2020 Audi Q3 35 TFSI S-Line
– Bubbly styling with S-Line kit
– Rides and drives acceptably
– Premium yet frugal
– Expensive when kitted up
– Lacks some basic luxuries
– Not particularly quick
There was a time when only Land Rover and Jeep were the exclusive makers of SUVs. Nowadays, every other brand is transitioning to an SUV-heavy line-up, as cars lose flavour among millennials. One of those brands is Audi, whose crossover-SUV line ranges from the Q2 all the way up to Q8, with the Q3 making up the pseudo-niche between sub-compact and compact crossovers.
Looking sporty and blue, our conservatively-attractive test car is kitted with the S-Line package and 19-inch wheels, appearing to be sort of like those rally-tuned hot hatches. The Q3 has moved on to VW’s Golf-derived “MQB” platform, and now features a more upright body style compared to the old one with the more-sloping rear window, probably because there is also a new Q3 Sportback model now that features said sloping window. The regular Q3 has a nose similar to the popular Q8, aside from generally edgier styling.
Inside, the all-new interior features more design edgy cues from the Q8, with a massive sea of black that hides the big touchscreen when the car is turned off, surrounded by metallic trim that apes the front grille. All upper trim consists of a firm soft-touch material, while below-the-chest areas are extensively hard plastic, as is the norm in this “premium” segment. There is still a stolid ambience about it, which is something Audi has perfected since the 1990s.
There’s plenty of space up front, with fancier S-Line sports seats offering comfortable bolstering and extensive adjustability. And in the back, there’s more space than before, although tall passengers may still feel cramped. The new body style also frees up more boot volume, adding up to 530 litres. In our S-Line version, a sliding second-row bench lets you expand that to 675 litres without putting down the split-folding (and reclining) seat-backs.
Available tech features include a full-LED exterior and interior lighting, full-LCD gauge cluster, “MMI” touchscreen with voice control, USB & USB-C ports up front as well as two USB ports in the back, decent dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, lane-departure prevention, smart keyless entry and start and basic cruise control. Some features were skipped in our test car though, such as a wireless charger, adaptive cruise, navigation and a panoramic roof.
For the asking price, the engine is a bit underwhelming though, at least on paper. The Q3 has a “35” badge on its tailgate, which is an arbitrary number that denotes the engine power relative to the hierarchy of Audi’s engine offerings. The 1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder offers up 150 hp and 250 Nm of torque. Mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox with paddle-shifters and front-wheel-drive, it’s not quite the powerhouse that its looks promised. With a 0-100 kph time of 9.4 seconds and a frugal as-tested fuel consumption of 8.6 litres/100 km (11.6 km/litre), it’s clear what this Q3’s aim is.
The turbo motor has a very juicy low-end kick, so it feels rather quick about town, only needing to be revved hard when you’re trying to speed up to overtake a truck. The gearbox is generally fine in regular cruising, but you may prefer to be in “Sport” mode for better responses to your accelerator inputs. Also, there is an obvious throttle lag when moving off from idle, so you have to compensate for that when jumping into free-flowing junctions.
The Q3 drives well, with limited body roll and a responsive chassis, although it by no means is going to be chasing hot hatches, as it understeers early and progressively. Grip is still pretty good, given its 235/60 tyres and lack of all-wheel-drive. The steering is well-weighted and accurate, but offers no feedback. The brakes work well with linear pedal action. Most mid-priced Audis are boring to drive, but this one is small so it offers up a bit of harmless fun when you push it.
Although it rides a little firmly, it handles most road surfaces with competent composure. It is quiet enough, which is to say, it’s not luxury-car quiet. Road noise starts becoming noticeable at highway speeds. With parking sensors and a rear camera, it’s also enough to pootle around in cramped city streets.
Fairly refined, sprightly enough and economical on fuel, the Audi Q3 35 TFSI’s only real issue is its lack of luxuries for the asking price. However, it is well within the average prices that its rivals are going for as well, so there seems to be a market for little tall cars with premium badges, even if it is a relatively small niche in the Middle East.
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