2012 AUDI Q3 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury Small SUV
Price: $56,000 (plus on-roads), $67,300 as-tested
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.7 l/100km | tested: 11.4 l/100km
With the Q3, the alchemysts at Audi have managed to blend style and sophistication with utility and performance.
It also comes with some off-road ability - not too far off road - but certainly handy if slushing around a ski resort or getting to an out-of-the-way beach.
The car tested here sits at the pinnacle of the Q3 range - the stylish Q3 2.0 TFSI 155kW.
What’s surprising about this one is just how un-SUV-like it feels. It’s more hot hatch than SUV, and it’s a lot sportier than its businesslike exterior would have you believe.
Quality: Everywhere you look in this cabin you’ll find sumptuous, durable and high quality materials. Soft-touch surfaces abound, the steering wheel is trimmed in smooth, supple leather and nothing creaks, squeaks or groans.
The interior design might not be as eye-catching as the A6, and we’d prefer the heating and ventilation controls to be higher up on the centre stack, but the Q3’s cabin is one of Audi’s best.
Comfort: The front seats are commodious, although the bolstering is geared more towards comfort than lateral support.
The leather upholstery is fine-grained and nicely stitched, and the range of movement in the steering column and driver’s seat makes it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel.
In the back seat, there’s plenty of legroom and decent headroom. Rear air-vents are also standard, as is a 12V power outlet in the back of the centre console.
The Q3’s width means it’s a bit of a squeeze with three seated in the back, but two passengers will enjoy good comfort.
Equipment: As standard, the Q3 comes with cruise control, trip computer, dual-zone climate control, foglamps, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, power windows and power mirrors.
But for such an expensive car, there are a few key items missing from the Q3’s spec sheet that really ought to be standard.
For one, power adjustable front seats are optional - only the lumbar support is powered as standard. Rear parking-sensors are standard, but front parking-sensors add $910 to the retail price.
Sat-nav and a USB input for external music players are also both cost options.
Our tester was equipped with the optional Teknik Package (sat-nav, xenon headlamps, front and rear parking sensors - $5000), Offroad styling package with 18-inch alloys ($5150), and pearlescent paintwork ($1150).
Storage: Luggage space is a sizable 460 litres with the rear seats in place, and 1365 litres with the 60/40 split seatbacks folded. There are multiple tie-down points in the boot and some storage underneath the boot floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Q3’s 155kW 2.0 litre turbocharged, direct-injected inline four is very closely related to the Golf GTI’s motor, but produces 20Nm more torque and delivers its peak power figure 300rpm earlier, at 5000rpm.
It’s slightly more muscle-bound than a GTI then - but it needs to be. The larger Q3 is just over 200kg heavier than a GTI, with much of that bulk courtesy of the Audi’s quattro AWD drivetrain.
Amazingly though, even with such a substantial weight penalty, the Q3 manages to sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.9 seconds - exactly the same time VW quotes for the Golf GTI.
The Q3’s seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic automatic transmission explains how it’s able to keep up with the lighter Golf GTI, and that gearbox really is a well-sorted piece of equipment.
Left in drive, it makes smooth decisive shifts at just the right moment, and does a good job of keeping the 2.0 litre turbo engine in the meatiest part of its powerband.
It can also be controlled manually by the plus-minus plane on the shifter, and manual changes are extremely crisp on both upshifts and downshifts.
There are no standard wheel-mounted shift-paddles for S tronic-equipped Q3s though, unless you opt for the $400 sports steering wheel or tick the box for the $8450 S Line package. We feel they should be standard - at least on the performance-oriented 2.0 TFSI 155kW.
Other downsides? Well, we didn’t come close to matching Audi’s claimed fuel economy figure of 7.7l/100km, recording a hefty 11.4l/100km instead.
Refinement: At cruising speed, the Q3’s petrol engine is nicely muted and there’s little in the way of wind rustle. Tyre roar is evident though, particularly on coarse-chip asphalt.
The start-stop system works quickly and effectively on the petrol-engined Q3, re-starting the engine the instant the driver lifts off the brake pedal. There’s not much of a jolt as the engine catches, either.
Suspension: The Q3 is typically Euro-firm in its suspension tune, and while this compromises ride-quality on washboard-surfaces, it confers great agility on twistier, smoother tarmac.
The Q3 handles like something far smaller, and it really does feel like a hot hatch out on the open road.
While it’s nose-heaviness is always apparent, it’s capable of some very rapid changes of direction, and the extra grip offered by its quattro AWD system makes it virtually unshakeable.
Push it too far though and you get predictable, safe understeer. Overall, the Q3 is surprisingly agile for an SUV.
A downside though is its light and kind-of lifeless electromechanical power steering. It might make urban driving easy, but doesn’t transmit much information to the fingertips.
Braking: Stopping power from the Q3’s all-disc braking system, which uses ventilated rotors up front and solid rotors at rear, is good. The pedal has a slight grabbiness to the first inch of travel, but otherwise no complaints.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: Standard safety kit comprises dual front, front side and curtain airbags, as well as three-point seatbelts for all passengers.
Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, hill hold assist and an electronic differential lock help keep the Q3 on the blacktop, while lane keep assist and a blind spot monitor are cost options.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres. 3 year paint warranty
Service costs: Service intervals are set for every 12 months/15,000km. The cost of scheduled servicing can vary, so consult your local Audi dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW X1 xDrive 23d automatic ($59,880) - The X1 range doesn’t have a high-performance petrol variant, which leaves the xDrive 23d as the fastest X1 available in Australia.
It’s more expensive than the similarly-equipped Q3 2.0 TFSI 155kW, but the X1 xDrive 23d benefits from a substantial 100Nm more torque.
It’s slightly slower thanks to its higher kerb weight and six-speed auto, but the X1’s fatter torque curve makes it more tractable around town.
Heavy steering makes it less driveable than the Audi in urban areas, but more enjoyable on the open road. (see X1 reviews)
Range Rover Evoque Si4 Pure ($60,395) - Officially classed as a medium SUV, the Evoque’s compact interior dimensions nevertheless make it a more appropriate match-up for the X1 and Q3.
It’s expensive, and, like the Audi and BMW, burdened by an expensive options list. However, it’s easily the most glamourous-looking luxury SUV around, and many buyers will want an Evoque in their garage because of it.
The Evoque’s 177kW/340Nm turbo 2.0 petrol out-muscles the Q3 for both power and torque, but its 200kg heavier kerb weight blunts straight line performance. (see Evoque reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The absence of standard-issue power seats, sat nav, front parking sensors and other basic mod-cons are puzzling on a car this pricey.
Yes, it’s slightly cheaper than similarly-equipped competitors, but, for a prestige SUV, the standard spec sheet is pretty stingy.
However, all that is forgiven once you experience the Q3’s wonderful on-road composure, silky-smooth engine, decisive transmission and high-quality interior materials.
It might be a bit basic in terms of gadget count, but the Q3 2.0 TFSI 155kW’s fundamentals are so sound and its performance so well-rounded that we think it’s currently one of the best buys in the Audi stable.
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Note: prices exclude on-road costs.