TODAY SHALL officially be known as ‘Hot Hatch Friday’, as Audi and Ford revealed a pair of new models that will turn up the heat in the high-performance hatchback market. The new 2015 RS3 Sportback will boast 362bhp, while a Focus RS has been confirmed by Ford and the company hints it may have 350bhp.
Ford was first to announce that its RS (Rallye Sport) badge would return on the latest generation Focus, and its 2.3-litre, four-cylinder tubocharged engine could produce as much as 350bhp.
Audi was quick to go one better; its RS3 Sportback – which will go on sale in the summer – will feature the most powerful production five-cylinder turbocharged engine in Audi RS history, making the hot hatch capable of 174mph. It has also confirmed the new model will accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds – 0.3 seconds faster than the previous model. The high top speed is an option which buyers choose by ordering their RS3 without any electronic speed limiter; without it the RS3 hits 155mph.
The headline-grabbing statistics better the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, the current leader of the hot hatch pack, which produces 355bhp from its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.
Under the Audi RS3 is the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, which makes this model 55kg lighter than its predecessor, despite having additional equipment and safety features. It uses a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, which has undergone some changes to speed up gearchanges, and Audi’s trademark quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Audi engineers also highlight a new two-stage exhaust system, which is said to echo the burbling noises made by the classic five-cylinder engines of Audi’s 1980s rally cars.
Inside, there is a pair of lightweight bucket seats at the front and plenty of RS badging throughout. Plus, the latest Audi MMI system from the standard A3 has been carried over, ensuring it’s just as practical as anything in the Audi range.
Ford has not released any further information about its third generation Focus RS model. Pricing for the RS3 is to be confirmed but 2015 is already shaping up to be the year of the hot hatch. Let battle commence.