Carzone's exclusive first drive of the new Audi Q3
Pros: Grown up design, engaging drive, premium feel
Cons: Not an off-roader, no hybrid, expensive options
Audi’s likeable Q3 small SUV has certainly grown in popularity since it was first launched in 2011. The class contingent has also grown in that time, with the newly launched Jaguar E-Pace, Lexus UX and Volvo XC40 all vying for honours, alongside the existing BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. With this in mind, Audi has launched a new second generation Q3 in time for the 2019 new car season. The new Q3 has evolved in the areas that matter most to SUV buyers; with trendier looks, a series of engine and platform updates and a larger tech-enriched cabin. We flew to the Italian alps for the new Q3's international launch, to see how it has changed and compares to its aforementioned rivals.
What is it like?
The Q3 has been redesigned outside and it also gets new underpinnings, although it isn’t hugely different to the outgoing model in terms of styling. The Q3’s dimensions have grown slightly so it is a little longer and wider than before, but it doesn’t stand taller off the ground. At the international launch, Audi’s lead exterior designer engineer spoke to us about the Q3's new Octagon design grille and bonnet creases, along with its new side lines and redesigned LED headlights which are all subtle but progressive updates. Options such as a darkened front grille and large 19-inch S-Line alloy wheels give the Q3 a sportier silhouette, while Audi’s launch colours such as Pulse Orange and Turbo Blue (pictured) are striking to say the least.
Carzone Audi Q3 Virtual Walkaround:
The Q3 has gained lots of new tech inside and the cabin boasts lots of digital instruments and gauges in similar fashion to the latest Audi A6 and A8 models. The Q3s that we drove at the international launch included Audi’s optional virtual cockpit driver's display which is vibrant and ebrilliant to use, along with a new MMI touch screen infotainment system which leans towards the driver for ease of use. Optional extras include customisable Alcantara upholstery on the dashboard and ambient interior lighting, while general fit and finish is premium throughout, save for some scratchy plastics low down in places.
Thanks to a stretch in size (97mm longer and 25mm wider), space in the Q3's cabin has improved with enough room to accommodate four adults in comfort, although leg room is somewhat in the middlemost rear seat due to the tall transmission tunnel. Boot space has increased to 530 litres which should be ample enough for family requirements, and this increases to 1,525 litres when the rear seats are folded down. All things considered, the Q3 should prove popular with family buyers who require extra practicality over the smaller Audi Q2 crossover, and it offers practicality on par with the best-selling BMW X1.
The Q3 launches in Ireland with a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. The petrol range opens with a 1.5-litre TFSI petrol unit with 150 horsepower and 250Nm of torque, and this turbocharged engine is dubbed 35 TFSI under Audi’s somewhat confusing naming convention. There is also a barnstorming 230hp version of the same engine (45 TFSI), but it won’t be offered on sale in Ireland. We spent lots of time driving the 1.5-litre 35 TFSI, and it is incidentally our pick of the range. It’s responsive at low speeds and gathers momentum quickly at motorway speeds, while there’s also a choice of six-speed manual and seven speed S-Tronic automatic transmissions.
Those seeking better fuel economy can consider the 2.0-litre diesel 35 TDI with 150 horsepower. The 35 TDI returned superior fuel economy through the twisty and hilly Terol mountain passes, but we found the 1.5-litre 35 TFSI accompanied by Audi's seven-speed automatic transmission was more fulfilling to drive. Most of the Q3s we tested were equipped with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system for extra reassurance and grip when cornering, however the entry front-wheel-drive model should suffice for most driving needs.
The Italian Alps were an ideal setting to test the new Q3’s handling credentials. Through the flowing bends and sunkissed roads, the Q3 proved to be an accomplished handler. It is now based on the latest MQB platform which also underpins the latest Volkswagen Tiguan, and the Q3’s ride quality benefits as a result. S-Line models gain larger wheels and stiffened suspension which could prove slightly harsh on secondary Irish roads. In similar fashion to most of its rivals, the Q3 also isn’t a true fully fledged off-roader either.
At the time of writing, Irish prices for the new Audi Q3 have yet to be confirmed but will likely fall in to the 35k – 40k bracket, which puts it in direct competition with the BMW X1, which is the best selling car in the class here in Ireland. The new Q3 is equipped with LED headlights as standard, along with a Digital Instrument cluster and optional Audi virtual cockpit plus with a 12.3-inch screen and a 10.1-inch MMI touch-screen infotainment display. It will be available in 11 different colour schemes and three specifications from launch.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
It has taken time for Audi to deliver a second generation Q3, but first impressions would suggest it was worth the wait. The new Q3 is more handsome on the outside than before, and it feels suitably premium inside with upgraded cabin materials and impressive new technology to take on the Volvo XC40. Thanks to a new platform it’s also better to drive than before, and arguably better than any of its class rivals. BMW’s X1 remains the best-selling car in the space here in Ireland, but the new Q3 could challenge it for this position in years to come.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Audi Q3 35 TFSI
Prices from: TBC
Annual Road Tax: TBC
Engine: 3456cc six-cylinder petrol and electric motors