Road test: Audi Q3
The Q3 looks sharper, has a better cabin and drives well but not memorably
What is it?
The new-generation model of Audi’s mid-range SUV, originally launched six years ago. The Q3 now comes with edgier styling, and has grown a bit bigger overall and roomier inside.
How green is it?
The jury’s out on that. The outgoing model was averagely green with middling CO2 and fuel economy, but figures for the new Q3 have yet to be confirmed.
Who should buy one?
An SUV aficionado who wants one that looks stylish and wears a prestige German badge (although it’s made in Hungary). Four-ring fanciers who like an elevated driving position.
Road test by Sue Baker, December 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Outwardly the new Q3 is smarter and more toned looking, and you get a similar impression behind the wheel. Audi has tautened the car’s responses, given it a slicker feel with better handling and ride comfort than its predecessor. It is grippy on the bends with good body control that hasn’t been achieved at the expense of ride comfort. That has been upgraded too. It has a firmish feel, but copes well with minor bumps in the road surface and cushions out most ruts and undulations. Potholes can catch it out, as they do most cars, but general ride quality is pretty fair.
With a zesty 2.0-litre diesel engine, that has a 148 bhp power output and 251 lb ft of torque, the Q3 is a brisk performer with a 0-62 mph acceleration in just over nine seconds. The 1.5 litre petrol model has identical power output, although lower torque at 184 lb ft, but also has a similar sprint time.
Strong, nicely progressive braking inspires confidence, and the six-speed manual gearbox operates smoothly with mostly well-spaced ratios, although the two top gears feel very economy-orientated and you need to drop a cog or two, even for slight hills. It’s a big plus that the Q3 is quite refined with modest engine noise even in the diesel, only very slight wind noise at motorway pace, and a restrained level of tyre and suspension noise that is no more intrusive than in rival models.
Although the new Q3 is generally pretty decent to drive, and close to some of its best rivals, it is let down by lack of steering feel. It does not communicate as directly as others like the BMW X1, with the result that it isn’t quite as engaging to drive because it doesn’t have the same kind of tactile enjoyment. That’s a pity because it means that although the driving behaviour is very competent, it is rather unmemorable.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Audi has upped its space game in the second-generation Q3. It is all-round very slightly bigger, with benefits in cabin and boot space. At 4,485mm in overall length it is 97mm longer, and its width has grown by 18mm to 1,849mm plus mirrors, while the height is up 8mm to 1,616mm. The wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) has been stretched too, increased by 78mm to 2.68 metres.
As a result of the three-way body stretch, the cabin feels a bit roomier, but the bigger change is in the boot. It has grown in size by around a quarter, increased by 110 litres to 530 litres. It has been made more versatile too, with adjustable rear seat-backs that allow the boot to be expanded to 675 litres with all five seats still usable. With the back seats folded down, 1,525 litres of cargo room is available, an increase of 200 litres compared with the first generation Q3.
The Q3’s safety assistance features include side exit assistance, using radar sensors to scan for vehicles in the blind spots or approaching quickly from behind. Other standard kit includes lane departure warning, pre sense front safety and hill hold assist. On the options list are adaptive cruise assist and parking assistance. A five-star Euro NCAP rating is predicted.
Every Q3 has Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, including a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, Audi Connect with a three-year subscription, powered tailgate, LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, rear parking sensors and a package of electronic driver aids. S line adds lowered sports suspension, 19-inch alloys, privacy glass, ambient lighting and front sports seats. Vorsprung models have 20-inch wheels, black styling pack and 360-degree cameras.
Buying a new Q3 costs from around £32,000 for the front-wheel-drive 1.5 petrol-engined 35 TFSI Sport. That looks expensive against similar spec rivals such as BMW’s X1, a Mercedes GLA and a Volvo XC40. The price climbs quickly for an S line or range-topping Vorsprung spec. The top model is the all-wheel-drive Q3 40 TDI Quattro Vorsprung, with a price close to £40,000.
WE SAY The Q3 looks sharper, has a better cabin and drives well but not memorably
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62 in 9.3 secs
Figures for the Q3 35 TDI 150 S line.