It has been five years since I last drove an Audi Q3. The one I tested then was an updated 1.4-litre model that has a softer ride and more refinement.
Its place in the luxury compact SUV segment was also clearly defined. The Audi Q3 was the car for those who prioritised refinement and build quality over performance.
Today, the Audi Q3’s aforementioned rivals have upped their game, offering drivability, comfort and cool amenities. The Q3 must also be wary of other contenders such as the incoming Mercedes-Benz GLB.
BIGGER AND BOLDER (AND ANGRIER)
The all-new Audi Q3 is now larger and design-wise, less conservative. Its overall length has grown by nearly 100mm (96mm to be exact) and it is now 77mm wider.
The wheelbase is also 77mm longer, which vastly improves backseat space.
However, the Audi Q3’s “face” is more robot-like. It also looks angrier than before. I am not alone in saying that a friendlier and more “human” face will make the Q3 more attractive.
Far more pleasing than the Audi Q3’s face is its advanced interior, which just makes its predecessor look old.
The only analogue controls here are the air-con, gearshift lever and steering wheel. Both the instrument panel and infotainment system are now digital.
And speaking of instrument panels, the Q3 is the first Audi model in Singapore with Virtual Cockpit Plus.
Virtual Cockpit Plus is similar to Virtual Cockpit. The driver can choose between infotainment mode and Classic mode. Infotainment mode minimises the tachometer and speedometer while maximising the chosen infotainment display, such as navigation.
Classic mode is the opposite – the tacho and speedo have larger presences.
The “Plus” in Virtual Cockpit Plus refers to the two additional display modes: Sport and Dynamic.
In the Audi Q3, Sport is just a slightly sportier-looking set of dials. Dynamic, however, looks futuristic. The rev counter and speedo are displayed using bar diagrams.
The Audi Q3 has a much better driving position. In the older model, the position was too low. I also couldn’t get the optimal angle for the steering wheel.
Apart from optimising the driving position, the new Audi Q3’s dashboard is also more angled towards the driver. This ensures that the controls are easier to reach. It also puts the air-con vents slightly closer to me!
I also like the fact that Apple CarPlay works wirelessly. Many cars still require you to connect your iPhone with a cable.
NO NEED TO SPACE-HOG
The longer wheelbase not only means more legroom for rear occupants. It also results in greater cargo capacity and flexibility.
Key to this flexibility are the rear seats. They can be moved forwards/backwards by 150mm, while the rear seatbacks have seven stages of adjustment.
The new Audi Q3’s cargo volume of 530 litres (rear seats up) beats its predecessor by 70 litres. And the new Q3’s boot offers split-level stowage, which the older model didn’t have.
In addition, the parcel shelf in the new Q3 can also be neatly stowed under the boot floor. The leap forward in terms of convenience and usefulness is clear.
A FAMILIAR (AND SIMILAR) DRIVETRAIN
Motivating the Audi Q3 is a turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cylinder that’s good for 150hp and 250Nm of torque. It is paired to a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox or S tronic, in Audi terminology.
This is essentially the same drivetrain that was in the last Audi Q3 1.4 I drove.
Not surprisingly, the car’s performance figures haven’t changed. It still takes 8.9 seconds for the Q3 to go from rest to 100km/h. When launching the car from a standstill, there’s still a momentary pause as the gearbox ensures proper take-up of the clutch.
Most drivers won’t realise or probably won’t notice this.
But in a car costing nearly $180k, this palpable pause shouldn’t exist. It doesn’t help that the 250Nm arrives at 1750rpm. In the older Audi Q3 1.4, this figure was produced at 1500rpm.
Nevertheless, the new Audi Q3 makes good progress once it gets going. Put the gearbox in S mode to tell car to hold onto each ratio a bit longer. The mid-range acceleration is relatively good.
However, the Audi Q3’s fuel efficiency has taken a dive. Its combined consumption is now 13.9km/L, versus the older car’s 16.7km/L. I suppose there’s a price to be paid for a larger SUV that can carry more stuff.
Though not particularly sharp, the Audi Q3’s handling is fairly neat. It does what most drivers would ask of it. But an enthusiast’s demands will cause it to lean and understeer.
The Q3’s turn-in is decent and the stiff body does make it more agile than before. That said, most Audi Q3 buyers are unlikely to push it hard anyway.
WHO IS THE AUDI Q3 FOR?
Five years on, the Audi Q3 has made vast gains in terms of technology, spaciousness, refinement and practicality.
It has a better driving position and a slick dashboard, too. The only downside is its unchanged drivetrain, which is less efficient than before.
So, does the Q3 beat its segment rivals? Methinks only a Group Test with the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLB can answer that…
Audi Q3 Advanced 1.4 (A)
ENGINE 1395cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 150hp at 5000-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 250Nm at 1750-3000rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 207km/h
PRICE INCL. COE $177,800 (after $10k VES surcharge)
AGENT Premium Automobiles