ROAD TEST

A month with Audi’s SUV middle-child

The Q3 is a good fit, but more engine choices would be nice

10 January 2020 - 09:06
By Brenwin Naidu
Many young families shopping in the premium, medium sport-utility vehicle space are going to find a good fit in the Q3.
Image: Waldo Swiegers Many young families shopping in the premium, medium sport-utility vehicle space are going to find a good fit in the Q3.

We must start this piece by surveying the size distinctions in the Audi sport-utility vehicle range. The Q8 might wear the biggest number, but it is in fact smaller than the Q7, which is the largest of the lot lengthways. The Q5 is the next notch down, an upper-medium-sized offering. Which brings us to the Q3: decidedly medium and a rung up on the ladder from the compact Q2.

It performs commendably from a sales perspective, in the Audi context anyway. In November 2019, after its August launch, 70 units were sold for the month. The Q5 tallied 73 and 37 units of the Q2 were sold. There were (appropriately) eight models of the Q8 finding owners. And 21 Q7 specimens were accounted for. December figures were not yet released at the time of writing.

So the middle-child holds notable importance for the brand in SA. An especially relevant pick, then, as the subject of an evaluation over the last month. On December 14 last year we accepted a Q3 35 TFSI Advanced S-Tronic into our test garage, finished in a shade dubbed Florett Silver by its makers.

The Sports Package option on the order form (R31,900) had been ticked, affording it a noticeably edgier appearance. That was owed to the 19-inch rollers with a 20-spoke V-pattern – before we forget, the Black Styling Package (R7,500) was also included – bringing those trinkets promised on the tin. It looked spiffy.

And despite initial concerns, those larger alloys did not bring a significant trade-off with ride quality or pothole-shrugging ability. The latter is a major concern over the rainy season, as many will attest.

Over our travels, comprising mostly open freeway, town driving and two sessions on gravel, the Q3 upheld the positive expectations created by our experiences with the contemporary Audi crop. Or any product underpinned by that laudable MQB architecture, for that matter.

The fuzzy Alcantara strips across the fascia had us petting the car like a beloved spaniel. The Technology Package (R33,500) throws in the virtual cockpit instrument panel and the touchscreen MMI system with extended navigation.
Image: Waldo Swiegers The fuzzy Alcantara strips across the fascia had us petting the car like a beloved spaniel. The Technology Package (R33,500) throws in the virtual cockpit instrument panel and the touchscreen MMI system with extended navigation.

The earlier-mentioned Sports Package brings interesting additions inside, too. Such as the flat bottom-edged steering wheel, echoing hints of the RS division and seats with a more defined outline, offering better lateral support. Not that our driving style once necessitated being gripped by the bolsters.

See, the engine choice in this model does a disservice to what is otherwise a well-polished product. It is the familiar 1395cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged unit (110kW and 250Nm) in service across the Volkswagen Group. It is the power source motivating the Golf that has been in our custodianship since April last year. In a vehicle of such weight, it is sprightly enough.

But in a heavier car, one is left wanting. The interval of lag before getting off the line was also a disappointment. Worse still, the six-speed, dual-clutch automatic is partial to lingering longer than seemingly necessary before shifting up. This is particularly noticeable trundling in urban conditions.

I opted for tipping the lever forward manually in most instances to spare my fuel consumption. That figure itself was not all that great it must be said, with an average of 9.5l/100km over 2,230km. A diesel option would be more flattering to the Q3.

A special mention should be given to the design of the cabin – the design of the latest Q3 in general has done much to remedy the blobby character of old. The hexagonal themes of the interior are pretty interesting to note.

The fuzzy Alcantara strips across the fascia had us petting the car like a beloved spaniel. The Technology Package (R33,500) throws in the virtual cockpit instrument panel and the touchscreen MMI system with extended navigation. It is a set-up that is slick in operation, an example of digitisation done right.

You would have gathered from all these costs in parentheses that the additional kit does not come cheap. In fact, the base price of our car (R585,000) was inflated by R188,450 after being laden with extras. Being judicious with that options catalogue would be recommended. Many young families shopping in the premium, medium sport-utility vehicle space are going to find a good fit in the Q3. A diversified engine range will make the proposition even more enticing.