Every box ticked but one
Nobody makes classy, practical SUVs like Audi – and nobody is so reluctant to engineer in some driving pleasure. By Jake Groves
IT ALL STARTS off pretty well with Audi’s new Q3. First impressions are great – it’s a handsome car that updates the previous Q3 to bring it in line with Audi’s latest family look. Minor details like the blocky scrolling indicators and the fact you can spec the same alloys as the RS6 Performance are cool. But ultimately it’s far from striking or ground-breaking, just very nicely done – no more, no less.
The cockpit is chock full of Audi parts-bin buttons and switches, and that’s pretty much the best mainstream parts bin anyone could go rummaging in. The climate control is from the A3, the touchscreen is similar to the new A6’s, minus the haptic feedback, and thankfully there’s only one central screen, not two. If you go for an S-line rather than Sport you get almost the same steering wheel as Q8 buyers.
It feels well put together, and there are minor innovations such as the option of having alcantara on top of the dashboard. Equipment is pretty generous, too – basic Sport models come with LED headlights, Virtual Cockpit digital dials and safety aids such as the lane departure system.
As ever, Audi provides a confusing range of engine and drivetrain configurations, but the gist of it at launch is five engine variants for Europe (three TFSI petrols and two TDI diesels) with a seven-speed S-tronic auto and quattro all-wheel drive compulsory with the more powerful engines. Opt for the 35 TFSI – expected to be the biggest seller in the UK – and you’ll benefit from a quiet 148bhp 1.5-litre turbo with cylinder deactivation tech, and be left wondering what thinners Audi’s engineers were huffing when they said it could get to 62mph in a wildly optimistic 9.2 seconds.
The top-end 45 TFSI (2.0-litre turbo, 227bhp) is certainly pokier, but not really earth-shattering – you’ll have to wait for an SQ3 or RSQ3 for some real oomph.
The 40 TDI diesel, meanwhile, has the odd compromise – there’s oodles of torque as you’d expect and it’s genuinely thrifty on fuel, but it’s gargly when you use more than half of the rev range, and sixth gear is very low, giving an intrusive hum at motorway speeds.
The Q3 will start at around £31k, with the range-topping 45 TFSI S-line S-tronic priced at some £39,000. The big disappointment with the Q3 comes on the twisty stuff. It goes around corners without fuss but also without much excitement or engagement. The steering is neutral but pretty numb – at least the ride on potholed roads is decent, even on the larger wheels. (Sport spec has 18-inch wheels, S-line brings 19s.)
Adaptive dampers are optional, adding a teeny-weeny benefit to ride quality in the Comfort mode of the Drive Select system. The pedals are well spaced and the manual shifter slinks into gears smoothly. Go for the S-tronic auto and you’ll get what has to be one of the slickest and least intrusive dual-clutch automatics currently available.
The whole car’s super-practical as well. The boot is 110 litres larger than the old one (530 litres with the rear seats up) and the rear bench can slide forward to boost space up to 675 litres – way more than an A6 Avant’s load bay.
So it does a solid job of being an incredibly polished, practical family car with some posing ability and a competitive price (in a premium context), but don’t expect to get excited.
The Q3 will do its job of ferrying you, your stuff and your family around – while being inoffensive and forgettable.
Mercedes GLA Merc is ugly, impractical and expensive
Range Rover Evoque Less practical but Evoque a great steer
Volvo XC40 Extremely comfortable, highly desirable
Interior quality, space
H A T E
Will bore the pants of most humans
V E R D I C T
Objectively good, but emotionally numb
★ ★ ★ ★ ★