When we went to the launch of the new Audi Q3, we really liked it. Dynamically it had an awesome chassis, a good ride and seemed incredibly refined.

In that article, we mention how many excellent choices there are in the luxury small to medium SUV segment. Can the new Q3 hold its ground?

Audi New Zealand sent us a top-spec 45TSFI S-Line model for a week to see what we thought of it.

The Range

There’s three models in the Q3 range; 35TFSI Advanced ($60,900), 45TFSI Advanced ($74,900), and 45TFSI S-Line ($84,900).

The base model uses a 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol motor, putting out 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, with a 6-speed DSG automatic transmission. This model will get you to 100km/h in 9.2 seconds. It’s front-wheel drive, and according to Audi, uses 6.0 litres of fuel per 100km.

The two 45TFSI models use a 2-litre turbo petrol motor with a 7-speed DSG automatic, with the engine putting out 169kW of power and a massive (for the size of the car) 350Nm of torque. 0-100km/h in this model will take 6.3 seconds. Fuel economy should be 7.5L/100km and both models are all-wheel drive.

As far as standard equipment goes, there’s an electric park brake with Auto Hold, hill descent control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, Audi Active Lane Assist, cruise control, a tyre pressure monitoring system, power folding and heated mirrors, an electric tailgate, LED headlights, auto high beams, LED taillights, rear fog lamps, 18” alloy wheels, dual zone AC, keyless entry and start, an 8.8” touchscreen central display, wireless phone charging, a leather steering wheel, and ambient lighting.

The mid-spec 45TSFI adds slightly different wheels and the bigger engine and all-wheel-drive, and that’s it.

Moving to the top-spec S-Line model, this adds a 360-degree camera, Audi Side Assist, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, 19” alloys, a 10.1” touchscreen central display, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, power front seats, progressive steering, multi-colour ambient lighting, “Pulse” cloth and leatherette seats with “S” embossing, a centre rear armrest with a cup holders, and the S Line Interior package that includes front sports seats, stainless steel pedal cluster, aluminium S Line scuff plates, and black headlining.

Our test car had a few options;

  • 20” alloys in 5-V-spoke star design: $3,800
  • B & O Premium Sound System with 3D Sound: $2,300
  • Leatherette upholstery S line including front heated seats: $1,500
  • Dark tinted glass: $1,200

This pushed the as-tested price from $84,900 up to $93,900.

You can read more about the Q3 on Audi New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

Our test car looked superb finished in Cosmos Blue Metallic. Over my week with the car, I got a whole heap of comments from people on it, loving the shape and design, mainly because of the colour. Who said you had to buy a grey or silver Audi? Not me, that’s for sure.

It still feels so much bigger than the previous gen Q3, likely because it is. But Audi have done well in the design department; it’s unmistakably an Audi, but it looks different enough to stand alone in design. I like it.

Side on, there’s some intricate wheel design, as our test car was fitted with some optional 20” rims, costing $3,000. They looked great though, and I’d be hard pressed not to add those to my order.

One key indicator for a car’s design is when you get back to it in a car park – does it get your motor running just to look at it? For the 2020 Q3, it does. Again, it’d have to be in this Cosmos Blue Metallic or the even more stunning Pulse Orange, but overall the design is very appealing.

The Interior

Argh I’m so over interiors that are all black, and so it is with the Q3. It just feels so dark and small when everything is black. Those models that have beige headlining and pillars have it all over cars like the Q3 S-Line – everything seems lighter and brighter.

Anyway, enough about black. Otherwise, the Q3 interior is a great place to be, and after 800km driving in a week, it’s a perfect interior for the daily drive too. Finish is excellent, and was a stand out for me. There wasn’t a line or a join that wasn’t spot on. Being the S-Line model, there’s a flat bottom steering wheel, and it’s on the extreme end of flat, as you can see in the photos.

There’s a nice mixture of textures in the Q3, with very little hard plastic to be seen or felt. It feels and looks classy, and is perfectly in line with the target buyer. There’s some piano black finish on the dash to add a bit more class, and opening the doors you will find some illuminated S-Line scuff plates that look pretty cool at night.

Rear legroom room is reasonable, as is headroom. There’s a highish boot floor, with some shallow storage on top of the space saver spare. The cargo space itself is excellent, at 530 litres with the seats up. The rear seats slide forward up to 150mm, potentially giving you more space in the boot.

The Drive

During the launch, I loved the chassis of the Q3. It seemed to be spot on – good ride, excellent cornering and general handling. It was hard to fault it.

Well, after a week, my thoughts are the same. It handles beautifully, and that included a drive 3-up out to Castle Point and back, almost 300km. The road there (and back) has varying corners and surfaces, and these are a good indicator on a car’s chassis dynamics. The Q3 does that road very well, soaking up the bumpy corners, giving good steering feedback, and generally nailing every corner. After 800km over a week, I still found it hard to fault.

The ride has to be mentioned again, as it’s one of the Q3’s strong points. Mind you, that was after stepping out of the Ford Fiesta ST, which rides pretty hard. But still, the Q3 is right up there with ride quality.

With AWD, you’d expect grip to be excellent, and it is. Full-throttle acceleration will see a little loss of traction, and then you’re propelled forward. And as you’d also expect, it’s a boon in the corners, giving the driver confidence, with very little understeer to be felt. The car’s a good size for those tighter roads too, small enough to punt about quickly, yet there’s a reasonable amount of room.

That’s not to take anything away from that 2-litre turbo. It loves to tootle around town, just cruising about with no stress. But plant your foot – especially in Dynamic mode – and it will take off with a lot of verve. There’s plenty of torque, so it is happy to simply idle around town in a higher gear. 100km/h will come up in 6.3 seconds if you try hard enough. It’s a great engine/7-speed transmission combo, although keep in mind it is a DSG automatic, so it can be a little jerky off the mark, and at low speeds.

The engine simply isn’t jerky. It’s silky smooth, and oh-so quiet. Well, until you hit around 5,000rpm, then there’s a nice growl as it winds out to the redline at 7,000. It’s a fantastic engine, end of story.

What about when you aren’t taking it out to the redline? Still brilliant. As mentioned, it loves to be a Daily Driver and really, this is where it excels. It’s a great all-rounder, and there’s little things that really work if this is your commuter/run-around car.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is as brilliant as ever, enabling you to make (for example) the almost 3D Google Map take up the entire display in front of the driver, by hitting the View button on the steering wheel. The clarity of the maps is incredible, and have to be seen to be believed. That’s not to say you lose lots of other info when you have the maps (or whatever it is you have on the screen) in full view mode. You will always still get your speed, RPM, audio track/station, current speed limit, fuel range and current gear. That’s pretty cool.

I also like that when using SatNav, you get your turn-by-turn instructions inside the centre of the speedo – nicely-sized arrows and directions. If you aren’t using Satnav, then this reverts to a digital speedo. It could be a whole lot larger but it’s still very usable, especially since there’s no heads-up display, which is a weird omission in this price bracket and the fact that this is the top-spec model.

Other brownie points in the day-to-day drive include the brake Auto Hold function that comes back on with the car, adaptive cruise control that will bring you to a stop (and start again with a tap of the gas pedal), a high-definition reversing camera, and blind spot monitoring (BSM). A shame that BSM is on the body of the mirror instead of on the mirror glass, but I’m sure you’d get used to it.

The central display (Audi calls their infotainment system MMI) is high definition too, and puts a lot of other displays to shame in its quality. The MMI system itself is a piece of cake to use, and is always quick to respond to touch.

There’s a few things that keep the Q3 from perfection. Getting into the back seat is a little tight, as the rear doors could do with opening wider. Still in the rear, the cup holders in the centre armrest are quite shallow, and anything taller than a short coffee cup has a tendency to fall over on any corner. There’s not a single rear USB port or even a 12-volt socket for rear passengers, which feels like another weird omission.

Up front, you can’t close the electric tailgate from the driver’s seat, without getting the remote out of your pocket. This might seem like a small thing, but other cars do this, so it’s another one of those strange things where you might wonder what they were thinking.

As always, I’m a fan of adaptive cruise control, especially in traffic jams. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get the Q3’s to slow down or speed up properly. It would only do 10km/h increments, but sometimes, I could get it to do only 5km/h, but I have no idea how I did that. I tried long lifts of the cruise control stalk, and then a slow lift, but 90% of the time it would move up 10km/h. The way around it was to manually increase the car’s speed and then hit ‘set’ but that was a bit painful.

On the plus side of things, the adaptive cruise was extremely smooth in operation, one of the best I’ve had for a while. Too many cars can get jerky when braking or accelerating, but the Q3 took all conditions and traffic in its stride, and nailed it.

The (optional)  leather seats are extremely comfortable, front or rear. There’s leather centres with suede outers, so they look good too. The leather perforated steering wheel feels superb in your hands, and you quickly get used to the severe flat-bottomness of it.

Our test car had the B&O Premium Sound System option, with 3D sound, and it was certainly worth it. Checking under the boot floor sees a huge bass speaker inside of the space saver spare, and you can really crank that bass up. It is a $2,300 option though, but it had great clarity across the whole range, and like the wheels, I’d want this option too.

I didn’t manage to do any sort of light off-roading in the car, but there’s a good amount of drive modes to choose from; Off Road, Efficient, Dynamic, Comfort, Auto, or Individual (customisable). I left it in Auto most of the time, and this seemed like the perfect option.

You’d think a 2-litre turbo petrol engine is going to be a gas-guzzler, but that wasn’t really the case. Over my 800km of driving, the Q3 gave me 8.6L/100km of 95 octane fuel, which I thought was bordering on excellent, for the performance at hand. Audi suggests a combined rating of 7.5, so I wasn’t far off that.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorquekW/NmCargo capacity, litres0-100km/hFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Porsche Macan AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol185/370 4884.88.9$105,900
Lexus NX300 Limited AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol175/350 NA7.17.9$95,200
Jaguar E-PACE R-Dynamic SE AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol220/400 5776.48.0$89,900
Mercedes-Benz GLC200 RWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol145/320N/A7.37.8$88,600
Audi Q3 45TFSI S Line AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol169/3505306.37.5$84,900
BMW X1 sDrive20i xLine AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol141/280 5057.66.5$70,700

The Pros and Cons

ProsCons
A refined SUV
General NVH
Performance
Ride quality
Handling/grip/chassis
Engine smoothness, torque
(optional) sound system
Price/features 
Tailgate operation
Cruise control operation
DSG transmission can be jerky at low speeds

The Verdict

You can see from my review that I really enjoyed driving the Q3 45TFSI S-Line. And I did – as a driver’s car, it does a lot of things right. It’s a superb Daily Driver, as well as being safe and fun on twisty back roads.

But I still struggle with the price. Okay, we’ve tested the top-spec model, but you have to go to the top-spec model to get things like adaptive cruise control. That should be standard across all Q3s. And for your $84,900, the seats are a cloth/leatherette mix – you have to option up to get full leatherette seating – and only then are they heated up front.

On our comparison chart it rates quite well but add in those extras our test car has, and all of a sudden it’s in the top three (for price) instead of the bottom two.

Will that matter to Audi buyers? Doubtful, and who can blame them. The 2020 Audi Q3 TFSI is a fun and refined driving machine, end of story.

drivelife-car-review-chevrons-four-and-half

2020 Audi Q3 45TFSI
4.5 Chevrons

Vehicle Type5-door small-medium SUV
Starting Price$84,900
Price as Tested$93,900
Engine2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol
Transmission7-speed, DSG S Tronic automatic
Power, TorquekW/Nm169/350
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,495
Length x Width x Height, mm4484x1849x1616
Cargo Capacity, litres530/1,525
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 7.5
Real World Test – combined – 8.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel tank capacity, litres60
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750/2100
Turning circle, metres11.8
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 years/150,000km5 years/150,000 Roadside Assist
Audi Motoring Plan, 3 years/150,000km
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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