The second-generation Audi Q3 takes a huge leap forward from its predecessor, blending modern design, high levels of in-car technology and a new range of engines in a chassis that is even more refined to drive.
In the metal
From the moment you clap eyes on it, the Audi Q3 has all the right attributes you would expect from a premium brand SUV. It is in line with the larger models in the range, such as the Audi Q5 and Q8, and it looks especially good in the sportier S line specification tested here. Just as importantly, it easily matches the kerbside appeal of similarly stylish rivals, such as the Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40.
Get the measuring tape out, and you'll discover that this second-generation Audi Q3 is longer than the previous model by 97mm, with the wheelbase stretching by 78mm to the benefit of passenger space. It's a little wider too, by 18mm, but should still easily fit into car parks. The bigger jump comes in boot space, which is now 530 litres thanks to the car's new design and rear suspension layout that sees the coil springs and dampers mounted separately. The rear seat bench can also slide forward by up to 150mm to boost luggage space to 675 litres. Those rear seats feature a 40/20/40 split and, when all folded down, the total cargo volume is 1,525 litres.
As welcome as the added space is inside for passengers, the design of the interior is what will grab your attention. A 10.25-inch digital display replaces the traditional analogue instrument cluster for a start. Not only is it impressive to look at, but it also future-proofs the design as this type of setup is sure to become the norm over time.
Like in Audi's larger cars, the aim is to reduce the number of physical buttons inside the vehicle by utilising larger touchscreen displays. All Q3s feature a 10.1-inch screen in the centre of the dashboard angled slightly towards the driver and set flush into its surround, so when it's off, it looks like one glossy black panel. The screen itself is nice to use and reacts quickly to inputs. Our only criticism of it is that the positioning of it is low down, requiring you to take your eyes a little further from the road if you need to use it while driving. The removal of a rotary controller for the new infotainment system will be missed by some, but the upside is that there is more free space between the front seats. There are still physical controls for the climate system and you can have a wireless charging pad for your smartphone.
The quality of the materials inside is good, especially if you choose to add some of the optional trim pieces like contrasting Alcantara on the dashboard. Go searching and you will still find some hard plastics, but even these materials lack that hollow scratchy sound you'll often find in other cars.
For those in the rear there is a good sense of roominess, helped with decent shoulder- and headroom. As the Q3 is available with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, the chunky transmission tunnel compromises foot space for those sitting in the middle rear seat, as in most competitor SUVs.
There are two things that you notice as soon as you start driving the Audi Q3. Firstly, the body control as you take corners is excellent. Audi offers three different suspension setups across the Q3 range; we drove each type and found them all good in their own respects. Entry-grade models get a standard passive setup while the S line versions, such as the one we're driving here, get a firmer variant of that setup. It isn't stiff to the point of being jarring, but if you decide to drive with more vigour, it is more than capable of dealing with what's thrown at it. An optional adaptive damper setup is available, too, and that links in with the Drive Select system to alter its settings according to the drive mode selected, but we don't feel it dramatically improves the chassis.
Secondly, the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, badged as '35 TFSI', is sweet to drive. It's most suited to tackling urban and city commutes. Not only is it smooth, it feels reasonably brisk in this type of car too. It's best packaged with the seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission. If you want the quattro all-wheel-drive system, you will need to upgrade to the more powerful 190hp '40 TFSI' model. We'd also recommend that option if you tend to drive the car fully laden with passengers or traversing hillier terrain, as in these scenarios the 1.5-litre engine can start to feel a bit breathless.
On more open roads it seems to get up to speed more quickly than the performance figures would suggest, and it happily cruises along at motorway pace with minimal road noise resonating through the cabin. The 35 TFSI engine gets Audi's Cylinder-on-Demand (COD) technology that shuts off the second and third cylinders when driving on part-throttle. You don't notice it happening, and the moment you begin to apply more throttle all four cylinders fire. It's a useful system that, when driven economically, should help extend the car's range between fill-ups.
For a small SUV, the Audi Q3 drives with a reasonable degree of accuracy. It feels agile on winding roads, too. As with most Audi models, the steering is light to the touch, only firming up in the Dynamic mode. Nonetheless, it is easy to place on the road and is comfortable to drive over long distances.
What you get for your money
We're awaiting the full breakdown of pricing and specification grades from Audi Ireland. Once it confirms these, we will update this section and assign a score.
Standard Q3 models are expected to feature 18-inch alloy wheels, 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit display, 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, rear parking sensors, an electrically operated rear hatch, aluminium roof rails and cruise control with a speed limiter function.
The S line models get a sportier look and are likely to wear 19-inch alloy wheels. A different styling kit for the grille, bumpers and sills further differentiate it. In addition to the Sport suspension, inside there are several S line details, such as aluminium inlays, 'S' embossed front sports seats and a three-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel with 'S' badging.
Far from lacking in style or substance, the 2019 Audi Q3 packs a distinctly premium punch in the small SUV segment. If you're looking for a car with plenty of tech inside, useful practicality, good driver assistance features and bags of appeal, the Q3 could be right up your street.