Last year I tested Audi’s S3, and though I enjoyed it very much, to me it felt like it was lacking that special something. Was this all that the platform had to give? Were Audi holding back? Would the flagship RS model fill that gap for me?

After reading some of the international press on the new RS3, then Fred’s experience testing out the new drift mode (on track of course), I was keen to find out more.

So when Audi offered DriveLife the RS3 for a review I was the first to volunteer.

What We Like and Dislike About The 2022 Audi RS3 Sportback

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Engine Sound
Turning circle
Would be good to see HUD and matrix lights included
I can’t afford one

What’s In The 2022 Audi RS3 Range?

The RS3 in New Zealand comes in one shape – the Sportback, with a 2.5-litre inline-5 cylinder turbocharged engine making 294kW (401bhp) of power and 500Nm of torque.

This drives all four wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s legendary quattro system, now with a new rear differential.

It’s priced at $116,390 but you can choose from a variety of options, including:

  • 19″ alloy wheels in 5-spoke Y-style, Matte Black, Audi Sport $1,750
  • 19″ alloy wheels in 5-spoke Y-style, Black with graphic print, Audi Sport $2,000
  • Panoramic glass roof $3,000
  • Matrix LED Headlights and LED dynamic taillights $2,000
  • Mirror housings body coloured NCO 
  • Mirror housings black $300 
  • Mirror housings carbon $1,800
  • Head Up Display $2,300 
  • Bang & Olufsen sound system – 15 speakers including center speaker in the dashboard and subwoofer with a total output of 680 watts $1,500 
  • Decorative inserts in matte carbon $2,300 
  • Massage feature for the front seats $1,300
  • RS Design Interior Package in red or green $2000
  • RS Design Interior Package Plus in red or green $2500
  • Gloss Black Exterior Styling Package $1500
  • Gloss Black Exterior Styling Package Plus $2000

I specced up my dream RS3 in the configurator and it came to $128,240. Better get saving.

And you can choose the colour from:

  • Tango Red Metallic
  • Turbo Blue
  • Python Yellow Metallic
  • Myth Black Metallic
  • Glacier White Metallic
  • Daytona Grey Pearlescent
  • Kyalami Green
  • Kemora Grey Metallic

2022 Audi RS3 Standard Equipment Highlights

  • Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC) with torque vectoring
  • Front driver & passenger airbags with side airbags in the front seats, side guard head airbag
  • Front passenger airbag deactivation
  • ISOFIX child seat anchorages front & rear
  • Anti theft alarm with interior surveillance and vehicle immobiliser
  • Audi Drive Select
  • Audi Pre-Sense Front
  • Audi Park Assist with parallel parking assist
  • Adaptive cruise assist with emergency assist
  • High beam assist
  • Lane Change Assist with exit warning system and rear cross traffic alert
  • Rear view camera
  • Alloy Wheels 19″ alloy wheels in 10-spoke Y-style, Platinum Grey
  • RS Sports Exhaust, with glossy black oval tailpipe trims
  • Red brake calipers
  • Tyre mobility system
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system (indirect)
  • RS sports suspension with damper control 
  • High gloss styling package
  • Privacy glass 
  • Exterior mirror housings in aluminium look 
  • Exterior mirrors, heated, electrically adjustable, folding, auto dimming, with memory
  • LED headlights and LED dynamic taillights
  • Slimline roof rails, aluminium
  • Electric tail gate with convenience opening
  • Interior trim – Fine Nappa Leather with embossed RS logo and Honeycomb Stitching
  • Electric heated sports front seats, memory function for driver’s seat
  • 4-way Lumbar support for front seats
  • Audi connect Navigation and infotainment plus (3 years)
  • Audi Smartphone Interface including AUX-IN and 2 USB ports
  • Automatic climate control – two zone 
  • Auto-dimming Interior Mirror 
  • Height and reach adjustable steering column
  • Interior inlays – Carbon Atlas 
  • Ambient Interior LED Lighting Package Plus
  • Audi sound system – 10 speakers including center speaker in the dashboard and subwoofer with a total output of 180 watts
  • Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus 12.3″ screen and additional RS runway layout 
  • Comfort key – keyless entry and start 
  • Split-folding 40:20:40 rear seat 
  • Pedals and footrest in stainless steel 
  • Scuff plates, illuminated, RS 
  • Door entrance light, with RS logo projector in front

Optional Extras on our 2022 Audi RS3 

  • 19″ alloy wheels in 5-spoke Y-style, Black with graphic print, Audi Sport $2,000
  • Gloss Black Exterior Styling Package $1500

For a full list of specs and options available for the 2022 Audi RS3 jump on over to the Audi New Zealand website

How Does The 2022 Audi RS3 Sportback Compare To Its Competition?

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
BMW M340i xDrive3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbo2853.87.7480$122,900
Mercedes AMG A45 S2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo310/5003.98.3370$122,600
Audi RS3 Sportback2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbo294/5003.88.8282$116,390

First Impressions Of The 2022 Audi RS3 Sportback

You’ll see above that the RS3 comes in some lovely bold colours, and as always I was hoping for a red or blue one. I was a little disappointed when our review car, and Armstrong’s demo car parked next to it, were a sort of bluey- grey colour, called Kemora Grey Metallic. It did grow on me the more time I spent with it, and when the sun hits the paint just right, there’s a pink metallic fleck in there. 

Personal colour preference aside, the RS3 looks excellent. Lower, wider and more aggressive than the S3, the RS3 has flared-out arches with side trims to match, and re-styled front and rear bumpers sporting those all-important RS badges. Instead of the chrome quad-exhausts there are twin fat ovals moulded into the rear bumper, like an RS6, with the quad pipes hiding inside. Then there’s the brakes. They were big on the S3 but on the RS3 those bright red calipers are massive. Everything has been turned up a notch, and it looks great.

Our review car had the $1500 black trim pack and the no-cost option of body-coloured (rather than aluminium-look) mirror caps, which I think really suits the car.

Overall, it’s the sort of car that when you walk away from it, you just have to turn and sneak a quick peek. Just to make sure it’s still there and still looks so damn cool.

What’s The Interior Like In The  2022 Audi RS3 Sportback?

Inside, there are fewer changes from the standard S3, and really none were needed anyway as the S3’s interior is solid, well put together and nicely designed.

But there are some notable changes, the first being those wide sills. It’s no more difficult to get in and out but the fat sills are noticeable. The second big change is the steering wheel, instead of leather it’s clad in Alcantara, and it feels divine in your hands. The programmable * button in the S3 has become the RS button in the RS3, and it will quickly become your favourite button.

The RS3 comes with electrically adjustable and heated (but not cooled) front sports seats and they are very good indeed. Deep enough side bolsters to hold you in place in corners, but comfortable on a longer trip. With diamond-stitched centres and nappa leather trim, they look and feel fantastic. Other than that there aren’t many extra RS touches in the cabin but the red edged seatbelts always help with the sporty feel. There is an optional interior upgrade to get red stitching on the seats, and red Alcantara shoulder sections on the front seats. Looking at the brochure photos I think this would add another level to the interior look.

The driver’s display is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit 12.3” fully digital cluster. It’s split into three panels which are configurable in hundreds of combinations, or it can be zoomed out to give over almost the whole display to a map or other readout. The RS3 adds a new “runway” display with twin vertical rev counters, a G-meter and various other readouts. It’s kinda cool.

I did find myself wishing Audi had added a heads-up display as standard rather than it being a $2,300 option. Similarly the $2,000 matrix LED headlights, which are spectacularly good, and have a little party piece of spelling out “R..S..3” in the light matrix as the car is unlocked.

The central display is clear and quick, with good resolution for the reversing camera and other displays. Wireless Apple Carplay, and Android Auto are included if they are your thing. The infotainment has a 10-speaker audio system which sounds excellent, with good bass and clarity. I’d love to hear how the $1500 optional 15-speaker Bang and Olufsen system sounds, with 680 watts compared to the standard 180.

The rest of the interior is well laid-out, apart from the drive mode button that is as far as it can be from the driver, but the RS button on the steering wheel helps there.

There are USB ports and cup holders and a wireless phone charger, and various storage cubbies.

Like the S3 it’s pretty dark in the back seats with the black headliner. The rear seats are comfortable, and are split 40/20/40% for loading flexibility.

The boot is a respectable 282 litres, and has hooks and tie-down loops as well as a useful luggage net. Underneath the boot floor, instead of a spare wheel there’s a large, centrally-mounted battery. That extra cylinder in the engine bay must have meant the battery had to go elsewhere. A pump and tyre-repair kit is there for emergencies. The tailgate is electrically operated and has the ever-useful kick-to-open function. 

Something unique to the RS3 is when you turn off the car and open the door, it makes a loud, bassy heartbeat sound – “badum, badum…” It’s kinda cool in a way, but also a little annoying because it makes you and your passengers jump. Different though.

Overall, squeezing those extra 100 horses into the RS3 has done nothing to dent its practicality and day-to-day usability.

What’s The 2022 Audi RS3 Sportback Like To Drive?

This is the bit you really want to know about. And as you can imagine, as an Audi enthusiast myself, and owner of a classic 5-cylinder turbo car, I had been very much looking forward to driving the RS3. What I wanted was to grab the keys from Audi, jump in the RS3 and head for the hills. But there was some delayed gratification because the first thing I did after picking up the RS3 was collect my wife from the hospital. She’d had surgery the day before so I had to be as gentle as possible! I set the car to Comfort mode and did my best smooth driving. I don’t think I used more than 5% throttle or brakes the whole time. The restraint it took when driving through the tunnel cannot be understated!

Despite its performance potential, the RS3 can be driven slowly, and normally. It’s not like a WRX that just wants to be driven at 9 to 10 tenths at all times. In traffic it’s well-behaved, quiet and comfortable. Very quiet indeed actually. The radar cruise control works well and can come to a complete stop. It maintains speed down hill without creeping up faster like some systems do and it’s all very civilised. The improved adaptive dampers are excellent, delivering a great ride on those 19” wheels. Tyres by the way are 265 wide at the front, and 245 wide at the rear. Yep you read it right, the fronts are wider. That’s a lot of rubber on a small hatchback.

Maybe it’s the wider track, but I did notice the turning circle seemed to be wider on the RS3. When I checked, it’s 12.3m which is wide for a hatchback, and 1.4m wider than the S3.

The next day it was time to Go Out For A Drive. I headed out towards some more remote roads, seeking some twisty bits and some places to stretch the car’s legs. What I ended up finding was the tight and twisty road to Makara, which is too narrow and too busy with cyclists to really push the RS3. What I found was a little unexpected – you can have a really good time with this car at 60kph or less. A few days later I went for a longer drive and took the scenic route back on another tight twisty road with an 80 limit and had one of the most grin-inducing drives I’ve had, even though I barely took the car out of second gear.

The RS3 has the usual Audi drive modes – Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual, but adds Performance to that list, as well as the new Drift mode. Drift mode is only available through the on-screen menu and gives a warning that it’s for track use only.

Hit the RS button on the steering wheel and you’ll go from your current mode to Individual, then to Performance, then back to the first one. This is great for switching modes for a quick blast then going back to calm relaxing driving, something I love being able to do in modern performance cars.  In Performance the RS3 immediately gets much louder, and the car warns you that some of the traction control systems have been lessened.

The S3 seemed to want to go at 200 at all times. The RS6 wants to do 300 on the autobahn all day. But the RS3 doesn’t need to go that quickly to have fun. The changes and improvements to the suspension and diffs give more life to the chassis. There’s more detail about the new rear diff in Fred’s article from the RS3’s New Zealand launch, it does very clever things to split the torque between wheels to make the RS3 drive in a more engaging way.

The RS3 corners in a satisfying way at all speeds, turning in well, the steering feeling direct and accurate. Then with a little shimmy of its hips it allows you to power out of the corner, all that low-down torque giving you a push from 2250rpm. There’s no noticeable lag, just lots of whooshes as the turbo does its thing, then as the revs build you hear more and more of the magnificent song of the inline-5 engine. While all this is happening the car is surging forward, pushing you back in your seat as you hang on to the Alcantara steering wheel, a huge grin spreading across your face. Then it’s on the brakes before the next corner, and man do they pull you up fast! Flick the paddle to shift down a gear, line up the corner, foot down and whoa! This car can move! And so on, and on.

The RS3 really can eat up the road, but where most Audi S cars do it in a clinical, efficient way, the RS3 gives more life to the whole exercise. Maybe it’s my weakness for the unmistakably mellifluous warble of an inline-5, with the added excitement and noise of a turbocharger, maybe it’s the drama that it all brings, but the RS3 really made me grin in a way that few other cars have. In fact I would have an RS3 over an RS4 or RS6. It’s that good. True, everyday usable performance.

When I drove the S3 in Dynamic mode I likened it to an eager puppy wanting to leap forward at every opportunity. If I continue that analogy the RS3 is more like a greyhound. Laconic, calm and collected, chilled and comfortable to hang out with other traffic, but open the traps, and man it is off like a rocket!

Interestingly it didn’t use a huge amount of fuel, recording a 9.2l/100km average compared to the quoted 8.8l/100km.

2022 Audi RS3 Sportback Specifications

Vehicle TypeSports Hatchback
Starting Price$116,390
Clean Car Programme (Estimated Fee) $1,725.00
Price as Tested$119,890
19″ alloy wheels in 5-spoke Y-style, Black with graphic print, Audi Sport $2,000
Gloss Black Exterior Styling Package $1500
Engine2.5-litre inline 5-cylinder 20v TFSI turbo
Power, Torque
Transmission7-speed S Tronic
Spare WheelRepair kit and pump
Kerb Weight, Kg1,570
Length x Width x Height
4524 x 1851 x 1412
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
(seats up/seats down)
Fuel tank capacity,
Fuel Economy,
Advertised Spec – Combined – 8.8
Real-World Test – Combined – 9.2
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
Turning circle
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
WarrantyAudi Warranty – 5 years / 150,000 km
Audi Roadside Assist – 5 years / 150,000 km
Audi Motoring Plan – 3 years / 150,000 km
12 Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty
Safety informationANCAP Rating – not rated – 2WD A3 is 5 stars – Link – 5 Stars – PCG703

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Rob Clubley
I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!
2022-audi-rs3-sportback-car-reviewI’m calling it now, the RS3 is my car of the year. It looks great inside and out, and has a quality interior. The ride, quietness and comfort are fantastic. Then you press the RS button and it becomes the most satisfying, visceral driving experience. Engaging to drive regardless of speed, but capable of so much. And the noise it makes is the icing on the cake.


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