Few cars better exemplify Australians’ hunger for small SUVs than the Audi Q3, which left Audi Australia facing a bit of a predicament when the last-gen model sold out far too quickly before this new model could come along, which wasn’t until the end of 2019, leaving a 12 month gap in sales as a result.
This new model is finally here, however, and to see whether or not it’s worth being bought up as much by Aussies the same way they’re buying up toilet paper and packets of pasta right now, I grabbed the keys to the Launch Edition variant to find out.
Only the regular 35 TFSI model and this kitted-up 35 TFSI Launch Edition variant are available in the regular Q3 range here in Australia currently – if you’re after more pep, you’ll have to go to the recently-launched coupe-like Q3 Sportback which does offer the more potent 40 TFSI drivetrain as an option – but with this being an entry-level drivetrain, it thankfully has a not-too-hefty price tag as a result.
Starting at $46,400 for the base model and stretching up to $52,750 for the Launch Edition on test here, while some will look on the downside and compare that price tag to that of many range-topping models from mainstream brands, I think that it’s actually a very fair price that isn’t entirely out of reach for the average person.
While it may only pack entry-level power, it has more than enough in the way of range-topping features, with leather-appointed upholstery throughout, heated front seats with power adjustment and lumbar support, configurable ambient interior lighting, a smaller 10.25-inch version of Audi’s brilliant virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with MMI navigation plus and wireless Apple CarPlay, a 360-degree camera, a 10 speaker audio system, a wireless phone charger, and a powered tailgate all included as standard for the Launch Edition model, meaning there’s no need for checking option boxes here.
The other thing that helps it live up to its premium price point is the undeniably premium feel that its interior exudes. It’s one of those things that’s difficult to convey in a review, but when you sit inside the Q3, it simply feels a step above practically its mainstream equivalents when it comes to its crisp and modern design, and the top-notch fit and finish throughout.
For a car that is on the smaller side by SUV standards, it’s remarkably roomy inside, too, with plenty of rear legroom even with the front seats in a position that comfortably accommodates my 6’2″ frame. The seating both front and rear is excellently supportive and perfectly comfortable, although when it comes to cushioning it will appeal more to those who like their mattress on the firmer side.
The boot is perfectly capacious, too, and there’s plenty in the way of interior storage – even if pockets on the front seat-backs are strangely absent – thanks to its large door pockets and additional little trays beside the outboard rear seats.
I should also add that not only is the slick interior design very attractive, but the exterior of the new Q3 looks fittingly good-looking, particularly in the vibrant Pulse Orange finish of my tester, although the fake exhaust outlets in the rear bumper are an unfortunate smear on an otherwise great-looking car.
Under the bonnet of 35 TFSI variants like this you’ll find a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder which is the same as what you’d find in a Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI among other VW Group vehicles.
Making 110kW from 5000-6000rpm and 250kW across a low 1500-3500rpm plateau, that power is sent to the front wheels alone through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission that’s a quick-thinker and forever compliant.
While certainly no powerhouse, the Q3’s small size and the little engine’s ultra-usable low-end torque means that it feels more spritely than you might expect based off the seemingly sluggish 0-100km/h claim of just 9.3 seconds.
If anything, the Q3 drives like an enlarged hatch rather than an unwieldy school-run bus. It turns into bends confidently, the steering rack commanding the front wheels with a light but direct feel, and it remains fairly flat through the bends thanks to the suspension being a little on the firmer side, but not so much so that it spoils the ride quality.
But while it’s certainly been tuned with smooth German roads in mind, it still handles the tree-root-ruined Aussie backroads I test every car I get my hands on fairly well. Less impressive, though, was the road noise on coarse-chip surfaces, although I would suspect that the Hankook rubber may be to blame more so than the car itself.
If there’s one criticism I do have, however, it’s that Australia is still stuck with the older 1.4-litre engine and not the equally powerful but newer and more economical 1.5-litre unit fitted to European models, which also brings with it a seven-speed transmission.
While the new engine would have brought the Q3’s fuel usage down from a claimed 7.3L/100km – although it had actually used 7.9L/100km after my 700km behind the wheel – to just 5.9L/100km, its petrol particulate filter rules it out for us Aussies due to our high-sulphur fuel. A shame, given just how much that dreadful fuel usually costs us.
Even with a dated engine though, it’s a well-rounded package, this new Q3, and honestly leaves fairly little to be desired. It’s feature-laden without the need for expensive optional extras, has a smartly-designed interior, looks the part, and is more-than-pleasant to drive. And, if more power is what you’re after, you should be able to get a five-pot RS Q3 here in both regular and Sportback flavours by the year’s end, with more normal all-wheel drive models also set to land here later this year.
Sure, the price tag might put it on par with something more logical like a range-topping Mazda CX-5 or Toyota RAV4, and even a well-spec’d Tiguan, but for those people to which kerb appeal matters more than anything else, it’s certainly one of the more affordable ways to park a premium motor on your drive, and one that’s a great car at the end of the day, too.
2020 Audi Q3 35 TFSI Launch Edition List Price: $52,750
Pros: Crisp and modern design inside and out, excellent interior technology, steers confidently and feels pokier than you’d expect
Cons: We’re stuck with a dated drivetrain here in Oz, no pockets on the front seat-backs, more road noise than you’d like at times
In a nutshell: A range-topping mainstream SUV might be a more logical purchase, but the Q3 does offer a lot for the price tag it commands, not least in the way of kerb appeal.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Audi Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author. Additionally, our good friends at MPF Detailing gave it a complimentary Express Detail prior to our photoshoot.