The first impression of the new Audi Q3 2018 is something of an identity crisis – design-wise, it can only be described as a hybrid between an SUV and a hatchback.
As a model that’s only seven years in the making, it’s not surprising to see manufacturers still scratching their heads as to what category to place the brand new Audi Q3 into – what results is a new Q3 that’s passable on both tarmac and off-road, but isn’t quite earth-shattering in either regard.
So, what of this apparent Audi Q3 facelift?
It all began back in 2015 when the ever-stylish range was upgraded with a new nose and tail.
This time around, the new Q3 features boosted equipment levels, and it’s likely that there will be more choice outside of the traditional powertrain in the months or years to come.
Keep your eyes peeled for an e-tron variant – with Audi having announced the prototype for its first electric car back in August 2018, we’re sure it won’t be long before the technology is rolled out across the whole fleet.
In 2017, the front end was tweaked once again to emulate the style of the considerably larger Q7, while a 1.4 TFSI version was announced.
Available in a range of models, from the 1.4 with and without S Tronic through to the 2 litre versions with and without, this crossover SUV serves as a main rival to the BMW X1 or even the Volvo XC40.
It’s no longer the smallest Audi in the range, an accolade which was taken by the rather dinky Audi Q2 back in 2016.
The most environmentally-friendly Audi Q3 engine goes to the 2 litre TDI Sport 5dr, hitting 62 mph in 9.6 seconds and producing 117g of carbon per kilometre.
Like the 1.4 FSI Sport 5dr, this version boasts 150 BHP and does not exceed £30,000. If you’re looking for something a bit meaner – just not greener – go for the comparatively eye-wateringly priced 2 litre TDI Quattro Black Edition 5dr S Tronic.
It’ll get you up to 62 mph in just 7.9 seconds with its 188 BHP, but it’ll set you back close to £40,000 and produces 144g or carbon per kilometre.
There’s even the option to upgrade to the RS Q3 version, with a 335 BHP petrol five-cylinder motor, or 362 BHP if you opt for the performance pack.
Alongside its immense power potential, it still maintains the luxurious exterior that Audi is known for, with a price tag to match. So what is it like on the inside?
When it comes to size, you may find the Q3 being compared with the Mercedes GLA.
A plush interior is nestled inside a half hatchback/half SUV that’s 4,388mm in length (just 29mm shorter than the GLA), 2,019mm in width and 1,608mm in height.
Other Audi Q3 details include a total boot space of 420 litres, with the models ranging in weight from 1,385kg to 1,585kg.
Though the interior boot space isn’t the most generous with the seats up – the BMW X1 offers 505 litres, for example – fold the seats down and it’s a whole different story.
If two of you are travelling with a lifetime’s worth of luggage, then the comparative 1,325 litres of luggage space in this setting fits the bill.
If you are more wary of passengers, then they’ll be glad of the extra legroom – there’s more than the A3, though when it comes to headroom, taller passengers may have to crouch as a result of a sloping rear end design.
Of course, over in the front cabin, there’s considerably more space. There’s plenty of headroom, which is characteristic of former versions.
Despite the aforementioned facelift, little has changed on the inside in terms of design. Surprisingly, it’s as roomy as the larger Q5, but this is largely down to inefficient design in the latter – the engine goes lengthways in a Q5, whereas in the Q3 the engine is mounted across the engine bay.
What results is an efficient, if not predictable, set of infotainment systems and in-car controls. The MMI cabin control system is the same as that of the A1 supermini, which means it lacks the somewhat more up-to-date finish of the A3.
Of course, older often equates to simplicity, which is certainly the case with the on-board controls here.
There’s the pop-up comms and entertainment screen plus shortcut buttons underneath the air vents, conveniently placed next to the identikit rotary controller for use with a multitude of functions.
Every model comes with climate control, a phone and iPod interface and start/stop technology.
The satellite navigation system can be optionally upgraded from the ‘silent’ GPS to the fully built-in navigation with full bells and whistles.
The 6.5-inch screen is simple to navigate without distracting too much from the road, with Bluetooth connections for playing your own media.
In sportier models, vanity-conscious drivers can opt for the Audi S-line logo embossed on the front sports seats, or Alcantara seats in the RS Q3 Performance version.
We can’t help thinking these may look a little out of place alongside the relatively simple in-car technology, however.
Outside of a thorough inspection of the driver cabin, the real Audi Q3 test would be on the road – or indeed, a local corn field.
With the selection of different engines available, it’s ultimately up to you what you find more desirable – a more powerful, race-inspired turbo boost with the RS Q3, or a more refined 1.4.
The former can feel a little strained when accelerating hard, but equally, the petrol version does not provide as effortless a ride.
If you’re just out for a comfortable cruise, we’d recommend putting the Driver Select panel into normal mode, with many more modes on offer including sport, which certainly provides a responsive thrust into high-powered acceleration, but not without an unsettlingly heavy feel to the steering as a result.
Thanks to the ample 1,608mm height and headroom, there’s all the great visibility of an SUV combined with the agility of a hatchback.
Aided by a strong grip on the road, it’s agile and graceful, which means it lends itself far better to tarmac than off-road.
Electric power steering makes cornering a piece of cake, though some may argue that there’s something of a reduced sensation between one’s hands and the front wheels.
Unfortunately, despite its fantastic handling, at low speeds the Audi Q3 suffers.
While the additional suspension height might make for great visibility, the trade-off is a clunkier feel over speed bumps or other off-road obstacles, so if you want a comfortable off-roader, you’d be advised to look elsewhere.
Choice is the operative word with this classy crossover – with a selection of colours and engines, drivers can choose from as little as a 148 BHP right through to the 335 BHP version.
This translates as top speeds of 126mph to 136mph – 20 miles short of the A3, but enough the land a few penalty points nonetheless.
Aesthetics are also key – the Audi Q3 colours have even made their way into the branding, with the ‘Black Edition’ featuring among other models.
Everything about the Audi Q3 images oozes class, particularly when one browses through the colour palette of ‘Glacier White Metallic’ and ‘Utopia Blue Metallic’. We’ll ignore the connotations of the Cortina White.
As a versatile Coupe-esque SUV that claims to offer an “eye-catching crossover that suits families, city dwellers and adventurers alike”, it’s only fair that the Q3 would come with a typical Audi asking price.
It starts at £27,915, peaking at £38,215 – and that’s not accounting for the extras. Some of these may be a little superfluous, for example the S line chassis which simply makes driving too much of a struggle.
Others are more vanity-conscious such as the LED interior light pack, but we would recommend the adaptive dampers if comfort is your main goal.
So when is the new Audi Q3 coming out? The release date for the initial models has been tipped as November 2018, while we’re holding out for electric versions in the fullness of time.
There’s more than enough on offer for now – with the twin-clutch S Tronic automatic and the six-speed manual available, there’s plenty of fun to be had.
Audi may be trying to turn the confusion of its hatchback/SUV identity crisis into a positive, but in reality, versatility does make the Q3 something of a jack of all trades rather than the market leader in any field.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. There are upgrades available and its new-fangled design for 2018 does have its advantages over other larger models such as the A3.
For a middle of the road SUV that impresses when it needs to, we’d recommend the Q3. It’s a safe option, after all.