5 August 2012 by Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: Q3 2.0 TDI (177PS) quattro SE S tronic
Fuel economy combined: 47.9mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 8/10
The Audi Q3 2.0 TDI quattro is a very refined four-wheel drive SUV crossover that can achieve 47.9mpg, but has it got any of the original quattro genes?
• High quality interior
• Efficient and very refined
• Refinement has been prioritised to the expense of character
• Typical Audi styling, but bland, especially compared to an Evoque
In terms of Audi SUVs, first came the huge Q7, then the mid-size Q5, and now we have the smaller Q3. It’s a segment that is booming, and people who like Audis and the concept of compact crossovers will probably like the Q3.
Audi Q3 Design & Engineering
Audi has certainly achieved a consistent family style with its exterior styling. This is essentially a good thing, but it seems to have got to the stage where virtually all Audis look very similar – to the extent that it seems difficult for most people to tell the difference between a Q5 and a Q3.
Way back in 2001, Audi presented the Steppenwolf Concept. This looked like a three-door Audi TT estate with huge wheels and high ground clearance. It looked fantastic but Audi never got round to building it. Years later Land Rover presented the LRX Concept which was along similar lines to the Steppenwolf. Unlike Audi, Land Rover brought the concept to market virtually unchanged in the form of the Evoque, and it’s been a huge success. Compared to the Evoque, the Q3 looks bland. However the Evoque’s stand-out styling may not be for everyone, so presumably the Q3’s understated looks may appeal to a different market.
What you can’t argue with is the quality of Audi interiors, and the Q3 is no exception. Like the exterior, it’s restrained, but with high quality materials, and all the switches and controls work perfectly. The controls for the multimedia features are a slight exception to this, as you have to reach up to the dashboard rather than having a more accessible central ‘iDrive’-type controller positioned between the seats.
The Q3’s driving position should be fine for most people, however we did struggle to get a perfect set up – with the seat lowered, the steering wheel didn’t quite go low enough. As the Q3 is a compact crossover it has adequate interior space, but not as much boot space as a mid-size SUV.
In terms of the engineering, Audi established the reputation for its quattro four-wheel drive system in rallying in the 1980s, and it has traded successfully on this brand image ever since. The system is certainly effective for road-biased cars in slippery conditions. And that’s the task that the Q3 is aimed at, rather than being intended as a proper off-roader.
Audi Q3 Driving Experience
The average passenger would probably struggle to realise that the Audi Q3 2.0 TDI is a diesel rather than a petrol-powered car, as it is so smooth, quiet and refined under most driving conditions. In fact the whole car is so refined. This is a good thing, but it’s refined to the extent that character has been engineered out of the car and the driving experience.
This 177 PS Q3 2.0 TDI only comes with Audi’s S tronic 7-speed twin-clutch transmission – which is basically an automatic gearbox, with steering wheel-mounted paddles to allow you to change manually, although we doubt that many people would make the effort to do this. Leaving the ‘box in auto makes life easy in traffic jams, when the start-stop system also keeps down the emissions.
Gear changes are quick, but response isn’t instant if you want immediate acceleration from standstill or for overtaking at motorway speeds. It’s a shame that you can’t specify this engine with a manual gearbox.
This Q3 had Audi drive select, allowing the driver to choose one of three modes – comfort, auto or dynamic. These could be selected via a small button on the left hand side of the central console above the gearlever. This seems a relatively inaccessible place for such a selector, which would normally be in a more prominent location. Acceleration feels slow in comfort mode; dynamic mode gives a better throttle response from the 177 PS engine, and quicker gear changes. Audi drive select is only available in conjunction with dynamic steering, damper control and/or sport differential.
The Q3 has a comfortable ride, and the car’s body is generally kept well controlled through corners. However the focus is on the Q3 feeling stable and secure rather than offering the driver an agile chassis.
The Q3’s steering feels as refined as the rest of the car and well-weighted at motorway speeds, but somewhat light with little feel at lower speeds.
We test all 4×4 vehicles off-road, but not so with the Q3, as this car is so obviously intended to be more about the crossover image on-road than about genuine off-road ability. However the quattro four-wheel drive system does give the Q3 a surefooted feel on wet roads. It would also be effective in snow, especially with winter tyres.
The driving experience of the Audi Q3 makes quite a contrast to the recently-tested Subaru XV. Both are a very similar size, a similar price, and in terms of our press cars, a similar colour. However the driving experience couldn’t be more different – the Audi is much more refined, with a much higher quality interior, but the Subaru XV was more agile and fun to drive, and more interesting to look at.
Economy and Emissions
The Audi Q3 2.0 TDI (177PS) quattro SE S tronic has an official fuel economy figure of 47.9mpg, along with emissions of 156g/km CO2. For a premium quality 4×4, this is good. During our time with the car, with mixed driving, we averaged 42mpg.
As well as the 177PS there’s also a 140PS diesel. In quattro form, the 140PS TDI, with 6-speed transmission, has an official combined fuel economy of 49.6mpg and 149g/km CO2. This matches the four-wheel drive Range Rover Evoque – which we have proven to be highly effective off-road .
Price, Equipment and Model Range
As well as the two diesel engines, you can specify petrol engines for the Q3: 170 or 211PS units. There’s also the front-wheel drive diesel Q3 which has decent economy and emissions – 54.3mpg and 138g/km CO2 respectively.
Our Q3 was in SE specification, which means that as standard it came with 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, remote central locking, a leather-trimmed multi-functional steering wheel, MMI control, Bluetooth interface, CD player and an electronic parking brake. The Q3 also has good levels of safety equipment as standard.
The Audi Q3 is relatively expensive to start with – the base Q3 2.0 TDI quattro SE S tronic costs £27,650, but the options on our test car took the price to £40,045. Examples of these options were the Technology Package including HDD Satellite Navigation Plus (£1495), black alcantara/leather sport seats interior (£1195), Xenon light package (£1150), panoramic glass sunroof (£1100), electric front seats (£765), BOSE surround sound (£690), damper control (£680), 18-inch alloy wheels (£595) and Samoa orange paint (£525).
Audi Q3 Conclusion
The Audi Q3 should have everything going for it: Audi styling, high quality interior, efficient engine, four-wheel drive, quietness and refinement. All this adds up to an impressive package, and the Q3 is certainly a very nice place to be, but its high levels of refinement seem to be at the expense of character; it certainly doesn’t appear to have many of the genes of the original quattro. The Audi Q3 2.0 TDI quattro SE S tronic gets a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.
Car Facts and Figures
Audi Q3 Q3 2.0 TDI (177PS) quattro SE S tronic data
Fuel economy extra urban: 53.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 40.4 mpg
CO2 emissions: 156 g/km
Green rating: VED band G – £170 first year
Weight: 1585 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 25%
Insurance group: 21
Max speed: 132 mph
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
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