IF WHEELS COTY included an award for ‘most improved over its predecessor’, then the new Audi Q3 would almost certainly be headed out of Lang Lang with a medal pinned to its compact-SUV chest.
Instead, it struggled to overcome a key criteria that’s been a regular COTY stumbling point for modern Audis, but also dipped against a less-expected one.
More predictable was the strong start in terms of design, cabin packaging and general user-friendliness. Early points were scored for the now-larger interior’s greater flexibility, with the sliding and folding rear seat enabling extra legroom or greater boot space, depending on daily requirements. The typical high-quality Audi interior was also noted, along with the beautiful integration of the slick multimedia screen.
The move to a version of the ubiquitous VW Group MQB platform also gifts the Q3 with decent dynamic prowess. Byron was in the majority with comments about the all-round poise, and a composed ride that made for a benign, enjoyable drive, even if the lack of meaningful steering feel did dull some of the driver-involvement sparkle.
But the fitment of the VW Group’s older 1.4-litre turbo four resulted in a swift kicking against both the Technology and Efficiency criteria. Instead of the lighter, more sophisticated and frugal 1.5-litre four (making identical power and torque) as fitted to European Q3s carrying the same 35TFSI designation, Australia gets the iron-block unit, lacking cylinder deactivation, and drinking 7.2L/100km, instead of 5.9L/100km for the 1.5. Oh, and it demands premium fuel, too. The fact that Aussie cars also get a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, rather than the seven-speeder fitted in Europe, didn’t help the situation. Nor did the lack of paddleshifters and a manual mode that sees the shift pattern arse-about.
Then the Q3 was flung through the swerve and recover exercise, and copped criticism for an excessively heavy-handed ESC calibration that pretty much neuters it to around 40km/h. Perhaps that’s okay for the target market, but the judges felt it showed a lack of development that plenty of other cars on test didn’t suffer from.
In the face of hard-nosed pragmatism, there was a consensus that the premium-priced Q3 really didn’t bring enough to the table to make it a more compelling offering than other SUVs in the VW Group, like a Tiguan. And let’s not forget that stablemate Skoda Karoq does get the newer 1.5 plus seven-speed combo, and sells for just $32K. Enright concluded that he rated the 110kW Q3 as a decent drive, but at $53K in Launch Edition spec, it was, he pointed out, almost the same money as a Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design, replete with 185kW turbo 2.0-litre and all-wheel drive.
More broadly, there was a general consensus that while the Q3 will please its owners with fine packaging and design, its oily bits don’t feel premium in the places that count.
THE JUDGES’ COTY SCORECARD
AUDI Q3 SPECS
Type: 5-door SUV, 5 seats
Boot capacity: 530 – 675L
Layout: Front-engine (east-west), FWD
Engine: 1396cc 4cyl turbo-petrol (110kW/250Nm)
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
ADR81 fuel consumption: 7.3L/100km
CO2 emissions: 164g/km
Crash rating: 5 stars (ANCAP)
$46,400 – $52,750