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Audi Q3 Review: 2015 1.4 TFSI, 2.0 TDI Sport, 2.0 TFSI Sport - Swift, Smart And Sure-Footed Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Jun, 10 2015 | 6 Comments

What's hot: Dynamic handling, lots of ‘zing', packaged right for the modern urban family.
What's not: Underdone standard feature list, a bit pricey once you start ticking boxes.
X-FACTOR: Not too big, not too small, and with a sporty feel at the wheel, the Q3 is both the stylish practical wagon and a treat on-road.

Vehicle style: Small SUV wagon

Price:
1.4 litre TFSI: $42,900
2.0 litre TDI: $47,900
2.0 litre TFSI Sport: $52,300
2.0 litre TDI Sport: $56,900

Engines/transmissions:
110kW/250Nm 1.4 TFSI petrol | 6spd S tronic auto
110kW/340Nm 2.0 TDI diesel | 7spd S tronic auto (not tested)
132kW/320Nm 2.0 TFSI Sport quattro petrol | 7spd S tronic auto
135kW/380Nm 2.0 TDI Sport quattro diesel | 7spd S tronic auto

Fuel consumption, l/100km:
1.4 TFSI claimed: 5.9 | tested: 7.4
2.0 TDI claimed: 5.2 | (not tested)
2.0 TFSI Sport claimed: 6.7 | tested: 9.1
2.0 TDI Sport claimed: 5.6 | tested: 8.5

 

OVERVIEW

With order books stretching into next year for both the Q3 and the Q5, Audi is clearly doing a lot right with its small and mid-sized SUV range.

It is also doing a lot right as a brand.

This year, in the Australian market, Europe's leading premium brand has moved to within an ace of stealing second place from BMW in annual sales here.

Now, as if it needed it, there is a refreshed Audi Q3 range to add a little extra heat the showroom.

And this car, a good car made better, is certainly going to add to the biting, eye-gouging and squirrel-gripping in the bullpit we might otherwise refer to as the ‘premium German segment'.

Always neat, compact and appealing, the updated Q3 now looks a little more sporty, a little wider and edgier, and a little more enticing.

While first and foremost a little wagon - it's for light-duty SUV-ing at best - Audi describes it as "a car for roads less travelled".

Fact is, it's for roads very well-travelled, for the city commute and the occasional dash to the snow, but that fact hardly diminishes its appeal.

Neither is it diminished by the sporting verve at the wheel, the comfortable accommodation, and the enjoyable on-road dynamics.

We drove three of the four variants of the updated range - the 1.4 TFSI (FWD only), the fiesty 2.0 litre TFSI Sport quattro ($52,300) and the pricey 2.0 litre TDI Sport quattro ($56,900).

Like the refreshed A1, with the updated Q3 range, Audi has added a little more polish to an already polished car.

 

INTERIOR

Q3 1.4 TFSI and 2.0 TDI 110kW

  • Leather-appointed upholstery
  • Dual-zone climate control air-conditioning
  • Multi-function leather steering wheel with paddleshifts
  • Audi Music Interface with Bluetooth audio streaming
  • MMI radio system with retractable 6.5-inch colour display and 8 passive speakers
  • Tyre pressure warning and electric exterior mirrors
  • Cruise control, light sensor, rain sensing wipers
  • Audi parking system plus, with front/rear sensors and rear-view camera
  • LED interior lighting package
  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights

Q3 Sport 2.0 TFSI and 2.0 TDI 135kW (in addition the above)

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Colour-coded bumpers and wheel arches
  • Front sports seats with electric lumbar support
  • Milano leather upholstery

For style, fit and finish, this is a ‘four star' interior… at the very least. Tight, classy, an Audi interior rarely fails to satisfy.

But for a stingy feature list in a premium-buying small SUV, one where even the cheapest entry to the range won't see any change out of $46,000 (for the 1.4 TFSI, on road), we think it comes up short. So off comes a half-star.

We think buyers spending that kind of money might rightly expect sat nav - at least - on the standard feature list. But no, the MMI navigation is bundled in as part of the $2990 Technik package.

You want it… you take the package.

Sure, it's smart marketing; but that base model 1.4 TFSI is pretty bare. And two or three ticks of the options ‘packages' later and suddenly there's $10k added to the list price. Like in our tester.

Metallic paint ($1150), 18-inch alloys ($1800), Comfort Package (electric seats etc. $2990), Technik Package (sat nav, park assist etc. $2990), and high gloss Exterior Package ($750), and the list price of $42,900 becomes $52,580.

Perhaps it's no big deal for buyers, but my thinking is that a premium standard feature list is a reasonable expectation in a premium product.

Fortunately, that's exactly what you get in the Q3 Sport quattro models (but which also have a long list of optional packages that can set the on-road price off at a gallop).

Gripes about what should and shouldn't be a ‘standard feature' aside, this is an interior where you will enjoy spending time. It's surprisingly roomy for a small SUV, with a spacious airy feel unexpected on such a small footprint.

The front seats are beautifully trimmed, easily adjusted for the right driving position, and comfortable - Audi seats are not as ‘hard' as those found in its German compatriots - and the rear seats too are shaped for long stints on the road.

They're ok for two adults, perhaps not for an inter-capital run, but absolutely fine for the younger members of the domicile.

And, if part of your daily activity involves the contortion associated with buckling young ones into the back, you will appreciate the upright stance of the Q3 and the ‘wide-opening' rear doors.

The hatch also opens wide and with a low loading lip and privacy screen to assist getting things in and then keeping them hidden from prying eyes.

Boot space there is 460 litres, opening up to 1365 litres with the split-fold rear seats folded down.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • 110kW/250Nm 1.4 TFSI petrol | 6spd S tronic auto
  • 110kW/340Nm 2.0 TDI diesel | 7spd S tronic auto (not tested with this review)
  • 132kW/320Nm 2.0 TFSI Sport quattro petrol | 7spd S tronic auto
  • 135kW/380Nm 2.0 TDI Sport quattro diesel | 7spd S tronic auto

Absolutely no complaints with the way this little SUV negotiates our highways and byways. Whether at the wheel of the front-wheel-drive 1.4 TFSI, or the rapid 2.0 TFSI quattro, the Q3 is masterful on-road.

Drive any one of the range enthusiastically, and you will revel in the cornering balance and the sure-footedness of this superbly conceived chassis.

And despite the small capacity of the 1.4 TFSI, it too is no slouch, spins up readily, and will ‘get outa there' if asked the question.

Geared ‘down' in the lower gears (and with one less ratio), it hits the perfect note spinning between 4500rpm and 5000rpm.

For a quick lash around a winding road, you will find yourself holding it in third, letting the turbo-driven torque carry you through a slower turn, then letting it spin its head off on the straight.

Dropping down into second just slows things down as the gap is particularly wide in the six-speed 1.4 TFSI.

The 2.0 TFSI is however quite a bit more potent; it has an eagerness underfoot that some warm hatches would struggle to match.

On a flat track it will bolt to 100km/h in just 7.6 seconds - that's quick for a small SUV (and ample quick enough for a family carriage).

We love the hooked-up feel of the S tronic transmission when using the paddles in ‘sport mode', and we also love the AWD quattro grip.

While the FWD 1.4 TFSI is good, the quattro twins are quite a bit better when push comes to shove around a winding mountain road.

Surprisingly, we found the S tronic not as convincing when left to its own devices in Sport. Somewhat unusually for a modern twin-clutch auto, our tester was a little indecisive when in auto mode.

It was a tad unsettled and too eager to shuffle between gears when hustling things along; that noted, it worked fine in Normal auto which holds higher gears for better fuel consumption.

The Sport 2.0 TDI diesel is also a quick performer. That stout 2.0 litre diesel is as strong as a train when moving, and just marginally slower off the mark than the 2.0 TFSI.

While it will nail the 0-100km/h dash in 7.9 seconds, it lacks the free-spinning ‘zing' of its petrol Sport stablemate.

It is, however, a very appealing engine.

But the fact is, brothers and sisters, the gap between petrol and diesel engines in consumption and performance is now so narrow that it almost ceases to matter.

In this instance, unless you are doing long kilometres, you will be better off saving your money and opting for the TFSI petrol.

It feels a little more lively than the diesel, lacks for nothing in rolling accelerating and is perhaps better suited under the bonnet of the ‘city-slicker' Q3.

For comparison, the 135kW 2.0 TDI claims fuel figures of 5.4 l/100km (we managed 8.5 l/100km with a heavy foot), while the 132kW 2.0 TFSI petrol lists 6.7 l/100km (our reading, 9.1 l/100km).

You will do a lot better in normal driving (we keep them ‘on the nail' when assessing the handling).

And as for safety: all Audi Q3 models come with a 5-Star ANCAP rating.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Audi has a very appealing small SUV in its refreshed Q3 range. These are very smart cars, a joy to drive - any model, they're so beautifully engineered - and a joy to be in.

Importantly, they also have an unmistakable premium feel to the interior, to their presence in the car park, and in the sophisticated and sporty way they drive.

For younger urban families shopping for both practicality and - with the 2.0 TFSI and TDI Sport quattro models - the on-road performance to keep a hot-hatch honest, Audi's Q3 is well worth a look.

And, let's face it, this dynamic trio makes larger SUVs like the Santa Fe and Kluger look like barges. (And do you really need all that metal following you around?)

So, yes, a ‘four-star' drive, but, for a premium car, we have to mark it down for a less-than-premium feature list.

MORE: Q3 News & Reviews | Small SUVs

 

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

2015 Audi Q3

  • Q3 1.4 turbo petrol - $42,900
  • Q3 quattro 2.0 turbo diesel - $47,900
  • Q3 quattro 2.0 turbo petrol - $52,300
  • Q3 quattro 2.0 turbo diesel - $56,900
 
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