The Audi Q3 has gone from small SUV to something far more capable and upmarket than its segment positioning in Singapore suggests
Text & Photos: Derryn Wong
SINGAPORE – The term ‘mission creep’ is used to describe a military situation that starts off with one small thing and ends up with an utterly huge fubar conclusion.
The Vietnam War is a great example, as the Americans are particularly prone to mission creep. However in the case of the Audi Q3, the bit about becoming larger and taking on more responsibilities surely does apply, but in a wholly positive way.
We drove the Audi Q3 in Germany last year and found it rather impressive – it’s larger, tech-ier, much nicer on the inside as well, but the S$160k+ question is, as always, how much of that would translate to Singapore?
Walk up to the Q3 bleary-eyed and you’d almost swear it was the Q8 – the car’s much larger coupe-SUV brother which has a price tag more than double the Q3’s.
That’s not just because of the Pulse Orange paintwork and the huge ‘singleframe’ grille and gill-like LED headlights, but also due to the fact that the Q3 is much, much larger – it’s 96mm longer, 18mm wider, and five mm shorter, with a long 77mm stretch to its wheelbase, ringing in at 4,484mm long, 1,849mm wide, 1,585mm tall, and a 2,680mm wheelbase.
Good news, since the Q3 was always smaller than its rivals and is now slightly larger than the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA in size – although the just-announced new GLA has already grown larger, what’d we say about creeping?
But what matters is that the Q3 appears a much larger, and more expensive car than it looks, and this experience is doubled on the inside of the car as well.
A fully digital instrument panel is now de rigeur in luxury cars, even ones as small as the A1 Sportback, so it’s no surprise to see it in the Q3. Audi says this is the newest iteration, the Virtual Cockpit Plus, which has three unique layouts (Dynamic, Classic and Sport). They don’t make a huge difference, but that’s also because the default layout was already excellent, and one of our favorites amongst luxury cars.
WATCH MORE: Here is Audi Singapore’s official walkthrough video of the new Q3 featuring two people whom you will not recognise AT ALL.
The Audi Touch MMI system is actually a little easier to use than it is on larger Audis like the A6, ironically, since it lacks the haptic ‘wiggle’ and you don’t need to press as hard. You can disable this in the bigger cars though, but it’s one honestly a complication you don’t need.
In the Q3, the screen seems to protrude out toward the driver more, in any case it being a smaller car, you don’t need to reach forward as much to use it, in contrast to the Audi A4’s screen which is still perched atop the dashboard, a legacy of the old rotary MMI system.
Geriatric bitching about touchscreens aside, the cabin delivers a lovely ‘Big Audi’ experience with top-notch materials, new ambient lights, and useful storage areas, though one notable omission is wireless device charging. A very useful 360-degree camera helps offset the Q3’s size gain, it makes parking a total doddle.
Along with the new cabin comes Audi Connect Plus, an improved version of Audi’s Internet-enabled suite of services – we explain what it does in this intro video that Audi produced.
The second row is where the lifestyle bonuses really come in. Unlike the first-gen Q3, which felt like a high-riding small hatch, there’s plenty of room in the back to accommodate three adults, there is an AC vent and even side-stowage pockets.
The second row also moves fore and aft, and the backrest angle is adjustable as well.
That means the boot space is flexible – at its smallest it’s still a considerable 530-litres – a very considerable 215-litres more than before – shove the second row forward and you get 675-litres, flip them down and you have 1,525-litres. Pretty impressive when you consider the larger Q5 only has 550- to 1550-litres.
Our German test drive was of the 1.5-litre turbo model, that has the newer VW Group engine which has cylinder deactivation technology.
Singapore receives the 1.4-litre turbo version, which continues with the 1,395cc inline four which the previous Q3 1.4 used – the power and torque specs are identical. A surprising omission here is a coasting mode. There are Audi Drive Select modes, but only including Comfort, Dynamic, Offroad, and lack an efficiency mode which is typically when coasting is activated.
There’s no real cause for concern though, since the same specs are almost spot-on with the 1.5-litre – 150hp, 250Nm – and the efficiency figure is effectively identical, 6.0L/100km for the 1.4, versus 5.8L/100km for the 1.5. In fact, the 1.4 is quicker to accelerate – 0-100km/h in 8.9 seconds against 92. seconds for the 1.5 – and certainly does feel sprightly in traffic, when you’re in a rush or overtaking people who drive at 15km/h in the middle of a three-lane carriageway when it’s raining.
The handling is excellent, it doesn’t urge you to carve corners, but never feels like it comes up short when the driver wants to push it. There is a little of the SUV-judder, where the suspension feels slightly stiff at the initial point of travel, translating into shudder over smaller bumps. It’s the only major point of contention in an otherwise comfortable, easy-to-manage driving experience and the Q3 has an out since the X1 and Tiguan both behave the same way too.
There are three variants of the Q3 on sale here, all with the same 1.4-litre engine.
The two more expensive models are the Advanced and S Line. The Advanced goes for S$177,800 with COE. The S Line model is the most expensive, it gives you body-coloured bumpers and the S Line bodykit, but at a considerable S$182,800 with COE.
The model tested here is the one we recommend putting your money on: It’s the standard model, which costs S$168,800 with COE.
It has all the features and equipment of the other two, but with slightly different contrast-coloured fenders – black, instead of gray on the Advanced – and black matt grille slats. In other words, there are no meaningful additions for the costlier models, other than visuals. Even the wheel sizes are the same – 18-inches – though with different designs.
As the Q3’s repertoire and capabilities have expanded considerably, the small-mid luxury SUV segment itself has too. Mercedes will have the new and much expanded GLA (above), and the very spacious seven-seat GLB in 2020.
BMW’s facelifted X1 – above – has just hit the streets here – read our international test drive of it here, and our local review will be up shortly. The least expensive X1 goes for S$171,888 with COE, so the Q3 has a tiny price advantage here.
But there’s one thing that joins the Q3 and its rivals – they all creep into their bigger brothers’ domains. Who needs a big SUV when a small one will do? Same goes for sedans – a 3 Series can easily take the place of a 5 Series, and is easier to park. Singapore is a tough place to own a car to begin with – car-lite is sort of a war on cars, if you think about it.
By mission creeping, the Audi Q3 shows how to get by with less, without missing out on anything at all.