Our readers would know that we got to drive the Audi Q3 at the recently held Audi Q-drive event around Greater Noida. You would have also read how it performed off the road. Since I briefly got to sample the compact SUV on well-paved tarmac too, I thought it fitting to give our readers a quick impression of how this one behaves in the urban jungle because that is where you see such machines with their gleaming paint and impeccably clean alloys, and that is where the Q3 would spend most of its time as well.
This is a handsome vehicle people; so much so that it makes one of its direct competitors from the same continent look plain ugly. The Q3 is well-proportioned and carries just the right amount of virility and swoopiness. The derriere is beautiful with that sloping windscreen, and those long and shapely taillights that are integrated into the hatch.
The coupe-ish roofline adds to the sporty intent and the sharp crease that runs between the wheel arches and parallel to the running boards takes away the slab-sidedness typical of most SUV designs. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels come standard on the Q3 but I am not a fan of the wheel design; it might just be me though, and most would probably like it.
The Q3 measures a shade less than 4.4 meters in length and is some 250 millimeters shorter than the Q5. However, much to its elder sibling’s chagrin many would not be able to spot one from the other, especially from a distance.
When you step inside the Q3 the first thing that strikes you is the impeccable quality of the interiors. Then you take your time and try to find a loose end, but fail miserably – such is the level of Audi craftsmanship. It is generally easy to assume with the entry-level models that the manufacturer must have taken a short-cut somewhere. I am happy to report that it’s not true in the case of Q3. Audi very well understands what the customers have come to expect from the four-ringed brand and the company has ensured that there is no difference in the Q3’s interior quality when compared to the Q5 or even the Q7.
The Q3 has excellent ergonomics and so is the visibility all around. The seats are very comfortable, though sitting three adults at the rear would be a squeeze even for short distances. Treat this car as a strict four-seater and you won’t get a chance to complain about room at the rear. Still, a thin and short kid can certainly fit in the middle – I say short because the rear air-con vents curb the legroom for the middle occupant.
But, Audi deserves a pat on its back for providing a seat belt for the fifth passenger too. Plus, both the front seats come with a full range of electric adjustments, save for the ‘memory’ function. And despite that low roofline, even six-footers won’t find the headroom lacking. Of course, the Q3 comes with all the bells and whistles, such as dual-zone climate control and stuff, that you would expect in a vehicle of this class. I’ll leave that for the showroom salesperson to tell you.
Performance, ride and handling
The two-litre diesel in the Q3 is massaged by a variable geometry turbocharger to produce 177 bhp at 4,200 revs, while 380 Nm of torque comes in at just 1,750 rpm. Audi claims a 0-100 km/h time of 8.2 seconds, and I don’t doubt it one bit – the Q3 did feel quick. However, the turbo-lag in normal ‘D’ mode of the 7-speed S-tronic gearbox might leave you frustrated during those sudden overtaking maneuvers. The S mode is a whole lot better – it holds on to gears till the redline and the gearshifts become quicker and smoother too.
The light steering, a boon on congested roads, dampens things a bit when you want to have some fun. Still, the lively chassis and taut suspension make up for it. The Q3 displays fine road manners with excellent high speed stability and powerful anchoring ability. But, it’s a different story if roads are anything but perfect. You have no option other than slowing down on bad roads if you don’t want to see frowning faces of your in-laws in the rear view mirror. You get the idea, right?
I so want to take this vehicle to the hills and let that quattro make me look like a precision driver, but, as I had mentioned earlier too, an all-wheel drive system is also a boon on slippery roads where an FWD or an RWD vehicle would struggle for traction.
And mind you, the Q3’s quattro is a fairly simple one that employs a Haldex clutch (like in the Audi TT) and not a heavy duty Torsen setup, but you don’t really need the latter unless your main job is ferrying the likes of Animal Planet television crews in and around Jim Corbett during monsoons.
In a sticky situation, even the Q3’s basic quattro will shift power to the wheels with most traction without you even noticing any of it. Add to that an eager engine with excellent road manners, top-notch interiors, more-than-necessary features, a premium badge, and fuel efficiency of around 11-13 kmpl overall – I don’t see if there is any vehicle in this price range with all of the above attributes…