Car reviews - Audi - Q3 - 2.0 TFSI
City-friendly size, excellent build quality, smooth drivetrain, supple ride
Room for improvement
Engine-transmission lag, rivals have more features, safety gear is optional, overly sensitive park sensors
23 Oct 2015
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
Audi launched its Q3 2.0 TFSI Sport in June to replace two previous Q3 2.0-litre variants, the $49,450 125kW 2.0 TFSI and the $56,500 155kW 2.0 TFSI.
It also slotted in the centre of the pricing of the outgoing pair, entering at $52,300 plus on-road costs.
Not only is it a more affordable price, but the standard equipment inventory took a hike by a claimed $7000 of value. It adds upmarket leather upholstery, sports seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and the three-mode Audi Drive Select.
But there is still a hefty option list and a handful of packages that bundle specific features. Though appreciated – especially by owners wanting to personalise their car – some rivals offer better value.
The equivalent Mercedes-Benz GLA, for example, has autonomous city braking, sat-nav, blind-spot or lane-departure warning, and electric seats with heating.
To get these, Audi has the Comfort and the Assistance packages, totaling $4980 and raising the retail price of the Sport to $57,280.
Satellite navigation isn’t standard. To get it you need the $2990 Technik pack that also contains the audio’s 10 speakers and automated park assist.
The price is now $60,270 plus costs and more expensive than the similarly-specced Lexus NX200t ($57,000 plus on-road costs), BMW X1 xDrive25i at $59,900 (plus costs), and the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 at $58,600 plus costs.
This compact premium SUV segment is clearly very competitive and the shopping list expands to include Mini variants, a selection of Peugeots, the Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai’s new Tucson and the popular Mazda CX-3.
Compared with the previous model, the 2015 Q3 is a hard one to spot. Look closer and there’s a thicker-rimmed grille and sharp-edged headlights and tail-lights.
Standard equipment includes an eight-speaker audio with connectivity, leather upholstery and sports seats at the front, electric tail-gate, 18-inch alloy wheels and a solid safety package.
Options include the packages and, individually, include goodies such as sunroof and panoramic glass for $2150, heated front seats at $600, electric tail-gate at $900 and metallic paint at $1150.
It may be Audi’s smallest SUV but the Q3 is surprisingly accommodating, seating four adults with sufficient legroom and excellent headroom.
It also has a spacious boot with 460 litres (seats in place) and 1365 litres with the rear seats folded down. That’s not as good as the Mini-based BMW X1 but betters the Mercedes GLA.
A flat and relatively high boot floor makes it less awkward to load and unload cargo. Welcome features include the floor net and a pair of shopping-bag hooks.
Cabin treatment is reflective of the austere style of Audi – and Volkswagen Group in general – with simple colours and materials.
But the standout is the quality and perfect fit of cabin components such as dashboard gaps, seat upholstery stitching and the design and function of the door panels. It’s the small things that make the difference.
The Sport gets manual adjustment of the seats (electric adjustment is, like heating, an option) with variable height to suit a broad driver profile.
Dashboard treatment is neat and clean, picking up alloy insets and trim to lighten the predominantly black interior. Soft-touch plastics and aesthetic switchgear adds to the quality image.
Personal storage is reasonable, with two cupholders in the front console and door-mounted bottle holders (front and rear) aided by a very small flip-up centre console that acts more like an armrest than a storage option.
The Q3 gets an electric park brake – and a handy quick-press automatic hill holder – that frees up a lot of the console space. But despite this, the Q3’s compact size shows in its limited cabin storage.
Rear passengers get two airvents that exit from between the front seats but there’s no cupholders. Though seating space for two adults in the rear is surprisingly liberal, the back doors are narrow and the high sill can make it awkward to enter and depart.
Engine and transmission
Audi has trimmed its Q3 engine line up, deleting the 125kW and 155kW versions of the ubiquitous 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and replacing it with a 132kW unit.
It’s ostensibly the same mill in the Volkswagen Tiguan though some fine-tuning has changed the torque peak and the engine revs at delivery.
The Q3 is rated at 132kW at 4000-6200rpm and peak torque of 320Nm at a flat 1400-3900rpm. By comparison, the Tiguan pumps 132kW at 4300rpm and a smaller torque peak of 280Nm at 1700rpm.
Audi also claims a much better fuel economy average of 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres against Volkswagen’s 8.8L/100km. The difference is unusual given both use the same seven-speed dual-clutch transmission running through an all-wheel drive system, and that the Audi is heavier by almost 40kg.
Like the Tiguan, the Q3 has the latest Haldex generation-5 all-wheel drive system. This system, designed for transverse-mounted engines, is capable of allowing almost (but not quite) 100 per cent of power to go to the rear wheels and as such is not an ‘on demand’ design like many rivals.
It monitors the allocation of power and responds to low-traction situations by diverting torque to the wheel or wheels with the least slippage.
On the road the engine is linear, smooth and – from the cabin at least – quiet.
But the relationship with the dual-clutch transmission is tempestuous, causing frustrating lag on acceleration and some hesitancy and indecision when accelerating from low speeds.
It is the seven-speed transmission’s only failing, for once underway it delights in its rapid shifting and seamless transitions between ratios.
The Q3 Sport benefits from a four-mode ‘drive select’ function that modifies the engine, transmission and steering response. The driver has the choice of dynamic, efficiency, eco and auto.
The dynamic mode, in conjunction with the ‘sport’ function of the gearbox, allows the engine to rev further round the tachometer dial and switches off the idle-stop feature. It’s the best option for the driver who enjoys spirited motoring but will affect fuel use.
Audi claims 6.7L/100km for the Q3 but the test vehicle returned an average of 7.9L/100km. Most of the route was on suburban roads, with less freeway and off-road routes.
Ride and handling
Audi’s Q3 is built on a platform that stretches back to the Golf Mk 5 of 2003 and is shared with the Volkswagen Tiguan, so it’s elderly compared with its rivals.
Dubbed the PQ35 architecture, it has a 2603mm wheelbase and uses Volkswagen Group-common suspension designs – MacPherson struts at the front and an independent rear end with multi-links and coils – and electro-mechanical steering.
But many components are unique to the Q3 and differ from the Tiguan, including the use of some forged suspension parts.
Ride quality is good, with minimal rear-end pitching and sufficient suppleness to supress the noise and jarring impact of potholes.
It holds a confident line through corners with a bit more bodyroll that some peers – the Mercedes GLA particularly – but that’s part of the sacrifice for a softer ride.
The Q3 is almost 100mm lower than the Tiguan on which it’s based, with the difference mainly in the roofline. The Audi also sits lower, with a ground clearance of 170mm compared with the Tiguan’s more off-road friendly 195mm.
For this reason, the Q3 isn’t recommended for off-road pursuits. It is capable on firm-packed sand and gravel trails but its porky weight of 1685kg, its low clearance, extended front overhang and low-profile tyres work against it in more arduous conditions.
Treat it like a city car and it’s a rewarding wagon to drive. The steering is accurate and is unusual for an Audi by feeling quite light. This will endear the Q3 to city-based owners more inclined to combat congested parking bays than sweeping country roads.
There has been an upgrade on the brakes for 2015. In addition, the latest Q3 has two-stage electronic stability control that senses varying road surfaces, allowing it to react less dramatically on gravel to ensure shorter stopping distances.
Safety and servicing
Audi has a three-year or unlimited distance warranty that includes three years of roadside assistance.
Its service intervals are annual or 15,000km. Like most of its prestige rivals, Audi does not have a capped-price service program but has an optional, pre-paid program that covers servicing and maintenance for the first three years.
The Q3 has a five-star crash rating. It is equipped with six airbags and equipment including tyre pressure monitor, front and rear park sensors, a reverse camera, LED daytime running lights, bi-Xenon headlights and automatic headlights and wipers. It has a space-saver spare wheel.
Buyers wanting to raise the safety can tick the options box for the Assistance package for $2490 that includes lane-departure warning with passive steering, blind-spot monitor, automatic dipping high-beam headlights, automatic headlights and wipers, hill holder and hill descent functions. It is an advisable option.
Glass’s Guide estimates that the Audi Q3 Sport will have a resale value of 56 per cent after three years. This compares with the BMW X1 at 57 per cent, the Lexus NX200t at 54 per cent and the Mercedes-Benz GLA at 57 per cent.
This may be seen as a small SUV but in fact is surprisingly roomy and perfectly suits urban environments.
The Sport isn’t especially cheap and some rivals offer better value for money, but it is beautifully built and holds its head high in the status stakes.
Buyers are recommended to take the Assistance package option and should also consider satellite navigation.
The ride comfort and handling are very good though the bugbear is the hesitancy of the transmission. The Q3 is, however, getting on in years and newer rivals such as the latest BMW X1 and Lexus NX are increasing market share.
BMW X1 xDrive25i from $59,900 plus on-road costs
The first front-drive X1 platform, borrowed from the Mini, includes this top-spec all-wheel drive variant that replaces the previous xDrive28i that was based on the old rear-drive architecture. It uses the 170kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol from the Mini, matched to an eight-speed auto with an on-demand AWD system. Standard fare is excellent with autonomous city braking, lane departure warning, sat-nav, electric heated seats, leather and electric tailgate. Has the biggest boot at 505-1550 litres. The service schedule is pre-paid and suited to owners needs. BMW claims 6.6L/100km and a brisk 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds.
Lexus NX200t Luxury from $57,000 plus on-road costs
Edgy Lexus approximates the Toyota RAV4 in size but outclasses with a high-spec 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine with 175kW/350Nm and claimed fuel use of 7.9L/100km. The drive system is on-demand AWD with a six-speed automatic transmission. Premium equipment includes sat-nav, park sensors and camera, electric heated seats, LED headlights and electric tail gate. Its boots size is 500-1545 litres. Lexus has a transparent service menu and a four-year warranty with roadside assistance.
Mercedes-Benz GLA250 from $58,600 plus on-road costs
The A-Class SUV has a similar 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine to its peers, this time with 155kW/350Nm and a claimed 7.0L/100km. It also has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Features includes autonomous braking, blind-spot monitor, bi-xenon headlights, sat-nav, leather-look upholstery, electric tail gate and a sunroof. The boot space is 421-1235 litres. Mercedes also has a prepaid service menu and a three-year unlimited distance warranty with roadside assistance.
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