The new base model Q3 has arrived, and it has value on its side.
The new Audi Q3 1.4 TFSI S tronic is the most affordable SUV from a luxury brand currently on sale in Australia, priced at $42,300.
Launched earlier this month, the new Q3 1.4 TFSI gives Audi a strong point of difference in the increasingly crowded luxury SUV segment – it is petrol, auto, front-wheel drive, well equipped and sharply priced.
In comparison to its nearest rivals, the entry-level Audi Q3 undercuts entry-level versions of the BMW X1 by $4000 (xDrive20d: $46,300) and the soon-to-arrive Mercedes-Benz GLA by $5600 (GLA200 CDI: $47,900).
It is more expensive than the base Mini Countryman (Cooper 1.6: $34,100) but spot-on against identically priced Cooper S manual model and the entry-level Land Rover Freelander TD4 manual. It also sits well below the next-cheapest Q3, the $47,500 103 TDI Quattro model.
However, that isn't to say the new el cheapo Q3 is scantily clad when it comes to luxury items.
Standard goodies includes including 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, seats and trim. Read the full Q3 1.4 TSFI specifications here.
Some clear omissions are addressed through reasonably priced options. Our test car was fitted with two packages: the popular Technik pack ($3750) that adds sat-nav, reversing camera, an automated parking system and an upgraded sound system; and the Style pack ($2000) which adds xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and 18-inch wheels.
Even taking into account the few extra niceties of our test car, it doesn’t feel particularly like a base model from the driver’s seat - especially considering the bulk of its features and controls are identical to those seen in the range-topping RS Q3, which is almost twice the price of this car.
At first glance the cockpit looks of a high quality courtesy of its leather trim and pop-up colour media system. However, our car had a few dash trim finishes that could have been put together better, and those silver, plasticky "Monometallic" sections across the doors, dash and surrounding the gear-selector feel cheap to the touch and not befitting of a car sold by a luxury brand (however, there are numerous interior trim options available).
The interior does feature soft plastics across the top of dashboard and doors, but lower down the three-year-old Q3's interior design is starting to age - it's not the prettiest considering how neat and tidy the new Audi A3's is, but is well laid out and all of its buttons and toggles feel of a high quality.
The seats are comfortable, though a little small for bigger frames such as this tester’s, and they are quite high set, which can be uncomfortable for taller drivers.
The rear offers adequate headroom and legroom for four adults, but as mentioned previously, larger-than-average humans may need to watch their head getting in and out of the back seat. Rear seat air-vents are a nice accompaniment.
Storage is well accounted for in the cabin, with good-sized cup/bottle holders between the front seats, a decent centre console bin with sliding lid, large door pockets all-around and mesh map pockets on the backs of the front seats.
The boot offers 460 litres of capacity (1365L with the rear seats folded down), though the Q3’s sloping roofline means fitting larger objects could be problematic, and the slide-in parcel shelf gets in the way when loading. Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare wheel.
The new model is the only front-wheel-drive Q3 available, and, as the name suggests, is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That powerplant produces 110kW of power at 5000-6000rpm and 250Nm of torque from 1750-3000rpm, with Audi claiming a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.9 seconds.
Indeed, it offers perky response on the move, particularly from about 2000rpm. The engine idles smoothly at highway speeds, and has a nice rorty little note to it when explore its range.
The problems arise around town - it is slow off the mark, can easily spin its tyres in damp conditions, and can be tedious when commuting: a combination of engine turbo lag and the dual-clutch automatic transmission’s lazy reactions from a standstill. In most other situations the gearbox is quick-shifting and will generally choose the right gear for the situation – during hill climbs and descents, or under hard acceleration. We also noted some inconsistency to the car's brake pedal response - sometimes it feels too grabby, while on other occasions the pedal travels further.
The engine has a relatively smooth stop-start system, and claimed fuel use for the base Q3 is 6.2L/100km, and we saw close to that – our 160-kilometre test loop across urban, arterial, freeway, and winding roads saw a recorded 6.7L/100km.
The kerb weight of the new model is 1480 kilograms – not light for a hatchback, but considerably less lumpy than the next lightest Q3, the 2.0 TFSI 125kW, which weighs 150kg more. As a result it feels agile and light through corners, and despite lacking the all-wheel-drive hardware, it holds its line well and offers commendable levels of body control and cornering traction despite some minimal body-roll.
Those optional 18-inch wheels do little favours for its ride, which is quite firm and means small and large bumps are noticeable at highway speeds. Around town it proves slightly more amenable, dispatching with potholes and road joins without too much fuss, though it never feels as settled or squishy as its SUV stance suggests it possibly should.
Its steering is quite lifeless, lacking meaningful feedback to the driver's hands at all speeds and in all situations and offering no real driving thrills to speak of - and we noticed some inconsistency to its weighting, too. But for urban duties its light action may be well suited to commuters and urban-dwellers, but buyers after a more sporting drive experience would be better off considering the X1 or Mini for more thrills.
We did appreciate the base model’s quiet road presence – there is only a slight hum on smooth surfaces, while it remains peaceful enough over coarse-chip sections, too.
The Audi Q3 was already a sound option in the luxury SUV class, although the previous base model 2.0 TDI all-wheel-drive was not the best fit as an entry-level car. However, despite its somewhat clunky urban manners, the new Q3 1.4 TFSI model's sharp price and good equipment levels will undoubtedly make it a popular addition to the brand’s SUV ranks.