Hot hatches offer a thrilling driving experience. Initially, they emerged as affordable, enjoyable-to-drive, and easy-to-park options for those who couldn't meet the high costs of sports cars but sought greater practicality. The Volkswagen GTI serves as a prime example. Today, we see pricier models like the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG and the lesser-known yet equally captivating Audi RS3 Sportback. This vehicle stands as the ultimate hatchback version of the modest A3 sedan. We recently had the opportunity to drive one and were impressed by this compact powerhouse, priced at a staggering Dh300k.

Upon entering a local garage, my attention was immediately drawn not only to the numerous hypercars but also to the RS3 Sportback. It resembled a life-size Hotwheels car, particularly with its striking green paint job (not pictured), which stood out boldly among the others. The standard top-trim A3 already resembles a genuine sports sedan, and the RS3 takes this concept further by adding performance-enhancing accessories, transforming it into a genuine road racer. All chrome elements are replaced with black, the air intakes are enlarged, and large oval exhaust tailpipes are added at the rear. The vehicle sits an inch lower and features large 19-inch black alloys with ultra-low-profile tires, with the front wheels being wider than the rear (265 mm vs 245 mm). Undoubtedly, the RS3 Sportback is a visually striking hatchback that communicates the language of speed, and for those who prefer a sedan silhouette, that option is also available.

Inside, the cabin follows the familiar Audi design, featuring a predominantly black interior with a Germanic layout, but with more trapezoidal shapes. The door design boasts more facets than an engagement ring, and the cabin feels luxurious without being ostentatious, thanks to soft-touch plastics, color-coded trims, and a carbon-fiber dash. The asymmetrical dash vents are a point of contention among users, but the design remains simple and appealing. The driving position is nearly perfect, with electric seat adjustability. The 3-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel is wrapped in alcantara for optimal grip, similar to racing cars. The transmission shifter is a small, easy-to-operate toggle, and the leather-wrapped bucket seats offer both comfort and support. Despite the sporty interior, technology is not overlooked; a customizable 12.3-inch instrument screen and a 10.1-inch infotainment display on the center console are included. My favorite feature, however, is the physical A/C controls, which are the most tactile I've seen in recent cars.

In terms of space, the front is spacious, but rear legroom is limited, and it is essentially a 4-seater despite being classified as a 5-seater. The boot space is reduced to 281 litres due to the relocation of the battery to accommodate the larger engine, but it can still fit a full-size suitcase and several bags with the seats folded. The RS3 is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine that produces 400 horsepower and 500 Nm of torque, enough to excite any automotive enthusiast. The unique exhaust growl, produced by the 1-2-4-5-3 firing order, sounds aggressive in a positive way. The torque is managed by a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and distributed to all wheels via Audi's renowned quattro system.

When driven casually, the RS3 is comfortable and easy to maneuver, but its performance capabilities make it feel confined at low speeds. It is designed to be driven fast, and doing so is incredibly enjoyable. In comfort mode, a slight delay followed by a rapid acceleration occurs when the throttle is pressed, accompanied by a thrilling exhaust note. In Dynamic mode, the responsiveness is even more pronounced and relentless, achieving 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds, comparable to a BMW X5 M. For those who enjoy high-speed driving, it can reach 290 km/h with the RS pack. In summary, the RS3 can quickly transform both static scenery and moving cars into a blur. Its compact dimensions and quattro all-wheel drive system enable it to follow directional inputs closely, hugging the road at all times. The steering may not offer the most direct connection, but it is among the best and makes for a great daily driver. For enhanced yaw control, especially on the track, a torque splitter is included, directing all rear axle torque to the outer rear wheel to increase rotation and counteract mild understeer at high speeds. This feature is nearly as effective as a rear-wheel drive setup.

One drawback is the transmission, which can feel jerky and unintuitive at slower speeds but improves as speed increases. The RS3 also boasts strong braking performance thanks to large steel discs all around, providing a smooth and predictable braking action at all speeds. The 2024 Audi RS3 Sportback is a high-performance hatchback that combines the compactness and ergonomics of a city car with the power and grip of a road racer. The more I drove it, the more I appreciated it. While it has minor issues like limited rear space, its main drawback is the Dh300k price tag. Additionally, at this price, it lacks an electrically adjustable steering column or a 360-degree camera. The Audi RS3 Sportback is undoubtedly a fine vehicle and a true hot hatch, but it remains to be seen if German automakers have overestimated the disposable income of typical hot hatch enthusiasts.

GOOD: Go-fast looks; build quality; everyday drivability; speed, lateral dynamism, and soundtrack. BAD: Pricey; no electrically adjustable steering column or 360-degree camera at this price; limited rear space and boot. EDITOR’S RATING: 7/10 stars. SPECIFICATIONS: Body type: 5-seater; 5-door premium high-performance compact hatchback. Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 2.5-litre 5-cylinder; all-wheel drive. Transmission: 7-speed S tronic DCT (automated manual).