First Drive

First Drive: Audi Q3 35 TFSI Sport

The story:
The first generation Q3 came out in 2011 and was an instant hit, offering Audi’s high quality feel in a small SUV package. Now the second generation Q3 has brought not only the feel, but also the technology from higher up the Audi range to the, now slightly larger, small SUV.
Category:Compact SUV
Key rival:BMW X1
Audi Q3 35 TFSI Sport S Tronic
Price:£33,000* estimated
MPG:TBC mpg
Emissions:TBC/km
On sale:Autumn 2018 (deliveries end 2018)

Audi knew exactly what it had to do with the second iteration of its Q3 SUV. The first-generation car was incredibly popular, but had been designed and engineered at a time when Audi thought the most important thing customers wanted from a small premium SUV was a sporty driving experience. This time around the competition is much tougher and Audi knows that buyers want more – much more. And that’s exactly what the German brand has supplied.

First up, the car is physically bigger. The new Q3 is longer than its predecessor by nearly 10cm and it’s also a little bit wider and a tiny amount lower. Most of that extra length has gone between the wheels so there’s much improved rear-seat legroom with enough space to fit adults in the rear. There’s also a significant increase in boot space, which is up to 530 litres from 420.2018 Audi Q3 - image 5This rise in volume, and the 40:20:40 split folding (and sliding) rear seats, make the car much more useful to families and puts it ahead of rivals such as the BMW X1 and the Mercedes GLA.

However, not only is the new Q3 bigger, but it also features much more in the way of technology, too.

All versions are fitted with Audi’s digital instrument cluster. The standard version features a 10.25-inch screen although this can be upgraded to a larger 12-incher.2018 Audi Q3 - image 10Towards the centre of the dash there’s also a main control screen similar to those in the recent larger Audis such as the A8, A6 and Q8. Again, this can be upgraded from the standard 8.8-inch item to either a 10.1- or 12.3-inch screen. However, the Q3 doesn’t get the larger Audis’ second, lower, dashboard screen.

FLEET SPLIT AND MODELS

Audi expects the new Q3 to exceed last year’s total of just more than 17,000 registrations in 2019, its first full year on sale. Company car registrations are expected to account for a third of that.

While the majority, 70%, of buyers overall are expected to opt for the 150hp 1.5-litre 35 TFSI model, within the company car market the proportion picking diesel is likely to be higher with the 150hp TDI being the most popular.

Audi also expects the new seven-speed automatic gearbox to outsell the manual transmission.

The Q3 will also follow Audi’s latest trim levels running from sport through S-line to Vorsprung.

The new range-topping Vorsprung trim level is a UK-specific designation that was first seen on the luxury Q7 model. However, it has been included in the Q3 range because Audi believes there is a small but sufficient demand for a very highly specified version.

What hasn’t changed much with the new Q3 is the engine line-up. Using Audi’s new badging system buyers can choose from a 150hp 1.5 TFSI (badged 35 TFSI), a 190hp 2.0 TFSI (40 TFSI), a 230hp 2.0 TFSI (45 TFSI) and a 150hp 2.0 TDI (35 TDI). A second 2.0-litre diesel will follow later with 190hp.

All are refined, particularly the 150hp petrol, and strong enough to cope with longer motorway journeys.

Audi has introduced a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic to the Q3, replacing the previous six-speed item. Unfortunately this new auto is often hesitant in its choice of gears, which can make smooth progress difficult and entry on to roundabouts needlessly exciting.

Fortunately the six-speed manual is excellent. It’s easy and light to use which means smooth progress is assured.

 

All of this will attract drivers, but it’s the way Audi has sorted out the suspension that could convince them to buy. Gone is the overly hard and jarring ride and in have come compliance and comfort. Yet, the Q3 is still impressive on a twisty road with little body roll. The suspension tackles both minor road imperfections and larger potholes very well. At the same time it’s quiet, and all but the worst bumps aren’t even felt in the cabin.

All of this means that the new Q3 isn’t just larger, but it now feels much more grown up in the way it drives.

tristan young

The verdict

Audi has done everything it needs to with the Q3 to make it a seriously appealing package. Just make sure you buy the manual.