The second generation of Audi’s crossover promises more space, comfort and technology in a sector that’s rapidly growing in popularity
On the road
On the road
Baby premium SUVs and crossovers are big business, and competition is fierce between some high-quality adversaries. The latest of which is the new Audi Q3, the second generation of the model that sits near the bottom of the brand’s ‘Q’ SUV line-up, although since the first Q3 was launched a Q2 has been born beneath it.
The new Q3 is pitched by Audi as maintaining the first car’s strengths while adding contemporary Audi design, technology and connectivity. The car grows in every direction bar one – it’s 97mm longer, 18mm wider and has a wheelbase that is 78mm longer for better interior space. The exception is the 5mm cut in height, helping it look a little more compact and sporty.
1. The Audi or quattro badge on the passenger side of the dash, depending on whether you’ve got 4x4 or not, looks normal during the day, but is nicely back-lit, so shines at night.
2. Our test car’s handbrake disengaged with the kind of clunk you’d associate with cars that have been parked up for a few weeks.
3. There are handy little bins to the outer of the rear seats. People with small kids will appreciate a place to collect plastic tat and sweet wrappers.
The front end is where the biggest change in styling occurs, with what Audi calls the Singleframe nose making for a more aggressive and noticeable front-end design. All cars get slender-looking LED headlights as part of a significant improvement in standard specification. The rest of the styling is more typical of Audi’s evolutionary approach, with nothing to mark the new car out as a significant step away from its predecessor, and it looks a little drab from some angles next to competition such as Volvo’s more characterfully styled XC40.
On the inside, the step-up in kit makes itself obvious with, in particular, the Audi Virtual Cockpit display fitted as standard across the range. The 10.25-inch display can be tailored to the driver’s preference, including a full-screen navigation map over the dashboard in the driver’s eyeline, as well as the 10.1-inch Multi-Media Interface touchscreen system in the centre of the dashboard that is angled by 10 degrees toward the driver. The screen itself is as crisp and clear as anything in the market, and the MMI system simple to navigate, although not always the fastest on start-up.
The cabin is as lovely as Audi has led us to expect, with the matt black finish around the driver a particularly nice touch that raises the ambience. The cloth/leather sports front seats in our S-Line model are comfortable and supportive, and that comfort extends pretty well to the rear passengers, where there is good headroom and adequate legroom for the class.
The boot goes up by an impressive 70 litres on the previous Q3 to 530, which out-points most rivals’. If there are no rear passengers to worry about, that can be increased to a hefty 675 thanks to the rear seat bench sliding forward by 150mm. The load floor has three levels, and the parcel shelf can be stashed beneath it when not needed. The boot also has two bag hooks and a couple of handy recess bins to drop in any small items that would otherwise roll around. In addition, our test car came with the £210 storage pack that includes a pair of LED lights in the boot as well as interior storage in the back of the front seats and under the passenger seat.
Overall, the Q3’s dimensions strike an excellent balance between practicality and a compact, urban-friendly footprint.
The range comes in at Sport trim level, moving up through the traditional S-Line range-topper to a new top Vorsprung model at the head of the line-up. The fully loaded model costs £7890 more than the S-Line, but gets almost every piece of equipment imaginable as standard, including 20-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, electric heated front seats, park assist, Bang and Olufsen audio system and adaptive suspension.
The S-Line comes on 19-inch wheels and also gets the bodykit associated with the more sporting model, plus privacy glass, sports suspension and ambient lighting. Meanwhile, the entry Sport trim is fitted with 18-inch alloys, but also has an impressive array of kit that includes navigation with 3D city modelling and route profiling based on previous journeys, blindspot warning, autonomous emergency braking, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, lane-departure assist and rear parking sensors. Not bad for a premium brand, where all have something of a reputation for enticing drivers into the options list by not being too generous with standard spec levels.
Engine-wise, there are three petrol and two diesel units from launch, all suffering from Audi’s bewildering new naming system. The petrol options are the 35, 40 and 45 units, and the diesel ones are numbered 35 and 40. As that means little to anyone, they are respectively 150hp, 190hp and 230hp petrols and 150hp and 190hp diesels. The 150hp petrol and diesel engines are the only ones that come with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox; a seven-speed S Tronic automatic is available on all engine options. However, with the 35 diesel, the manual is a quattro, while the auto, which costs £150 more, is only sold in front-drive form.
The 35-badged Q3s are available in front-drive form, while the rest of the range comes with quattro four-wheel drive, which adds a feeling of security but also bumps up the price and emissions figures. While the range gets as low as 123g/km for a 35 TDI Sport, the 190hp diesel quattro starts at 146g/km.
One area in which the new Q3 does make some good strides forward on is the driver enjoyment factor. There’s certainly more in terms of composure, body control and steering feel than previously offered, although it’s still not quite a match for the BMW X1 . And it’s also impressively comfortable, given that our test car was an S-Line model, which comes with the sports suspension. The ride isn’t too hard – it certainly rides better than its Q5 bigger brother – and there’s a lack of both road and wind noise that makes for pleasant long-distance mile-munching.
The 150hp petrol engine driven here is likely to prove increasingly popular in this age of diesel demonisation, and is a nice unit that does need some revving to coax into serious performance, but it works well in conjunction with an S Tronic automatic gearbox that has proved a little hesitant on other Audis, but is better in this installation.
Rival-wise, the entry 150hp petrol Q3 doesn’t compete against the full spectrum of premium small crossover models, because there’s no Jaguar E-Pace petrol engine under 200hp, and Volvo doesn’t offer an automatic version of its XC40 with the 156hp T3 petrol engine. That leaves the BMW X1 and the Mercedes GLA, which is a slightly different car because it’s not quite styled as a full-height crossover. There’s also the DS 7 Crossback, which is something of an anomaly because it’s priced to rival the compact crossovers, but is almost as large as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 that are one category up.
Surprisingly, at least until you factor in the good levels of standard equipment, the Audi is priced slightly above its competition, although by only hundreds rather than thousands of pounds, and all are within £500 of each other. Running cost-wise, the Q3 is excellent, with the petrol model’s good emissions figures combining with a residual value that out-points all bar the Mercedes, and SMR and insurance costs towards the right end of the comparative basket of rivals.
The Q3 is a better car than the one it replaces. The styling is certainly on the safe side, with the exception of the much bolder nose, but the driving experience, high-class interior, great running costs and improved interior space and practicality all tick positive boxes for what is a well-achieved refresh of a car, leaving Audi nicely placed in a sector that is far from finishing its growth spurt as more and more drivers commute over from hatchbacks and saloons into crossovers and SUVs.
Audi’s Q3 was the third ‘Q’ branded model to join the company’s ever-expanding model range when it was launched in 2012, sitting below the Q5 and Q7 to make a three-model line-up that has since expanded to five thanks to the newer Q2 and Q8 models.
The Q3 was based on the Audi Cross Coupe quattro concept vehicle (pictured) first shown at the 2007 Shanghai motor show, and the German premium brand described the car as defining a “new segment in the field of crossover vehicles”.
“Audi Cross Coupe quattro combines the design and dynamism of a compact premium sports car with the spaciousness and versatility of a four-seat sport utility vehicle,” it continued.
The production version was unveiled four years later, and used the same underpinnings as various Volkswagen Group models including the VW Tiguan and Golf.
The previous Q3 range was topped off by a high-performance RS Q3 model, launching with 310hp from its 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, before getting a 30hp upgrade with the 2014 mid-life facelift. The RS Q3 was the first SUV to get the treatment from Audi’s high performance division, quattro GmbH.
What they said
What They Said
"The Audi Q3 is our most popular SUV, and with good reason. This new model is an even more attractive fleet proposition than ever before thanks to robust residual values, even greater practicality and a more comprehensive list of equipment.
In fact a great many of its features have directly cascaded from the full-size class. In the new Vorsprung trim in particular the car comes into its own in terms of tech and luxury.
The engine range also offers the appropriate flexibility business users demand, impressively combining high-mileage potential and efficiency with punchy performance."
James Buxton, head of fleet sales, Audi UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The new grille is bolder, and the biggest design change
The door handle is upside down, but works, once you’re used to it
The two little bins in the corner of the boot are great for small items
...And one we don't
The surprisingly large rear pillars badly hinder the Q3’s over-the-shoulder visibility
More engaging than the previous Q3, although steering feel is still a little lacking versus the BMW X1’s.
The figures are reasonable, but at various points rivals can get lower, especially on the auto and quattro versions.
Excellent rear head and legroom for the sector, and the boot is very decent for the class.
It’s good to see the likes of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and good levels of safety kit fitted as standard.
The strong grille and nose design is the only big change from the previous Q3, which is otherwise typically evolutionary for Audi.
Comfort and refinement 9/10
Given the driving experience is improved, it’s impressive that it’s not at the expense of ride comfort, which is better than the larger Q5’s, and refinement is also good.
It seems almost boring to be praising Audi for the interior quality once more, but the Q3 reinforces the brand’s excellence in its cabins. It’s all lovely inside.
There’s a big and very clear screen, with 3D modelling of certain cities on the nav, but it’s not the fastest system on boot-up, or to respond some times. Virtual Cockpit is great.
Whole life costs 9/10
Despite kicking off at a higher starting price that its key competition, strong running costs across the board make for an excellent cost-per-mile figure.
CCT opinion 8/10
An improved small crossover up with the class best in most areas.
The Q3 scores well for running costs, interior quality, standard equipment and the driving experience, although emissions aren’t always up with the best.