Audi Q3 2.0TDI 2012 Review

Audi Q3 2.0TDI 2012 Review

Audi’s Q3 is a compact ‘posh roader’ – a small SUV designed predominantly for a life of parking outside cafes and bars. It’s Audi’s contender against the Range Rover Evoque (read review) and BMW X1 (read review). Luxury brands seem to be shrinking their offerings to make them more available to the recently washed masses, so we tore up the city in this peppy diesel SUV.

If you remember the Q7 (read review) then you’ll know it was a monstrous vehicle that filled entire country roads and is basically just

too big and lumbering for the city. My business partner just bought a second hand one against my advice. Then came the Q5 (read review) which is a great car – much better proportions, great handling, well-appointed interior. I liked it. Now, the Q3, which is similar in size to VW’s Tiguan (read review) (albeit slightly wider), joins the family with a face straight from the corporate rulebook.

There are no surprises with the styling. It’s evidently an Audi right from the single-frame grille surrounding the four rings that are the focus of the nose, down its classy, conservative lines, and onto the wide tailgate which houses the entire rear lights cluster. It quite resembles a hatchback that’s been training with Belarussian shot putters as opposed to an SUV. The strategy might work, luring people from hatchbacks to premium SUVs. Whether this will just cannibalise A3 sales or bring in new business is anyone’s guess.

While it shares some of the componentry with the Tiguan it does use a higher proportion of more expensive, lighter, stronger steel. You might look at the Q3 and think, at more than $70,000, that it’s a little bit pricey compared to the Tiguan and even well-specified Japanese offerings like Mazda’s very competent CX-5 (read review). The things that make it this price are well hidden.

While the Tiguan drives well, the Audi is a notch up. It is memorably comfortable. The interior fit and finish is top notch. It’s very fast to 50kph once you get past that initial diesel-auto lag. This makes it seem extremely nippy around town. Its 1968cc turbodiesel makes 130kW and 380Nm and that’s good for 8.2 seconds to 100kph – respectable in car terms. The drive is via a 7-speed S Tronic gearbox that offers near seamless gear changes. It puts the power down through all four wheels and despite all the extra mechanical underpinnings required for that, still manages a combined (quoted) fuel economy of 5.9l/100km.

The heritage of the undercarriage is the VW Golf (read review) and that’s a car that has excellent dynamics. This shows through in the Q3. It was a pleasure to drive on a longer journey. The speed-sensitive steering was perhaps ridiculously light and easy around town, but weighted up better at open road speeds.

Off road is what you want four-wheel drive for, but we didn’t go there. A month of rain had made every field a bog (you can read my next story about getting a Toyota Avensis stuck to verify that). Also, the Q3 was fitted with the optional 18-inch wheels and road tyres which would have filled with mud instantly and become slicks. Despite having short overhangs your off-roading would be limited to gently undulating fields, and gravel and dirt roads because there’s not significantly more ground clearance than a car (170mm).

The Q3 comes with, what is now, the standard set of safety options on any premium vehicle: Anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, stability control, traction control, hill hold, plenty of airbags, automatic headlights and parking sensors (with visual feedback on the screen in the dashboard). With the four-wheel drive you also get an electronic diff lock.

The stereo supports mobile phone integration. The sound quality was perfectly adequate across all media. The stereo display is on the screen that pops up out of the dashboard. I can’t see a particular reason for this functionality – being able to fold the screen back into the dashboard. Why not just design the screen into the dash? The only other mildly annoying design feature is the clickable switches for adjusting the temperature on the dual climate control.

Even though the Q3 will seat five in comfort, the smaller boot will mean larger families may want to use a roof rack (rails are included as standard). That’s not to say the boot is particularly small – it’s bigger than an A3’s boot.  The sloping rear window cuts into the space you could cram extra holiday accoutrements into (and will cause tall rear passengers to bang their heads), but the boot is still a respectable size. There is a rigid boot blind/cargo shelf. This stays in place rather than lifting up when you raise the boot. This has its conveniences, but would be better if it didn’t. You can easily remove the shelf if it’s not required. The boot is 460 litres with the rear seats up and 1365 litres if you fold them flat.

The Q3 is a very convincing small SUV. Purists might say that the level of comfort and insulation from the road lacks engagement for the driver. Compared to the Range Rover, this is true, but I would rather drive the Q3 a long distance than the Range Rover or the BMW X1. The Range Rover Evoque is undoubtedly a cooler looking car and it’s well-appointed, too. But the styling on both the X1 and Evoque are polarizing. The Q3 has the advantage of being non-offensive. It will discretely sit back in the crowd while still giving you that Audi cachet.

Price: Base model $70,900; S Line $77,900. Our car had optional wheels and headlights.


  • Beautiful ride
  • Good build quality
  • Boot space reasonable


  • Lacks features for the price
  • Tall rear passengers will bang their heads
  • Steering is very light

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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