With new competition from Mercedes in the form of the GLA, Audi couldn't have picked a better time to unveil the facelift version of its very popular Q3 compact SUV. Ever since its launch in India, the Q3 has been a favourite amongst compact SUV buyers. With competition coming only from the BMW X1, the Q3, with its more up market interior and exterior was the compact SUV to buy. But now with growing competition, Audi has given the Q3 a mild facelift and has upgraded the engines to keep things fresh.
The major changes on the Q3 facelift are to the front of the car. The grille gets a wider chrome surround which touches the headlights on each side. The lower air intakes have been enlarged slightly, and the Q3 now comes with the option of LED headlamps on the top variant. Rest of the variants get Xenon headlamps instead of the halogen ones on the current car. The wheel arch surrounds and door sills are body coloured on the base model (they used to be black plastic), as is the rear bumper design, which now sits below the subtly reshaped taillight clusters. New alloy wheel designs finish off the refresh.
On the inside, the changes are very subtle, and include a new steering wheel, instrumentation and an updated MMI system. You get the same high quality cabin of the old car, and it’s spacious too. The front seats are big and accommodating, and the driving position is good. Rear seats, though good on space, are placed a bit low and lacks enough support.
Globally, the Q3 will be available with two petrol and one diesel option. But for India, one diesel, and mostly one petrol motor will be available. I drove the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol first, and it makes a massive 217bhp. As with most TFSIs, this motor is silky smooth and refined, right through its rev range, and you hear a nice snarl when you rev it. There is a bit of turbo lag present at low revs, but serious shove comes in at around 2,500rpm and simply doesn’t let up until 6,500rpm, where the dual clutch auto snatches up the next ratio. The seven-speed dual clucth ’box is as impressive as the engine, and it works really well in manual mode.
Once I had some fun with the potent petrol motor, it was time to sample the more important updated diesel engine. Powered by the same 1968cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel motor as the current car, the updated Q3’s diesel engine now makes 181bhp and 38.74kgm of torque. Thanks to the extra horses, the engine is more flexible, and a wider powerband means there is more than enough grunt in any given condition. Even on the open Autobahn motorway, the engine never felt out of breath. Refinement is very good, performance is ample, and this, coupled with the car’s ride, will make it a fine all-purpose machine. The seven-speed dual cluctch transmission works really well in tandem with the motor, and makes full use of the higher power on tap. It responds quickly to the change in position of your right foot, and ensures you are in the meat of the powerband.
Other than the more powerful motor, the mechanicals are unchanged. This means, the Q3 facelift retains the suspension and other chassis bits from the older car. On corners, the car turns tightly, with its body roll well contained. The steering, however, feels a bit too light - one on the petrol car is better than the diesel and feels more precise, but there are times when you’ll be left wanting more feel. Even the ride on these smooth German roads is quite good. There is some underlying firmness, but it never gets uncomfortable.
With the host of updates to the exterior, interior and the diesel engine, the Audi has definitely taken a step forward with the Q3 facelift. How good is it compared to the GLA? We will only know when we drive them back to back. With additional features, the Q3 facelift is expected to be priced a bit more than the current car. Slated for an early 2015 launch, Audi has certainly raised its game enough to give its rivals even more cause for worry.