The 'new' Audi Q3 small SUV is a big improvement but...
Much better than its bland predeccesor, though extras can drive up cost
I'll turn an old adage slightly on its head this week, if I may. It is said that a picture paints a thousand words but, I believe there are words that can paint several scenarios, too.
Take the good old word 'but'. I find myself using it a lot as a sort of 'thought extender' - I just let the words in a sentence trail off after 'but...' so that people know I'm not convinced about something or they need to make up their own minds.
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Ah, it's a great word to paint a few scenarios is the old 'but'. And it perfectly sums up my attitude to, and overall verdict on, the heavily revised Audi Q3 which I've just been testing.
This is a sturdy-looking, chunky little number; a typically modern urban 'SUV'/crossover.
It needed this major overhaul because the previous generation, while technically competent, was dull, bland and boring. This benefits from a bit more room and luggage space.
There is a more eye-catching front and a new inside where the eye falls on the large centre screen (in my car's case, part of a 'virtual cockpit' which gives you different visual/viewing priorities) while softer, better quality materials make it what it should be: a premium small motor.
There is also a good spread of safety and driver-assistance systems which have filtered down from larger models. Some will be mandatory when new EU measures kick in from 2022 (in the case on my test car, some were costed as extras).
In the course of various drives, I took the Q3 for a late-night spin to Wexford. I like to take a few trips alone when testing; it gives me time to assess and acquaint, to vary driving speeds, styles, etc. And to think a bit about a car in its context (and things generally). I find little more refreshing than a good solo drive on decent roads in a good car with little traffic. It lets me tune into the drive-feel of the vehicle. In this case, I was impressed with how quiet and proficient the Q3 was.
But... it would want to be that good; it really would. Sturdy, smart and improved on many fronts it may be, but take a look at the price in the Facts&Figures panel of the version I had on test. That's mad money for a small crossover.
And they charge a whopping €1,000 extra for delivery and related charges. You'd want to be getting a lot from it for that sort of money.
In fairness to Audi, at least they show how much they are charging. I wish all makers would do the same. It's a grey, negotiable area and can cloud the overall cost of a car and/or the real price you are getting for your trade-in. I guess with the proliferation of PCPs, an extra €1,000 comes to little more than small change in repayments. But... to quote another updated adage: look after the cents and the euro will look after themselves.
More immediately, I was interested in trying out the 1.5-litre petrol version in this Q3 with its 7-spd dual-clutch transmission. Immensely quiet on long and short runs with barely a buzz right up to the 5,000rpm mark, it was as sweet as a nut. But... the gearbox was annoyingly slow to kick down when I wanted a squirt of acceleration. And the engine was noticeably heavier on fuel than what I'd expect from an equivalent diesel.
Nonetheless, I think a petrol power source is more in tune with the sort of driving this urban SUV is most likely to get. Who needs a diesel for 10,000km/15,000km a year? I'm not anti-diesel but the likes of this 150bhp model makes a particularly good case for petrol (regardless of my accelerative and MPG misgivings).
And so to my current hobby horse: parking. This fitted into small spaces with ease: from jammed suburban gatherings to tiny on-street slots. Its compact nature contributed to a lack of concern but so did the lack of major visual blocks from any of the pillars. It is a car I would be quite comfortable with in town, especially.
And it has a top-class driving position (a key reason for purchase) though I think the steering wheel (yes, even the flat-bottomed one) was too large and left less room for adjustment of seat/wheel than I'd have liked. That is a personal thing and one you should always take a lot of time to check out when buying.
So would I buy a Q3? Not for that price; nor for the absence of an indefinable 'wow' factor. It just never had me saying to myself that I'd love to have it. And it should for that sort of money. If it had just a bit more flair, it would be quite something.
Yet I can't just pass it up like that. This now has lots of good things going for it. There can be no 'ifs' or 'buts' about that.
Facts and figures
Audi Q3 compact SUV:
1.5-litre TSi petrol S-Tronic, S line, 150bhp, 5.8l/100km; tax €280.
Starts €38,600; car tested €53,712 ex-works. Standard spec: 19ins alloys, sports/semi-leather front seats, sports suspension, Drive Select, cruise control, roof rails.
Extras included: electric front seats, two-zone air con, virtual cockpit, phone box, privacy glass and Navigation Plus.