The new DS3, customise every feature to suit your style
When Audi launched its now medium-sized Q5 around three years ago we called it a “slimmed-down, easier-to-manoeuvre SUV that feels more like a car” than the much bigger, older and more expensive Q7.
So what does that make the new Q3 then?
Audi calls the Q3 a premium compact SUV, which sums it up.
As its badge implies it’s like the A3 of the SUV world, falling below the A4 and so on. Likewise, where the Q5 is based loosely on the A4, the Q3 actually gets VW’s Tiguan (and some Golf 6) underpinnings. The Tiguan’s quite a small, almost crossover type vehicle – if that offers any perspective on the Q3’s size. It’s also a direct rival to BMW’s X1; but you knew that already.
And, just as the X1 is to the Mini, the Q3’s the perfect vehicle to lure customers currently in the Golf bracket up and into the popular high-riding SUV category. There’s a base 2-litre TDI model that comes in front-wheel drive only for those that have convinced themselves that a little extra ground clearance is an absolute must in treacherous suburbia (otherwise an A3 Sportback would do nicely), but when you move up into range-toppers like the model on test here – a GTI-motored 155kW version – you get quattro all-wheel drive included as standard.
IS QUATTRO NECESSARY?
To be fair though, I feel that the quattro drivetrain in the Q3 was developed mainly for markets in the northern hemisphere where snow and ice would really make it come in handy. Here in SA it’s a bit wasted, as I’m willing to bet the front-wheel drive Q3 could go almost just as far into the bush as this one. Even without kneeling down you can see the chassis rails hanging lowly, which would prohibit any real adventurous offroading. These same rails got our test Tiguan stuck when we attempted to traverse a beach in Mozambique a few months ago.
Given the Tiguan DNA, however, and as Audi’s press literature repeatedly points out, the Q3 is a relatively light vehicle. An aluminium bonnet and tailgate, along with plenty other specially designed components see it tipping the scales at under 1.5 tons, and that’s pretty good for any SUV. As a city dweller that’ll undoubtedly spend most of its life cruising boulevards, this is a quality that comes in handy and I’m impressed with its car-like (read A3 Sportback) on-road demeanour.
Of course, the 155kW/300Nm GTI engine helps infinitely in this department, but still I like the fleet-footed feel combined with its high-up driving position – almost enough to talk me out of the most equivalent A3 Sportback (which costs R105 000 less) but not quite. Audi quotes 0-100km/h times of 6.9 seconds to the still respectable 8 secs we achieved at Gauteng altitude. It also claims an average fuel consumption of 7.7l/100km to our 10.2.
I’m equally impressed with the Q3’s ride quality even with this model’s big 18” wheels. The wheel and tyre combination is still low profile enough to give the car a nice look and stance, and there’s just enough rubber to cushion over bumps. I’d imagine lower model lines’ 17” ones feel even better.
Body roll is also hardly worth mentioning. Most modern sporty SUVs have overcome this old-school trait, but sometimes at the cost of comfort. Not so here. The Q3 can take a bend and a pothole at the same time.
One of my biggest disappointments with the Q3 is its anonymity. There are no identifying features inside or out, and while I know some appreciate a blandly flavoured car over a loudly garish one, a “premium” vehicle should have at least one item to set it apart from the rest. The Q3’s metalwork is quite typically a present day jelly mould Audi, and the same can be said for the interior.
That said, present day Audi interiors are lessons in quality and this one’s just as good.
You have probably noticed how many times the A3 Sportback came up in this road test. And it’s no accident. To be honest I hardly ever venture off the beaten path, and I know there are plenty who do.
But it’s still difficult to justify the cost of this Q3 (at R467 000) versus its biggest competitor: its own sibling the A3 Sportback.
Unless you really need that couple of centimetres of extra ground clearance. -Star Motoring
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