NOTHING BREEDS BETTER CARS FASTER THAN NEW COMPETITION, AND SO IT IS WITH THE AUDI Q3.
Audi’s premium-small Q3 SUV is popular enough, but newer rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and the second-generation BMW X1 have ramped up the pressure on the neat little Audi. Both compete against the Q3, and most fiercely below $60,000.
Each aims to entice buyers out of larger premium vehicles that for the price would otherwise be sparsely equipped. Even a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class are just getting started at the point where the X1 and GLA-Class top out with bulging levels of equipment.
The question is whether a mildly facelifted Audi Q3 range, bundled with a little more equipment, is enough to fend off the above onslaught? Let’s find out.
Vehicle Style: Luxury small SUV
Price: $52,300 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/320Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.7 l/100km | tested: 8.7 l/100km
Audi has reduced prices and/or added equipment to its Q3 range. It now starts from $42,900 (plus on-road costs) for the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol and $47,200 (plus orc) for the 2.0-litre turbo diesel versions, both driving the front wheels only.
The version we’re testing is the all-wheel-drive $52,300 (plus orc) 2.0-litre turbo petrol called the Q3 2.0 TFSI, and it is topped only by one other all-wheel drive model, a $56,900 (plus orc) powered-up diesel version.
The Q3 2.0 TFSI now gets front parking sensors and a reverse-view camera as standard, which were previously part of an expensive $3790 option package. That Technik package has come down to $2990, but it now includes items that should also be standard for the price, such as sat-nav, in addition to automatic park assist.
Previously optional xenon headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels are also now standard, whereas they used to add $2000 to the price. However the RRP of the Q3 2.0 TFSI has also gone up by $2850 with the facelift.
The only other equipment added includes keyless auto-entry and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. We wonder whether Audi has really done enough to improve value.
- Standard equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, leather seat trim with driver electric lumbar adjustment, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, automatic on/off headlights and wipers
- Infotainment: 6.5in colour screen with AUX and SD card inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and five speakers
- Options fitted: $2990 Technik package (7.0in colour screen, satellite navigation, 20Gb hard drive, voice control, 10-speaker audio, automatic park assist), $2490 Comfort package (electrically adjustable driver’s and passenger’s seat with heating, electric tailgate), $2490 Assistance package (lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor, automatic high-beam, hill descent control, hill-hold assistance, auto-dipping passenger mirror in reverse gear)
- Cargo volume: 460 litres (1365L rear-backrest folded)
Our Q3 2.0 TFSI costs $60,270 (plus orc) with three options packages fitted. At the very least this premium-small SUV is now very well equipped.
That said, a $57,900 (plus orc) GLA250 includes all of the above features except lane-keep assist, but it also adds forward collision warning with semi-auto braking (unavailable on the Audi), panoramic sunroof (a $2150 option on Q3) and 19-inch rather than 18in wheels (the larger size adds $1500 on the 2.0 TFSI Sport).
The $59,900 (plus orc) X1 xDrive25i matches the Q3 2.0 TFSI, and also adds 19s and forward collision warning with semi-auto braking, in addition to a head-up display, LED headlights and internet connectivity.
The Q3 however delivers the same high-quality feel as it did at launch back in 2011. The plastics, trim and controls all have a ‘premium’ feel about them that makes spending $15K more than a similarly specified Hyundai Tucson Highlander or Mazda CX-5 feel almost worth it.
In some ways the Q3 feels its age, particularly alongside the newer A3 range that is more affordable when optioned to the same level. Put another way, this 2.0 TFSI Sport costs the same as an S3 Sportback. It feels ‘nice’ but not as luxurious as a $60K vehicle should.
The colour screen is smaller than Audi’s newer units, and the MMI controller is decidedly last-generation.
This Audi does, however, boast the high driving position that SUV buyers love. The rear bench is positioned higher than the front seats, so legroom and visibility transcend what you’d expect from a vehicle measuring 4.39 metres from tip-to-toe – just 80mm longer than an A3 Sportback.
You also get a 460-litre boot that maxxes out at 1365 litres when the rear seats are folded down. It’s fine packaging considering the A3 Sportback’s boot volume is rated at 380 litres (1220 with everything folded).
The boot loading lip is high in the Q3; an issue when lifting heavy objects from the floor up into the car, but a boon for families wanting to use the space as a nappy-changing table.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine:132kW/320Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Multi-link independent front and rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric assisted mechanical steering, turning circle: 11.8m
- Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked), 1800kg (braked)
Audi has used the facelifted Q3 to perform a range reshuffle in addition to pricing and specification revisions.
The Q3 2.0 TFSI was formerly the mid-specification petrol version with $49,450 (plus orc) pricing and a 125kW/280Nm power output, below the $56,500 (plus orc) flagship offering 155kW/300Nm from the same engine.
Two models now become this single 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder version that packs 132kW of power and 320Nm of torque. Meanwhile a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic continues as the sole transmission available.
The new Q3 2.0 TFSI is now faster than the previous cheaper version (0-100km/h in a claimed 7.6 seconds, down from 8.2sec) but slower than the old range-topper (which performed a 6.9sec sprint to the same digits).
The new Q3 2.0 TFSI is more efficient than either predecessor, its claimed consumption of 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres polling 0.6l/100km better than even the lesser-powered old version. The 155kW version was some 1.0l/100km thirstier.
The net result is a smooth, sweet, punchy drivetrain that delivers the goods whether around town or on the open road. The Q3 doesn’t ride on the latest-generation platform that the Volkswagen Group has designed to save weight, so the engine consequently doesn’t feel quite as flexible as similar units do in the smaller, lighter A3 range.
The GLA250 4MATIC (0-100km/h in 7.1sec) and X1 xDrive25i (0-100km/h in 6.5sec) are quicker, too.
Rolling on relatively chubby 50-aspect 18-inch tyres, the Q3 2.0 TFSI provides a ride quality that is good but not great. It soaks up large impacts such as potholes very well, but can be prone to fidgeting over smaller road imperfections.
And while the suspension does an outstanding job of resisting bodyroll when cornering, this Audi never feels sharp like a GLA250 or even a Mazda CX-5 GT. Its nose-heavy disposition makes itself apparent just at the moment the Bridgestone Dueller tyres lose grip.
The steering though is light and easy, if not especially sharp and lacking a little in road feel.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – this model scored 35.15 out of 37 possible points
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera and front and rear parking sensors
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The X1 scores a massive boot (505l) and outstanding performance in xDrive25i specification. The GLA250 mixes luxury and dynamics brilliantly, but it has a lower driving position and is ultimately more of a pumped-up premium hatchback.
Entry into the Lexus NX range is also on-par with the A3, and a larger footprint gives it a more spacious feel.
- BMW X1
- Mercedes-Benz GLA
- Lexus NX
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI quattro doesn’t feel its age as much as you may expect. It is withering in a few areas, but drivetrain updates have massaged some more life into what has always been a solid package.
Value continues to be a downfall. Newer competitors offer more for less (or in some cases more for not much more) while feeling newer or faster or more dynamic, and in some cases all three.
As is often the case with Audi products, it’s worth bargaining hard at the dealership if you have your heart set on a Q3.