When it comes to platform sharing the Volkswagen Group leads the world. A perfect example is the Audi Q3 – sure it’s a compact SUV, but the team in Ingolstadt, Germany has injected its hallmark ‘Audi-ness’ so style, quality and sporty dynamics are not-negotiable.
Audi calls them ‘Urban Navigators’ – an apt term for young professionals, families and empty-nesters who like recreational activities but enjoy a car with a tad more panache than that offered by many compact SUVs. The Audi Q3 delivers on this premise and – priced from $44,800 - shows European style compact SUVs are affordable.
Audi Q3 Overview
Car Showroom’s Audi Q3 was the 2.0 TDI turbo-diesel with the sporty S line pack.
The five-door Q3 debuted earlier this year and is Audi’s first foray into the burgeoning compact SUV market segment. With its low coupe-like roof and steep D-pillars, the Q3 might be a compact SUV but it looks the part and provides a significant rival to BMW’s equally slick X1 range.
We’d certainly recommend the S line pack which adds to the Audi Q3’s already comprehensive specifications with bigger alloy wheels (18-inch or 19-inch), sports suspension which lowers the ride height by 20mm, black interior headlining, sports steering wheel and gear lever, alcantara door panels, trim highlights in piano black or brushed aluminium, a rear diffuser and unique front-end styling.
The overall package improves the look of the Audi Q3 and sharpens its response in the twisty stuff.
Audi Q3 Engine
Volkswagen Group’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is well-known. A technical masterpiece which weighs just 154kgs, the 2.0 TDI runs common rail direct fuel injection which injects the fuel at up to 1800bar.
In the entry-level front-drive Audi Q3, maximum power is 103kW/320Nm, but for the Quattro version this is boosted to 130kW/380Nm. The front-driver uses a six-speed manual transmission while the Quattro adopts Audi’s marvelous 7-speed S tronic automatic.
Auto start/stop and brake energy regeneration reduce fuel consumption – 6.8l/100kms for the two-wheel-drive Audi Q3 or 8.5l/100kms for the more powerful 2.0TDI version fitted to the Quattro.
Audi Q3 The Interior
When it comes to interior design, Audi is amongst the best and there are lots of cues from up-scale Audi models inside the Q3 – such as the subtle LED lighting - which ramp-up the overall premium feel which is a hallmark of the brand. Even the design and layout the Q3’s curved dashboard is taken straight from Audi’s large, luxury vehicles.
A feature of the Q3 is the centre-mounted colour monitor (6.5-inch standard or 7-inch when fitted with navigation). Not only does the fold-out monitor make wise use of the smaller dimensions of the compact SUV, the ability to fold it away from curious eyes when parked makes sense.
As usual, multiple electronic adjustments for the drivers’ seat plus rake/reach adjustment for the excellent S line leather-wrapped sports steering wheel meant we were quickly comfortable in our Audi Q3 test car. The wheel itself is Audi’s latest design – as debuted in the A8 luxury sedan.
Instruments with white lighting are housed in a curved binnacle and dials/switches are nicely finished in the Audi way.
Rear seat passengers are afforded space on par with segment rivals and luggage capacity (electronically-opening tailgate) is 460-litres with the rear seat in-place or 1365-litres when folded. That’s not massive but for extra loads, the Audi Q3 comes standard with roof rails.
Audi Q3 Exterior & Styling
Audi fans will know today’s Q3 started life as the 2007 Cross Coupe concept show car. Unlike some in this segment, the Q3 certainly adopts a sporty silhouette thanks to its low roofline and steeply-sloped D-pillars which are reminiscent of the Audi A3.
Dimensionally, the Audi Q3 is similar to its German rival with an overall length of 4385mm, width of 1831mm and a height of 1590mm. The wheelbase measures 2603mm
At the front is the hallmark Audi grille and the current wedge-shaped headlights are cues to the Q3’s larger siblings to Q5 and Q7. The rear design centered on creating a wide, low look with a stylish wraparound tailgate and one-piece LED lights.
And here’s an example of the lengths automakers are stretching to reduce fuel consumption. After initial wind-tunnel testing of earlier prototypes wasn’t to their high standards, the Audi Q3 team went back to the drawing board and pared-off a further 0.16Cd – down to 0.32Cd. The full-length underbody panel alone shaved 0.03Cd.
You can see some of the aero package without clambering under the Audi Q3 – the large tailgate spoiler is a purpose-design masterpiece, there are vertical contours on the tail-lights and black aero strips near the rear windows.
The S line pack as fitted to our test car brings lots of other nice additions apart from the larger wheels and ‘S line’ badges on the front bumper and door sills – the front apron is unique, there’s a sport rear diffuser, black air vents and chrome trim around the fog-lights.
Audi Q3 On The Road
As always, a trip over our high-speed mountain roads test loop in any vehicle powered by the Volkswagen Group’s 2.0TDI engine provides an audio feast as the exhaust note emits its purposeful growl on acceleration and pops on gear-change. So it was as our Audi Q3 got down to business.
Predictably, the suspension which felt a tad firm in the city, was pin-sharp in the twists. Sure the Q3 isn’t an Audi R8 but, with nice damper/spring calibration, the sports suspension on our S line equipped test car and plenty of rubber meant this compact SUV left many rivals wilting.
Trust Audi to take a compact SUV and turn it into a sporty drive – relatively crisp turn-in, nice balance mid-corner and good traction on exit.
Like all Germans, the Audi Q3 felt firm in the city when traversing Melbourne’s tram tracks but was never unrefined (the payback came over the mountains). And its compact size meant CBD car parks were no problem.
Audi Q3 Challenges
If luggage space is important, Audi A3 and the other European cars in this segment aren’t the most voluminous.
Audi Q3 Verdict
Amongst a small but credentialed field of premium European compact SUVs, the Audi Q3 with the S line pack shapes-up very well – in fact, it’s one of our favourites. We like the looks and we like the drive, but best of all we like the ‘Audi-ness’ which adds the German brand’s quality to the equation.
Sure there’s the platform and component sharing with Volkswagen, but here’s the thing: slide inside the Q3 and you instantly know this is an Audi – the quality materials, the up-scale look and the beautiful leather-wrapped sports steering wheel.
Audi Q3 The Competition
Naturally it’s the BMW X1. Both Audi and BMW have an abundance of different specifications (including the S line pack as tested in our Q3) so you’ll need to thoroughly check the details at the dealership. Point-to-point there’s little to separate them in driving dynamics as both are top-shelf.