The Q family of local Audis has grown with the introduction of a smaller SUV than the compact Q5 model, the Q3. The particular market of A-segment SUVs is so niche that the Q3 goes up against only one model – BMW’s X1.
From a design point of view, the Q3 is instantly recognizable as a product from the four-ringed manufacturer, which is typical of the brand, but it adds an exciting new shape to the product line-up that is actually quite refreshing. Bearing such a strong resemblance to the A1 (albeit a bit stretched, with considerably more ground clearance) the Q3 already scores points in the looks department for me, but those who frown upon small vehicles from “premium” manufacturers might disagree.
On the recent local launch of the Q3, the assembled media representatives were allowed to drive three derivatives – one diesel and two petrols. Being a bit of a spec-sheet junkie, I opted for the 155 kW TFSI range-topper first…
Small on the outside, premium inside
Sliding onto, or into, the driver’s seat of an Audi is always a pleasure for me. The company has yet to disappoint me with their smartly finished and ergonomic designs and the Q3 is a similarly pleasing affair, with well-placed and clearly-marked controls. The experience is actually a familiar one, as the Q3 borrows heavily from styling elements used in the A1, and if it used round air vents instead of the rectangular units actually employed, it would probably fool the untrained eye.
I was immediately comfortable, but while going though my usual procedure of positioning myself into my preferred seating position, I was disappointed to find that the rake adjustment of the steering column doesn’t drop low enough to feel natural in a car primarily aimed at city dwellers. Because of this the otherwise-comfortable driver seat, which features a wide range of electronic adjustment, has to be raised for shorter drivers. But it just FELT like I was sitting too high for what the Q3 is.
Those particularly fond of creature comforts will be glad to know that the Q3 boasts a multitude of standard features, including Audi’s music interface with voice control, Bluetooth connectivity and a central pop-up LCD screen similar to the unit employed in the A1, climatronic air-conditioning, rain-sensitive wipers and light-sensitive headlamps – all of which have been included across the range.
Otherwise, the cabin is one of the Q3’s triumphs. Audi wisely opted to aim for the same kind of passenger space that is offered in the bigger Q5, which bodes well for fully-grown rear passengers. But that has come at the expense of luggage room, which in this quattro model is particularly small, with the addition of a space saver kit under the boot board as well.
Hot hatch credentials
This range-topping Q3, while it probably only has a limited audience, should excite those who intend to make full use of its 155 kW and 300 N.m-producing turbocharged, four-cylinder powerplant. Combined with the seven-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission, the Q3 puts in quite an impressive performance on the road, as I put the little SUV through its paces on the roads sweeping out of Cape Town in the direction of the picturesque Riebeek Kasteel. Mild inputs on the throttle were met with quick and efficient shifts as the Q3 worked its way up the ratios, but once Sport mode was engaged on the transmission – the razor-sharp response and predictive nature of the system really comes to the fore.
Some of the oomph is no doubt lost through the all-wheel drive system, but it felt minimal. Plus, the upshot of having Quattro on board is that the Q3 proved quite capable when the quality of the road surface worsened. Audi’s done particularly well in this department. As the blacktop vanished and corrugated gravel roads more akin to those used in our national rally championship led us closer to the lunch venue, the Q3 showed it was more than just a pretty face.
Despite the optional 18-inch alloys fitted to our model, which obviously comes with lower profile rubber than standard, the Q3’s ride throughout the drive was composed and compliant enough as long as the off-road speeds were reasonable. The rough surfaces traversed with little fuss, effort, or rattles are further testament to the NVH deadening qualities of Audi’s cabins.
The Q3 is a successful foray for Audi into the unknown considering that the company was one of the last off the mark to offer a SUV when the Q7 was launched. Last year A1 went squarely up against the Mini, and now Audi has launched another impressive premium package to what is perhaps a more limited audience. The Q3 has all the qualities of its bigger siblings, in a smaller package. It should do well.
Model: Audi Q3 2,0T FSI 155 kW quattro S tronic
Engine: 2,-litre, four-cylinder petrol-turbocharged
Power: 155 kW at 5 000 r/min
Torque: 300 N.m at 1800 r/min
0-100 km/h: 6,9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 7,7 L/100 km
CO2: 179 g/km
Top speed: 230 km/h
Price: R467 000
Watch a video of the Audi Q3