You can create a perfect cube with 8 blocks. Or 27 (think the Rubik’s cube), or 64… on goes the series – different in size, but always a perfect cube.
Well, Audi has been taking the cue, or Q to be precise, to create perfect SUVs for everyone – with 7, 5 and now 3 completing the series – different in size, each nevertheless an unmistakable Audi. The Audi Q7 and Q5 top many lists around the world as the class leaders. Does the Q3 have the potential to follow suit in a segment that many premium carmakers are all of a sudden packing with more space, more gadgets and… more attention?
This compact SUV that is 4.39 meters long, 1.83 meters wide and 1.59 meters high, can mislead people about its size at first glance, unless parked next to its larger siblings of course! The well-balanced look of the Q3 with its sloping rear makes this compact SUV look longer, while its sculpted lines and the gently flared overall design give it a muscular stance. In line with Audi’s sporty signature, the hexagonal grille and the wide, narrow xenon headlights lend the Q3 a sharp look bordering on the aggressive.
My weekend driver was a 2L direct injection four pot with turbo charging that effortlessly delivered 170 hp. A respectable 280 Nm of torque and a dual-clutch seven-speed S-Tronic transmission with Sport rev option made sure that there was ample ammunition under my right foot. Pretty adept at handling highway lane changing and roundabouts, the Q3’s output is optimized with a class-leading drag co-efficient of .32 and a rather light 1630 kg weight.
With 170 mm of clearance (20 mm less with the S-line Sport suspension option) the Q3 doesn’t favour any off-road stunt by design or demand. But those 19” alloys and Quattro all-wheel drive can certainly handle unpaved territory in its stride.
I start off with a fondness for this SUV that made me feel tall beside it! With a raspy roar, the Audi Q3 overwhelms its lazy turbo lag and from then on, I am cruising on the road to delight, but for one problem. I can’t feel the road. While the car feels light enough to be thrown about and responds with reassuring grip along curves, the steering behaves as though it has a screw loose! It is possibly, a freewheeling testimony to Ingolstadt’s market intelligence on what women want. While proving its usefulness in parking lots and when finger-pushing your way through traffic, the overzealous, underwhelming wheel takes away the character from an otherwise compliant drive.
The Audi Q3 is also available in a 211 hp 300 Nm torque version, which comes with all the bells and whistles. If you ask me, or the stylish yet sensible potential drivers of the Audi Q3, the 170 hp engine suits the drive well and can save you the dilemma of sparing another 10 grand or more.
Cabin and controls
This Audi doesn’t confuse with too much gadgetry, those who like to keep it simple. There is a useful range of infotainment features in the Audi Q3, like the hard-drive based MMI navigation plus that communicates through a foldout 7.0-inch color monitor. The Concert Sound System is all you need but the optional Boss surround system gives you even more: the power of 465 watts and 14 speakers. Plus, a Bluetooth online car phone paired with a WLAN hotspot is on its way!
The console is simple and intuitive. The beige patterned fabric in the base version is pretty subdued while the Pistachio beige leather seaters and larch wood inlays make for a more luxurious cabin. But as summer plays out with searing temperatures of 50 degrees, what makes the Audi Q3 look cool is the heat insulated cabin glass and a deluxe automatic air conditioning that takes the position of the sun and humidity into account!
There is a lot of practicality in choosing the Q3 as the official ride for a small family. The Q3 can be a self-assertive office drive or practical school runner by day. On a weekend jaunt – it’s a nice, comfortable affair as long as the family includes a couple of young children and not a couple of tall and hefty cousins. That’s because the ride comfort at the rear isn’t quite the same as the almost luxurious front seats.
However, the space scraped off the legroom at the back surfaces as a few useful ounces in the boot. Remarkably bigger than a hatch, the 460 L of boot space could take in our “mother of all prams” upright with room for still more, which is commendable. With folded seats, the space almost triples – 1365 sq ft for what I call “Ikea Fridays”.
Feeling solid rather than small, the Audi Q3 has a reassuring five star rating for passive crash safety by Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) including ISOFIX seats. While that is a brilliant deal-clincher for school runs, the compact Q3 can fit into parking lots that are no less than a quandary to many SUVs and, most mothers. To make matters simpler, the Audi Park Assist is also available, among a host of other Audi refinements.
Sizing up the Q3
Come to think of it, I have no issues of size or space with the new Audi Q3. If it weren’t this small, I guess it would be called the Audi Q 4.5 and the Q5 wasn’t going to like that anyway! The Q3 is a smart size – and to me that includes the size of the engine, the chassis, and even the boot space. If you rather overlook brand value in favour of value-for-frills, you could consider the top of the range Volkswagen Tiguan. But why the Q3 is going to be a success is because it is easier to park, easier to nudge from one lane to another, yet while enjoying some part of the comfort the Q5 could provide along with its sheer four-ringed road presence.
The essential Audi Q3
UPSIDE: Compact size, vantage driving position, Euro 5 safety, 5 year or 100,000km maintenance package
FLIPSIDE: Passive steering feel, rear passenger comfort moderate, pricey for the package
Drive courtesy: AVME