THE facelifted Audi Q3 presents a simple equation; pay a little more, get a little more. Prices of the small SUV will rise when the updated version arrives mid year, but so will the power of three of its four engines, plus the level of standard equipment.
WHAT IS IT
Small SUV from VW Group’s premium brand. Although the Audi Q3 shares its bones with the VW Tiguan and Skoda Yeti, it aims to attract the same kind of well-heeled customers as the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Production of the updated Q3 started in February and we were able to drive it in Europe in March, months ahead of its arrival in Australia.
BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Q3’s style-to-practicality ratio could use a bit of tweaking, but the facelift brings some incremental improvements to please those who like this sort of thing.
Plus: Turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine; ride and handling aren’t that bad; interior presentation
Minus: Not very useful; not much fun; expensive
THE WHEELS REVIEW
Why does anyone want a Q3? The only possible explanation is having rocks in your head. But customers whose brain surgery is done with geologist’s hammers are distressingly numerous; in some months, the Q3 is Audi’s best-selling model in Australia.
To humour its legion of buyers, let’s pretend for a moment that a top-tier small hatchback, the Golf 7 say, is fundamentally incapable of doing everything the Q3 does, more efficiently and for a lower price. And let’s also imagine that SUV style and an on-demand all-wheel-drive system that will likely see no more than sporadic use are absolute must-haves.
Looking no further than the VW Group, of which Audi is a highly profitable part, there are more practical and less expensive options. The VW Tiguan and Skoda Yeti are even built on the same PQ35 platform as the Q3. And if a owning a premium brand to earn neighbour approval is essential, then Mercedes’ GLA is a more intelligent pick (but make sure to go for the petrol-engined 250).
Moving on, it’s time to look briefly at what Audi has done to update the Q3, first introduced back in 2012. This is a light facelift, affecting plastic, power and price.
There are new designs for the “single frame” grille and bumpers, slight power increases for all engines except the 110kW 1.4-litre TFSI in the lone front-drive model, and modest price increases that are, says Audi, more than offset by improvements in standard equipment.
Power of the single 2.0-litre TFSI petrol and pair of TDI turbo fours in Q3 quattro models nudge up by between 5kW and 7kW, bringing small improvements in performance and fuel efficiency. The 1.4-litre TSFI engine in the front-driver also gains a fuel-saving cylinder shutdown system.
The list of additional new standard equipment includes Xenon-plus headlights, LED daytime running lights, a self-parking system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and dual-zone climate control system. Audi's full LED headlights also become an option on all Q3 models.
We managed to bag the keys to the top-level petrol and diesel Q3 models; 132kW 2.0 TFSI quattro and 135kW 2.0 TDI quattro. The diesel isn’t as refined as, say, BMW’s same-size engines, and the seven-speed twin-clutch auto throws on the occasional jerky shift. This box appears in all Q3 quattro models; the front-drive 1.4 TFSI makes do with six cogs. The petrol engine is more pleasant and refined, and Audi’s engineers have done a better job on the calibration of the transmission.
Getting reacquainted with the Q3, thanks to this facelift, serves as a reminder of its inherent faults. The Audi’s sloping tail limits cargo space, the rear doors are small, the rear seats are cramped, and the way it drives is, well, yawn-inducing. It’s flawed and it’s dull. You’d have to have…
Model Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI quattro
Engine 1984cc in-line 4, dohc, 16v, turbocharged
Max power 132kW @ 4000 to 6200rpm
Max torque 320Nm @ 1400 to 3900rpm
Transmission 7-speed twin-clutch automatic
Kerb weight 1565kg
Price $57,500 (estimated)
On sale June or July