We put the all-new 2020 Audi Q3 1.4L TFSI S-Tronic SUV through its paces
Dare I say it; cars were more individual back in the day.
Back then, vehicle development was more centralised. Yes, engines, electronics, and chassis components were still shared around – but the actual execution varied from model to model. Take the BMW 3 Series, 5 Series and 7 Series models of yore – yes, they would share engines, transmission components, and some fundamental chassis bits, but the bodies themselves varied widely in size, design, and construction.
The same is true even if it were a Honda, Mercedes-Benz or a Volkswagen (VW).
This oftentimes would create very unique driving characteristics and feel between them, which even to the most mundane of drivers is tangible and measurable. This is why the Honda Accord would drive differently to a Civic, and hence appeal to a different type of buyer requirements.
In this day and age – it's all about platform engineering. the latest generation of vehicle platforms is shared not just between models of one manufacturer, but perhaps across an entire manufacturer group.
MQB Based Volkswagen Atlas
Case in point is the era-defining Volkswagen MQB platform, which was developed (at considerable costs) for transverse-mounted engines, powering either the front or all four wheels. It is a technical tour-de-force in its own right, and finds its way under the bodies of approximately 48 different models under the VW Group - and there’s more coming!
Everything from the Audi A1, Skoda Octavia, VW Lamando of China, and the Audi Q3 you see here are based on the MQB platform. By massaging the platform – vis-à-vis, by making it wider, or longer – it can be made to underpin a variety of body styles and applications. But, has dynamic individuality gone with the advent of technology?
The second-generation Audi Q3 was introduced here in 2019 priced at just under RM270k for the singular 1.4L TFSI S Tronic variant. This meant we do not get the 2.0-litre TFSI (170 hp/280 Nm) variant which was offered here with the last generation car, for about the same price as the current one.
Power comes from the Volkswagen Group’s longstanding 1.4-litre turbocharged and direct-injected powerplant which delivers 147 hp and 250 Nm. The engine is mated to Audi’s S-Tronic (wet) dual-clutch six-speed automatic, which distributes power exclusively to the front wheels.
Measuring in at 4,484 mm in length, 1,849 mm in width, and 1,585 mm in height, the new Q3 is a sizeable 97 mm longer, 25 mm wider, but 23 mm lower than its predecessor. The wheelbase too, at 2,680mm is 77 mm longer this time around.
The Q3 exudes a rather unassuming yet sporty SUV silhouette. Dressed in its snazzy Pulse Orange colour; serves to highlight its chiselled edges – especially at the front, on the C-Pillar and the beltline.
Although there’s always that familial look to every Audi, it must be said that the Q3 does better this time around to differentiate itself from its larger Q5 brethren, cutting a far more sporty profile that its rounded predecessor, though one could also go up to the Q3 Sportback for the full coupe-SUV treatment.
Some notable aesthetic highlights include the Audi Singleframe grille at the front, which is flanked by LED headlights. The same LED light treatment is carried on the rear. Elsewhere, the Manhattan Grey coloured accents spice up the front, side and rear bumper sections – which are especially nice when contrasted against the bright orange paintwork.
The Q3 is supplied with 5-spoke 18-inch wheels wrapped in 235/55 R18 tyres all around.
The standout feature of the Q3’s interior is its expansive dashboard – in this case, equipped with a 10.1-inch central MMI Navigation Plus touchscreen linked to an MMI Touch system for driver inputs. Another 12.3-inch digital screen resides in the instrument cluster – dubbed the Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus, this configurable screen relays important driving data.
Working in tandem, the duo exudes a sublime high-tech look within the cabin. Which otherwise is simplistic in its approach. Especially when bathed in the myriad of ambient lighting colours, the inside of the Q3 is a superb place to be in, regardless if it’s a long journey or a short drive to the shops.
The seats themselves are wonderfully supportive and cossetting, and the steering wheel is placed just where you need it in terms of ergonomics. Familiar Audi interior build quality is felt everywhere from the tactile materials to the fit and finish of the various cabin components.
As far as the interior of the Q3 goes, there’s little to not like – I also especially liked the fact that I could individually ‘child-lock’ the rear doors depending on where my child was seating; yet another feature that is well-thought-out and executed.
As for boot space, the 530-litres available in the Q3 making it the largest and most usable in its class – beating what’s offered in the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 by 25 litres and 70 litres respectively. Hence, I had no issues placing my umbrella, foldable baby pram, a large suitcase, and the weeks’ worth of shopping at one go; the loading height and boot aperture are all up to par as well.
Within minutes of driving the Q3, everything just feels like home. Given the car’s interior ergonomics, good visibility, and relatively compact size – means it starts to wrap around your driving ability in pretty quick order. With easily judged body edges, and a superb camera system aiding your parking, it’s also easy to get the Q3 in and out of a mall carpark.
I have to confess, that I never drove the Q3 in anger, perhaps a further sign of greying hair and getting older is that I’m happy to meander around at 60 km/h within city limits. This does, however; gives one appreciation for the quietness and refinement of the Q3’s cabin space, surely a by-product of its build quality and body construction.
The few times I did push my foot down to overtake slower cars or when on a hill, the punchy 1.4-litre engine proved adequate and urgent enough. The S-Tronic gearbox works in perfect unison with the engine, giving it spritely acceleration, excellent highway speed cruising, and comfortable low-speed adjustability.
Further benefits to the pint-sized engine its the fuel economy, which returned a healthy 7.9-litres/100 km on the combined cycle, with most of my roughly 300 km driven, executed in the city.
To a certain extent, given the effectiveness of the powertrain, you almost didn’t miss the older 2.0-litre TFSI combo, simply because, while that powertrain had a meatier mid-range, the 1.4 litre’s eagerness still offers 90 percent of that power where you need it the most, between the 1,400 rpm and 3,200 rpm range.
But it must be said, that the Q3 is the least powerful in its class, with its closest competitors, the BMW X1 “20i” and Lexus UX 2.0L outputting 189 hp and 169 hp respectively – we don’t have to mention the Volvo XC40 here because its power output is in another league altogether.
Also note that the Q3 is the most expensive car in its class, which brings us to our original point of discussion.
While the Q3 is a sublime and immensely lovable SUV, the matter of its rivals brings up the question of exclusivity and individuality.
Exclusivity is assured, given the smaller number of new Audis on the road, you can be guaranteed of standing out from the rest of the pack when you’re driving in one of these. It’s a sharp-looking car, has a lovely interior and is superbly packaged.
Therefore, it will always look and feel more special than say an X1 or the upstart XC40 (whose popularity is rapidly rising these days) – that four-ringed logo on the front bonnet also commands a status premium.
The Lexus UX is a bit of a left-field competitor here, given it is not as big as the other cars within the segment and serves more as a lifestyle vehicle with the trappings of an SUV. The Mercedes-Benz GLA, while popular, is smaller and less practical than the Q3.
However, in the case of individuality, it just falls shy in this respect partially because of its cousin, shall we say... the Volkswagen Tiguan. For the most part, the Tiguan offers almost identical performance to the Q3 (the Q3 still has a marginally wider torque spread) and the same surefooted handling as the Q3.
Granted the interior, build quality, and overall execution is far more special in the Q3, but it still beckons the question is it worth the roughly RM100k more Audi asks for the Q3, over what VW ask for the Tiguan?
I suspect, to those who can afford it, this aspect will not matter, because it’s the price of entry into a more exclusive club. So exclusivity, yes, but individuality less so…but, after all, there is no right or wrong answer. Just if you have the pockets to match.