Audi’s new pocket rocket, the RS3 Sportback, starts around £40,000

Audi's new pocket rocket, the RS3 Sportback, starts around £40,000

Audi’s latest hot hatchback blends the practicalities of a small family car with supercar-baiting levels of performance.

It might look like a small five-door family hatchback that’s simply been given a very aggressive exterior makeover — protruding side skirts, gaping air intakes on either side of the front grille, big alloy wheels. But make no mistake, considering what the RS3 Sportback is capable of doing, its looks are actually a serious understatement.

The car’s five-cylinder, 2.5-liter, direct injection turbocharged engine offers 362bhp and a frankly remarkable 0-100km/h time of just 4.3 seconds. To put those levels of acceleration into context, that’s either faster, or on a par with a BMW M5, a Mercedes SL 63 AMG, the V8 version of the current Bentley Continental and even a Porsche 911.

So, as well as having enough room in the back for two kids plus a boot big enough to accommodate the weekly shopping, the little Audi is capable of going toe-to-toe with the motoring elite.

But it’s not just straight-line speed — although there’s plenty of that, ask nicely and Audi will even remove the electronic limiter so that the car tops out at 174mph (280km/h) rather than 155mph (250 km/h) — thanks to Quattro all-wheel-drive, a great double-clutch paddle-change gear box and overhauled suspension, chassis and dampers, the RS3 Sportback will lap up the bends and curves too.

Inside, the cabin is awash with Nappa leather and stainless steel details. The car comes with sports seats for driver and front passenger as standard, but they can be upgraded to carbon-fiber racing seats instead — shaving off 7kg each in weight in the process.

And as cool as they may look, if you’re seriously considering ordering the new RS3 Sportback when Audi opens the order book next spring, perhaps the best optional extra to go for, considering the car’s outrageous performance figures, is the carbon ceramic brake package.