What is it?
Five years is a long time in the life of any model, so you have to hand it to the team at Audi for doing their bit to keep their small SUV, the Q3, fresh and relevant over the years. What you see here are two of the three new versions of the refreshed Audi Q3 line-up. The one in red is the all-new 30TFSI (Rs 32.2 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi) that uses a 150hp, 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol. The engine is the one you’d find under the hood of the A4 and the refreshed A3, but, unlike the smaller of the two sedans, there’s no cylinder-on-demand tech here. This new petrol Q3 features a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox but is front-wheel drive only.
The blue Audi Q3 is the range-topping 35TDI (Rs 37.2- 41.2 lakh). As before, it is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine but power is up four percent, taking the final figure to a stronger 184hp. The engine comes mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Also, importantly, this is the only version of the Q3 that gets Quattro all-wheel drive.
The third Audi Q3, the 30TDI (Rs 34.2 lakh), slots in between the above two in terms of price. It runs the aforementioned 2.0 diesel, albeit in lower 150hp tune, and is front-wheel-drive only. However, this one too features a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission; there’s no manual Q3 in the refreshed line-up.
The Q3 range refresh is accompanied by a mild facelift, the second in two years. Distinguishing the 2017 Q3 is the redesigned front bumper that gets larger faux air inlets and a more generous dose of plastic cladding. There are also new streaks on the plastic door runners and 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps and LED tail-lamps with ‘dynamic indicators’ (they swipe in the direction of the turn) are a standard across the range. In all, the Q3 remains a handsome small SUV, even if less flashy than Mercedes-Benz’s GLA.
What’s it like on the inside?
There are no major changes to report in the cabin. The Audi Q3 carries forward with the same neat dashboard and generally user-friendly interior. Quality is up there with more expensive Audis and though the seats are not real leather but leatherette, the ambience inside is what you’d expect in a premium SUV. You sit reasonably high up in a Q3, the front seats are generous in size and support and even the rear seat is spacious enough for two adults to sit in comfort.
With the update, Audi has streamlined the variants on offer. The 30TFSI and 30TDI can only be had in Premium trim while the 35TDI is available in Premium Plus and Technology trim too. What is nice is that even the Premium variants get much wanted goodies like a panoramic sunroof and electrically adjustable front seats. The Premium Plus trim doesn’t get more features but adds in richer aluminium-look inlays. The top-spec Technology variant is pricey but your money does get you paddle shifters, SD card-based navigation, a reverse camera and a colour multi-info display in the instruments binnacle among other features.
The Q3 runs Audi’s MMI infotainment system. It is easy enough to use but the interface doesn’t look as slick as that in the newer Audis and there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay support either.
What’s it like to drive?
Leaving price out of the equation, for buyers primarily interested in the petrol Audi Q3 for the promise of better refinement over the diesel, there is good news. The 1.4 petrol is quiet, smooth and vibe-free in typical driving, and resultantly, the cabin remains nice and hushed for the most part. The engine does tend to sound gravelly in the mid-range, but you’ll rarely hear the engine over any music streaming through the car’s speakers. What’s more, performance is also good. Sure, 150hp is not a shining figure for a car of this class and at this price point but you’d rarely find the engine lacking in power. There’s enough poke throughout the rev range for a quick overtake, but go all out and you’d find the mid-range is where it’s at, with the engine revving quite readily to the 6,000rpm limiter. The quick-shifting six-speed gearbox helps bring out the best of the engine – the short first three gears ensure brisk initial acceleration. The Audi Q3 petrol posted a respectable 9.37 second 0-100kph time. On offer are four drive modes (including an Auto mode) that alter engine, gearbox and steering characteristics – Efficiency is okay for the rush-hour slog, Comfort is good for easy going while Dynamic does bring out the sportier side of the powertrain. Paddle shifters would have been nice but manual inputs via the gear lever are good too, with the quick shifts adding some spice to the driving experience. Unfortunately, the petrol Q3’s steering, though light and nice for city use, doesn’t offer enough of a connect at higher speeds. And that’s a shame because the Q3 is an agile handler in general. We also found that the petrol Q3 doesn’t feel as sure-footed at high speeds as the diesel, which weighs about 100kg more.
Coming to the diesel, as mentioned, the 35TDI makes four percent more power but from behind the wheel you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That’s not an issue in the least because the engine is punchy as ever and remains a relatively quick-revving unit. Again, the quick shifting seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox remains ever on call to keep the engine spinning right where you’d want it to in the rev range. Our test figures reveal the added power and updated gearbox has made the Q3 35TDI marginally faster to 100kph (8.13s versus the old 35TDI’s 8.35s time) but the performance gains are more notable in kick-down acceleration, say from 20-80kph and 40-100kph. It goes without saying the engine gives its best in Dynamic, but Comfort (and Auto) work well enough too. Do note that the Q3’s 2.0-litre diesel engine isn’t the quietest of the diesel engines around. There is a bit of drone in the mid-range and the engine also tends to get a bit buzzy in the top end. That said, the TDI unit is still quieter than the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA’s diesels.
The Audi Q3 deals with bumps at low speeds well, but of the two Q3s, it’s the diesel that has the better overall ride. It drives with a bit more heft and moves around less too, and this translates into more confidence at speed. The diesel also has the marginally more feelsome steering but it’s still no great shakes with a degree of looseness you’d be happier without. Quattro all-wheel drive does add in a degree of grip and off-road ability but few owners are likely to put their prized possessions through muck.
Should I buy one?
Many will argue that for the price of an Audi Q3 you could get yourself a larger, more hardcore SUV. But if it’s a small luxury SUV that you desire, the Q3 is a great buy. Sure, it’s not as spacious or involving to drive as the new BMW X1 or as eye-catching as the Mercedes-Benz GLA but seen as a whole, the Q3 is a very well-rounded package. It looks smart, feels premium and performs well in both petrol and diesel guises. Really, what’s not to like?
The Q3 always was a worthy entry point to Audi’s SUV line-up. The updated Audi Q3 keeps the flag flying high.