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Despite the Q3 being five years old, the company has managed to keep it fresh and relevant over the years. The car now comes with a 1.4-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol motor that makes 150hp. The engine is the same one you’d find under the hood of the A4 and the refreshed A3, but, it doesn’t feature cylinder-on-demand tech. The petrol car features a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox but is front-wheel drive only.
On the outside
This car has been mildly facelifted. What sets it apart is the redesigned front bumper that gets larger faux air inlets and a more generous dose of plastic cladding. It also features new streaks on the plastic door runners and 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps and LED tail-lamps with ‘dynamic indicators’ (that swipe in the direction of the turn you are indicating) are a standard across the range.
The cabin remains largely unchanged. It carries forward the same neat dashboard and generally user-friendly interior. Quality is up there with more expensive Audis. The seats are not real leather but leatherette, and they lend the cabin the ambience of a premium SUV. You sit reasonably high up in a Q3, the front seats are generous in size and support. The rear seat is spacious enough for two adults to sit relatively comfortably.
The 30TFSI and 30TDI can only be had in Premium trim, while the 35TDI is available in Premium Plus and Technology trim too. Even the Premium variants get goodies like a panoramic sunroof and electrically adjustable front seats. The Premium Plus trim doesn’t get more features but features richer aluminium-look inlays. The top-spec Technology variant is expensive but you get paddle shifters, SD card-based navigation, a reverse camera and a colour multi-info display in the instruments binnacle. The Q3 uses Audi’s MMI infotainment system but there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay support.
The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine continues from the earlier car but power is up four percent, taking the final figure to a stronger 184hp. This engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Also, this is the only version of this SUV that features Quattro all-wheel drive.
There’s also a lower 150hp 2.0 diesel that is front-wheel-drive only and slots in between the higher-powered diesel and the petrol. However, this one too features a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission; there’s no manual Q3 in this refreshed line-up.
From behind the wheelSo, what’s it like to drive. The 1.4 petrol is quiet, smooth and vibe-free in typical driving and very little noise filters into the cabin. The engine does tend to sound gravelly in the mid-range, but you’ll rarely hear it over the car’s music system. Performance is also good, even though 150hp doesn’t sound like much, you’ll rarely find the engine lacking in power. The mid-range is where the action is at, with the engine revving quite readily to its 6,000rpm limiter.
The quick-shifting six-speed gearbox helps bring out the best of the engine – the Q3 gets to 100kph in 9.37 seconds. It comes with four drive modes (including an Auto mode) that alter engine, gearbox and steering characteristics. We would have liked paddle shifters but using manual inputs via the gear lever add some spice to the driving experience.
Unfortunately, the petrol Q3’s steering doesn’t offer enough of a connect on the highway, it’s not so bad in the city though. And that’s a shame because the Q3 is an agile handler in general. We also found that the petrol Q3 doesn’t feel as sure-footed at high speeds as the diesel, which weighs about 100kg more.
The 35TDI makes four percent more power but from behind the wheel you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The engine remains punchy as ever and is a relatively quick-revving unit. Again, the quick shifting seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox remains ever on call to keep the engine spinning right where you’d want it to in the rev range. The car is marginally faster to 100kph (8.13s versus the old 35TDI’s 8.35s time). The Q3’s 2.0-litre diesel engine isn’t the quietest around. There is a bit of drone in the mid-range and the engine also tends to get a bit buzzy in the top end. But, this TDI unit is much less noisier than the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA’s diesels.
Bumps at low speeds are tackled well, but of the two Q3s, it’s the diesel that rides better. It’s more confidence inspiring at speed. The diesel also has the marginally more feelsome steering, but it’s still pretty devoid of feedback.
Is it worth the money?
If it’s a small luxury SUV that you desire, the Q3 is a great buy. The Q3 is a very well-rounded package - it looks smart, feels premium and performs well in both petrol and diesel guises.
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