Audi's refreshed Q3 baby SUV road test
IT'S the small SUV we can't get enough of.
Audi's Q3 and bigger brother Q5 are so ubiquitous on our roads their winning formula doesn't need much of a remix, so a minor refresh is all Audi has bestowed its facelifted Q3 compact SUV.
A sportier design arrives with Audi's signature sculpted Singleframe grille at the fore, while new engines, extra equipment and a rear view camera now come as standard.
The Q3 is best-seller in Australia's premium compact SUV segment - something Audi is keen to maintain with the revised model - helped in part by its quattro all-wheel-drive bolstering its lifestyle SUV status.
There are four Q3 models to choose from (if we leave aside the bonkers RS Q3), with best-selling entry-level petrol 110kW 1.4 TFSI the only non-quattro variant, joined by a 132kW 2.0 TFSI Sport petrol then the two diesels: a 110kW 2.0 TDI and 135kW 2.0 TDI Sport. The old 155kW TFSI version has been dropped.
There is more included kit than before and pricing starts at $42,900, but quickly ramps up from there. Audi says for the $400 increase for the entry level model customers now get $3000 of extra equipment, while those in the Sport models receive $7000 of added value.
Regardless, there are still many optional packages to tempt you further, and box tickers be warned that these little SUVs can quickly look very expensive. The range-topper we tested weighed in at $73,030 with all its optioned goodies, and that's before on-roads.
Audi's cabins are brilliant, and they know it. No changes inside for the revised Q3s as there's no need to mess with a good thing.
That means a sublime layout, ample space for front occupants despite the Q3's limited size, switchgear that reminds you you've bought premium and excellent seating comfort on our long test route.
Controls across the dash are classy and intuitively laid out with a distinct lack of fussiness. Sporty red backlighting gives the whole cabin a nice ambiance to go to work in, while the 6.5-inch colour display screen's high mounted position is in a good place for driver vision.
Rear seats are very snug as is typical of small SUVs, but aimed at singles, couples and empty nesters, the Q3's target market shouldn't be concerned by this. But rear chairs are well shaped and cosseting, so kids especially wouldn't grumble on long jaunts.
On the road
Audi knows these baby SUVs won't spend their lives off the bitumen, so our test route was practically all on the smooth black stuff. And here the Q3 is a gem.
Engine wise the entry-level 1.4 TFSI has been the volume seller because for most the 110kW and 250Nm are all that's required. The turbo four-pot petrol pulls nicely and in the higher rev ranges is a lively little thing.
Step into the 2.0-litre petrol and the fun is amplified. The extra performance is welcome and gaining the quattro all-wheel-drive ups the sure-footedness, but for nearly $10k over the base model it's a big ask. It does feel an impressively quick car though, and with the Q3's centre of gravity lower than most SUVs, suits the model to a tee.
Then there are the diesels. Audi has nailed its 2.0-litre four-cylinder oil burners, but on fuel economy alone they're not as automatic a choice as a few years ago now that the turbo petrols are so frugal.
But their low-down torque shove make them ideal for zipping around town or for low-rev highway cruising. In short, none of the power plants is the wrong choice.
The s-tronic auto is also hard to fault and let's the driver play in Sport mode by holding gears longer, and shift paddles coming as standard enhance the enjoyment.
Throw the Q3 around - in any of its variants - and it belies its SUV badge.
Beautifully balanced and with nice steering feel, it proved grippy and flat through the turns, although the optioned 19s and 20s on some of our test cars did highlight the road bumps.
What do you get?
A rear view camera to go with the front and rear sensors are now standard for all Q3s, while from entry-level expect 17-inch wheels, leather appointed seats, dual zone climate, multi-function steering wheel and the required connectivity and sounds.
The Sport models bring 18s, sport seats, Milano leather and convenience key.
As mentioned, it's what you don't get that can grate. Navigation and electric seats for example are part of costly option packs ($2990 for Technik and another $2990 for Comfort), while desirable S line Sport packages can cost an extra $7600.
There are 460-litres of cargo space in the tail, rising to a decent 1365-litres with the split rear seats folded down.
Each Q3 variant returns reasonable economy figures between 5.2-litres/100km and 6.7-litres/100km on paper. Our Gold Coast hinterland test route nudged numbers into the 8s for the petrols and 6s for the diesels, but exploring the rev range can be blamed for that. No capped-price servicing from Audi so bills will be a bit more premium style than mainstream offerings.
Small SUV shoppers should also consider the BMW X1 ($48,300), Lexus NX200t ($52,500), Mercedes GLA 250 ($58,600) or even a Mini Cooper Countryman ($34,150).
Or hop in one of Audi's cars - an A3 Sportback quattro ($46,100) for example - to see the difference.
Already a classy good looker, the new Q3 has revised headlights with xenons as standard. Not much needed changing on the striking Q3, and it stands out as the most attractive against its small SUV rivals.
For ultimate funkiness, Audi can sell you an integrated camping tent for your Q3. You plug it in and it pops out of the rear with its inflated tubing. Now that's a lifestyle.
Still the market leader and it's not hard to see why. Good looking, near-perfect cabin and a rewarding drive no matter which engine you choose.
Little wonder buyers will stretch themselves to get into an entry-level Q3 and the premium lifestyle it promises.
Standard kit is good but not great and shopping for extras is pricey. But to live with one of these beautifully engineered small SUVs would not be disappointing.
Driving experience: 17/20
Features and equipment: 13/20
Functionality and comfort: 17/20
Value for money: 13/20
Style and design: 17/20
Model: 2015 Audi Q3.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive premium compact SUV.
Engines: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo generating 110kW @ 5000rpm and 250Nm @ 1500rpm (1.4 TFSI); 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with 110kW @ 3500rpm and 340Nm @ 1750rpm (2.0 TDI); 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo with 132kW @ 4000rpm and 320Nm @ 1400rpm (2.0 TFSI Sport); 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with 135kW @3500rpm and 380Nm @ 1800rpm (2.0 TDI Sport).
Transmission: 7-speed S tronic across the range except 6-speed S tronic for 1.4 TFSI.
Consumption: 5.9-litres/100km (1.4 TFSI); 5.2 (2.0 TDI); 6.7 (2.0 TFSI Sport); 5.4 (2.0 TDI Sport).
CO2: 136g/km (1.4 TFSI); 137g/km (2.0 TDI); 155g/km (2.0 TFSI Sport); 141g/km (2.0 TDI Sport).
Bottom line (before on-roads): $42,900 (1.4 TFSI); $47,900 (2.0 TDI); $52,300 (2.0 TFSI Sport); $56,900 (2.0 TDI Sport).
What matters most
What we liked: Desirable design, delightful interior and joy for city, highway and twisty drives.
What we'd like to see: Less of the costly options, more standard kit for the pricier Sport models.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/unlimited kilometres warranty with roadside assist. Servicing is annual or every 15,000km.