Understanding the Q3 line-up
The other major changes to the car relate to technology and driver assistance systems, bring the Q3 up-to-date with its newest siblings, including the range-topping Q8 SUV.
What’s most notable about the new Q3 is its relative good value for money. The entry-level Sport trim in 1.5-litre 35 TFSI guise starts from just under £31,000 and has a plethora of decent features thrown in. For starters, it has LED lights, the MMI Navigation plus infotainement system, 10.2in Virtual Cockpit screen, power-operated tailgate, rear parking sensors, cruise control and lane departure warning.
There are two more trims, S-Line and Vorsprung, with S-Line expected to be the biggest seller.
From launch, there will be three TFSI petrol engines and one diesel engine. The most popular engine will be the 1.5-litre TFSI with 148bhp and 184lb ft, badged 35 TFSI and driven here, followed by the 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp and 251lb ft, badged 35 TDI. A second diesel with 187bhp will arrive later. All versions will be available with a six-speed manual or seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission and either front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive.
No electrified versions are offered, but a plug-in hybrid is expected further down the line.
How does the Q3 perform on the road?
Behind the wheel, the Q3 is a mixed bag. You’d expect it to be a better car than its predecessor, and in some ways, it is, but there are some blips that come as a surprise.
Firstly, the engine. The turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol with cylinder-on-demand (temporarily switching off cylinders at low load) works beautifully in the VW Golf – smooth, refined and effective. But in this Q3, it’s not the same story. In terms of power, the unit is perfectly sufficient for the car’s weight and in this sense, it’s likely to be the most sensible choice for an average Q3 driver.
It achieves 0-62mph in 9.2secs and moves along happily on urban roads, country lanes or the motorway. The sticking point is how that power is delivered. Even from low speeds, you can hear the gruff engine really having to work hard to achieve results. The sweet spot is between 2000 and 4000rpm but even then, you can notice turbo lag. Put your foot down above 4000rpm, and the engine revs in a deeply unhappy fashion.
This disappointing set-up is more noticeable when paired with the seven-speed dual-clutch Tiptronic gearbox, which regularly struggles to find its feet. It coasts along effortlessly, but any other time, you get the sense it’s always trying to change up – probably to help fuel consumption – and can’t respond appropriately when it unexpectedly goes down a gear or you’ve put the throttle down and it needs to, perhaps, jump two gears.
Those two criticisms stand out as something which you’d have expected Audi to have nailed. While not confirmed by Audi, we suspect it’s an effect of the new WLTP test cycle, and that other engines might have similar characteristics. Sibling brand VW has already admitted that some of its engines aren’t so effortless as a result. Talking to Autocar on the topic earlier this year, Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess said: “The risk is that we lose a bit of the performance and responsiveness of the engine".
Despite those foibles, there are plenty of positives. We were in the entry-level Sport trim with 18in wheels - the smallest offered - and front-wheel drive, and the ride was compliant and comfortable, albeit on mostly smooth European roads. Our car was probably as comfortable as it’s going to get, with Audis traditionally only getting firmer as you go up the range. Adaptive dampers are an option, which should help counter this. Volvo's rival XC40 probably just wins on the ride front, being a smidgen more supple, but it’s a close call.