What are you driving?
This is the new Audi Q3. and it's a far, far better car than the old one. The previous Audi Q3 was built on a hodgepodge of old VW Golf bits and pieces, was pointlessly cramped in the back and boot, and only average to drive. Even the fast RSQ3 version wasn't much to write home about, and basically, the whole car felt like a stop-gap, waiting for a properly sorted model to come along.
Well, that day has come. The new Q3 ditches the old MkV Golf bits, and instead uses the now-ubiquitous Volkswagen Group MQB chassis and component set. That means it's more modern in its engine, chassis and electronic makeup. Crucially it's also much more spacious inside and in the boot, so it slots more neatly in the gap in the range between the Audi Q2 and the Q5.
Name its best bits
Well, it looks good for a start. I mean, you kind of expect that from Audi these days, but the old Q3 wasn't much of a looker. Aside from a grille that can appear to be a bit too big from some angles, the new Q3 is rather handsome. Its styling is square-shouldered and solid, with a touch of the same neat surfacing work down the sides that you'll also find on the Q2.
Better still is the cabin. It's way more spacious than the old one, so at last you can have a Q3 into the rear of which actual, real adults can fit. You can even carry their luggage or their shopping now too, as the boot is larger. Slide those back seats forward a bit and you can stow up to 530 litres out the back, but at no point in our time with the Q3 did we ever find the square, well-shaped boot to be any less useful in its reduced, seats-back, form. This is now a practical family car.
It also has the de rigueur attractive Audi cabin. Can we take the fact that it has excellent, milled-from-a-billet quality as you'd expect of an Audi, for granted? We can? Good, then we can move on.
The Q3 has a touch of the style that you'll find in the larger, more expensive Audi A6, A7, A8 and Q8 models in that it has a huge central touchscreen, angled towards the driver, in the middle of the dash, and a set of (optional) all-digital 'Virtual Cockpit' instruments behind the wheel. What's missing? The lower-deck touchscreen, as seen in the larger cars, is absent here, but that's actually a good thing. With physical, real buttons to control such things as the radio volume and the heating and air conditioning, the Q3's cabin is so much easier to find your way around. Screens are not always the correct answer, you see.
The good news is that, on top of the general levels of attractiveness and tidy cabin layout, the Q3 is also rather pleasant to drive. It's not, perhaps, excessively sporty - the steering is too light and too remote in its operation for that - but it is actually quite fine to chuck about. It probably feels best in and around town, where the (relatively) compact dimensions and (relatively) high seating position and the excellent visibility mean that you find yourself carving insouciantly through traffic. On a country road (take me home, to the places that I know), it feels planted and sure-footed, and a definite improvement (again) on the old one. There's a pleasingly sophisticated feel to the whole thing, backed up by a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, with 150hp (badged as 35 TFSI in Audi's current, confusing, nomenclature) that is very refined and smooth.
Anything that bugs you?
Refined and smooth it may be, but the Q3 is the first time we've found that the 1.5 TFSI engine can feel underpowered. It's not desperately slow, but neither is it quick, and that's exacerbated by a tendency to feel very sluggish at step-off around town, when the engine (and/or the S tronic dual-clutch gearbox) feels rather lethargic at low rpm. It's not just turbo lag - it's something we've noticed (more acutely) in Audi's recent diesel-powered S tronic models, and we suspect it's to do with the engines being turned down to a very low setting at idle to try and keep the car's emissions and fuel consumption ratings as low as possible.
Other issues? Too much tyre noise at motorway speeds (a continuing bugbear of any car running on the MQB platform); a ride quality that's a little too firm, too often (typical Audi S line model...); and a radio volume knob that's set too low down and too far away. Oh, and it's expensive - inclusive of options, our car cost almost €55,000, which is *checks notes* lots.
And why have you given it this rating?
The new Audi Q3 doesn't quite give a flawless performance, but it does give a pretty polished one, and one that we think many of you will appreciate. Its visual qualities stand out immediately, it's decent to drive, practical, and very likeable.
What do the rest of the team think?
Please, please, please: if you're buying a new Audi Q3, please go for a bright colour such as the 'Turbo Blue' shown here. The new design really works well in such hues and can be lost if you try to be too subtle with paint colour. That aside, I agree with what Neil said on the lack of low-down oomph from the usually brilliant 1.5-litre TFSI petrol engine. It's fine when up to speed and the car is, in general very refined. Existing Q3 owners trading up will be pleasantly surprised by how much extra space they have inside and in the boot. Well, they will be if they take their eyes and hands off the swanky new dashboard that is...
Shane O' Donoghue - Editor
You can't really compare this new Q3 to the old one, such is the degree of change. For it to really stand out you'll need to tick several options boxes and choose the right colour. As for the drive, its very refined, though I found the (whisper it) diesel engine delivered the most complete package.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor