The Audi Q3 has been quite a dominant force in the premium compact SUV market, at least partly due to the fact that it's been lacking seriously capable competition until the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz GLA. So, Audi has made hay whilst the sun shone. BMW will be releasing its new X1 sometime soon that will pose a threat but in preparation for that, Audi has facelifted its Q3. We drove the improved 1.4T S Auto variant for a week, and here’s what we thought.
The new bitsRight up front, Audi has planted a new 3D-style grille, bumper and a new headlight design. If you want you can also get full LED headlights but LED daytime running lamps are standard. The rear-end has had similar treatment with a newly styled bumper and modernised taillights. Audi has tried to improve the agility of the Q3 as well as boosted the safety features offering in order to improve value for money. The engines have been to the school for efficiency and in some cases offer improved fuel economy by up to 17%. The 1.4-Litre turbo model on test here is also exclusively available in front-wheel drive where the diesel models are available with Quattro all-wheel drive.
Our test unit boasted the optional Q3 design kit that makes it look a bit more rugged. The design kit comes with exterior black plastic bumpers, aluminium in-lays in the door sills and aluminium strips on the dashboard.
Is a 1.4-turbo enough?The 1.4-Litre turbo motor is capable of putting out 110 kW and 250 Nm of torque. The power figure is relatively low for a premium model like the Q3 but the torque figure keeps the Q3 accelerating adequately. It never felt strained and didn't struggle to overtake on the freeway. When loaded up with a few people and a bit of luggage the extra load is felt around town but once up to speed it copes just fine.
The S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox fitted to this test unit works quick and seamlessly. As with all the current auto gearboxes, in order to save emissions the gearbox shifts through its range of seven gears as fast as possible. This means that if you decide you need to accelerate suddenly whilst already on the move, the gearbox can find itself having to shift down too many gears and consequently can feel a bit laggy. If you’re a proactive driver though, you can just bash the gear-lever into S for sport and the whole problem disappears.
The inside storyIt’s strange how you can individually spec an Audi Q3. Our model came with manual air-conditioner knobs, quite similar to what you'd find in a VW Polo but then still had over R100k worth of extras added (mostly exterior additions). The interior as a whole still feels solid and beautifully built. Some of the surfaces and plastics feel a bit more durable and hard for an Audi, rather than 'posh', which is probably due to the SUV buyer being an active or outdoorsy person. The rear space is adequate and with reasonable rear legroom. The boot is claimed to swallow 460-Litres and is quite square to make for easy loading.
The standard Q3 safety package is comprehensive so you’ll always have ABS, EBD, traction control and stability control. There is now secondary collision brake assist that in the event of an accident brakes the car so the vehicle doesn’t roll away into another possible accident. As you move through the option list you can get a full host of features such as blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam light assist and park assist that will automatically park the Q3 for the driver. Park distance control and a rear-view camera are still options, however.
Ride and driveThe premium feel of the Audi Q3 out on the road is still its major draw card. It feels agile and sporty, even in 1.4 form. The suspension is set up quite stiff and that negates a lot of body roll but it still manages to ride bumps comfortably. Long drives are a breeze in the comfortable seats and it’s nice to have cruise control as standard. The Q3 doesn’t particularly like a dirt road though, especially on these optional 19-inch 'Offroad' wheels it can be quite jittery.
VerdictThe Audi Q3 still remains a great choice for a premium, small SUV. On the road it rides especially well and earns its premium badge. The interior may not be as well specced in terms of standard fare as you may expect but there are plenty of options to fulfill whatever needs you have. The engine and gearbox work perfectly well together providing a smooth delivery of power and overtaking capability. Until the BMW X1 arrives, there isn’t too much to rival the Q3 unless you want to look at the less premium, but more rugged Jeep Renegade or the crossover/hatch Mercedes-Benz GLA.
Audi Q3 Price in South AfricaThe new Audi Q3 retails from R410 500 for the base-spec 1.4T S while the top of the range 2.0 TDI quattro goes for R525 500.
Team Opinions"It's easy to understand the appeal of the Audi Q3 - even in base form it is a very stylish and beautifully made car to roam the city with. And it's more practical inside than you'd think." - Hannes Oosthuizen
We Like: Build quality, drive, premium feel
We Don’t Like: Lacks standard features
Also Consider: Jeep Renegade, Mercedes-Benz GLA