pretty much everything costs extra
- Limited trunk and passenger space
The RS 3 uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder engine making 394 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. This comes mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. AWD is standard.
The EPA rates the 2020 Audi RS3 at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg in combined driving. It probably goes without saying, but premium fuel is required.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Audi RS 3 comes in just one trim level but with several available options.
Standard equipment includes 19-in alloy wheels wearing summer performance tires, full LED lighting, a panoramic sunroof, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, adaptive sport suspension, variable-ratio steering, 8-piston front brake calipers with ventilated discs, ventilated rear brake discs, a rear lip spoiler, keyless entry/ignition, rain-sensing wipers, self-dimming/heated/power-folding side mirrors, selectable driving modes (adjusting steering assistance, gear shift points, suspension settings and throttle responses), a tilt-and-telescoping flat-bottomed steering wheel that’s covered in leather and Alcantara (simulated suede but lighter and used in many actual racing cars), dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front sport seats with 8-way manual adjustment (including extendable thigh support)/4-way power lumbar adjustment, extended Nappa leather upholstery, ambient LED cabin lighting, stainless steel pedals, front/rear parking sensors, forward-collision warning, automatic high beams, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a 7-in infotainment screen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, wireless charging, a phone signal booster, leather upholstery, a 10-speaker audio system, a CD/MP3 player, HD/satellite radio, an SD card slot, front and rear USB ports and two 12-volt outlets.
A Navigation package adds the Virtual Cockpit configurable 12.3-in driver’s information display, Audi‘s MMI Navigation plus system, and a touchpad controller featuring handwriting recognition.
You can also opt for a fixed mechanical sport suspension in place of the RS 3’s standard Magnetic Ride system. A standalone Dynamic package adds staggered 19-in Audi Sport wheels, a sport exhaust and summer performance tires.
Trunk space measures just 10 cu ft — not great, even for a compact sedan. Anyone carrying longer items on a regular basis, such as golf bags, should make sure they fit properly before buying. Luckily, the RS 3’s rear seats fold in a 40/40/20 configuration.
Active safety tech offered on the RS 3 includes standard automatic high beams and front and rear parking sensors. Optional are blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic detection, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control with full-speed functionality.
The RS 3 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and eight airbags (front, front side, front knee, full-length side curtain). Side airbags for the rear seats are optional.
The mainstream Audi A3, on which the RS 3 is based, earns a 5-star overall score from the NHTSA, and the IIHS gave it a Top Safety Pick+ award for its crash test performance.
Behind the Wheel
The RS 3 comes with materials and design on par with larger luxury sedans. The flat-bottomed steering wheel makes the vehicle’s handling prowess clear. The front sport seats, meanwhile, provide support and sufficient comfort for hours of bombing corners. The rear passenger space, if it matters, is tight.
All the RS 3’s critical hardware is dialed in for top performance, from the engine, variable ratio steering and adaptive suspension to the AWD system and the brake setup. It all works incredibly well, forming a complete package that’s succinctly compelling. The vehicle has a scant 0-to-60-mph time of 3.9 seconds, while the quarter mile takes about 12.2.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 BMW M2 Competition — The 2020 BMW M2 is only available as a coupe, and its rear passenger space is cramped, but its 405 hp, inline 6-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive make for an alluring package.
2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 — The 375-hp, AMG-tuned 2020 CLA-Class sedan is wonderfully fast and capable, but its sloping roof means less rear headroom than the RS 3. Like the Audi, AWD is standard.
2020 Audi TT RS — Chances are good that if you’re considering a subcompact sedan, interior space isn’t your top priority. If that’s the case, consider the sportier 2020 Audi TT RS, which uses the same powertrain as the RS 3 but in a sleek two-door sports car package.
Used Audi RS 5 — While Audi doesn’t offer the RS 4 in the United States, it does offer the RS 5 in both coupe and Sportback form. Under the hood is a twin turbo V6 putting out 444 hp. You’ll pay more — even if you go the used route — but you’ll get more space too. Check out Audi’s Certified Pre-Owned program.
The RS 3 is a gem. It’s built on a rock-solid platform and offers insane performance in a sophisticated and subtle package. While it isn’t big on space, it’s an absolute blast to drive and should make a great option for anyone with big money to spend on a small performance sedan. That’s assuming they aren’t hauling more than one other person around on a regular basis though, as the RS 3’s subcompact design means there isn’t a ton of rear seat space, and the cargo area fills up fast.
Since a car like the RS 3 is an emotional purchase more than anything, you probably already know what features and options you’re looking for. We’d have a hard time passing up the Driver Assistance package and rear side airbags, though adding even these basic features causes the pricetag to increase quickly.
Also worth keeping in mind is that the A3 is set to be fully redesigned in the next year or so. If newness is a priority, you might want to hold off on committing to a current-gen RS 3 to see if Audi plans on bringing the next-gen model across the pond in the near future. Find an Audi RS 3 for sale