By Kevin Harrison
While I consider myself to be a fairly non-closeted fan of European cars, I have to admit, I’ve gone a bit back and forth when it comes to Audi. It has nothing to do with the product which obviously speaks for itself (hi Audi R8), but I’ve always struggled a little bit when it comes to value.
The problem is Audi is owned by Volkswagen and while there’s nothing wrong with that (diesel scandal aside), it does make you question purchasing an Audi product over a Volkswagen in the same way where someone might question paying extra for a Lincoln over a Ford; is it really worth the extra money?
BMW doesn’t have this problem since the Mini brand rarely shares much with the BMW brand save for perhaps font colours of the infotainment screen and maybe door handles. It’s the same with Mercedes-Benz where there isn’t much if any relation with the smart brand.
But sometimes when I get into Audis I get the feeling that it may just be a tarted up VW. And that’s especially true when it comes to performance. Even though they have completely different body styles, how many times have you heard someone debate whether they’d take a Golf R over an S3 for example?
While Volkswagen doesn’t necessarily have a compact sport utility vehicle in our market, it could be fair to compare the closest thing, the Tiguan, to the smallest CUV in Audi’s lineup especially since the Tiguan is among the smallest in the segment it competes in.
Audi’s biggest problem is that the more mainstream Volkswagen already incorporates premium looking and feeling interiors. But Audi tends to have the advantage in terms of style and performance more often than note. The question is, would you buy a Q3 over a Tiguan?
While Audi has been criticized in the past for making its model look a little too alike, to the point of making them indiscernible from one another, they have actually succeeded in making the Q3 appear a bit more unique. In fact, there isn’t really too many CUV’s on the road that have the bulging grille matched with rectangular headlights, short roof with the sloped rear hatch. And if you’re following a 2016 model year Q3 from behind, you’ll be able to distinguish it from its big bro, the Q5, as soon as it turns on its signal indicator which now features sequential turn signals. That’s right, the Mustang isn’t the only game in town to feature them anymore. Other changes for 2016 include a re-worked front grille and headlights.With all that said, the Q3’s looks simply are not my cup of tea. It’s side profile is a bit chunky and egg-like, though the optional 20-inch wheels look fantastic. However, there’s a downside to having those too, which I’ll get to in a moment. However, when considering it’s rivals, the BMW X1 which has been described is too ugly and wagon-like, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA, which has been described as s squished hatchback, the Q3 plays the part in looking a lot more premium.
Inside you’ll fine a typical, high quality well-appointed Audi interior. The problem is, it’s almost too conservatively German to the point of looking a bit drab. While it’s flat-bottom steering wheel gives it a modern sporty feel, the dials for the climate control which emit clicking noises look and feel a bit dated. Thankfully, the infotainment screen rises up from the dash which gives the Q3 a bit of modernity back and it will certainly generate lots of Oooh’s and aah’s from passengers.
If interior space is what you’re after, keep shopping. Interior headroom is fine, but it is certainly tight quarters all around. Leg room is definitely a squeeze for rear seat passengers and the cargo area will perfectly fit a large laundry basket and that’s about it. Of course, you get more room with the seats folded, but if you plan on using the Q3 to haul people more often than stuff, then there could be a problem.
Under the hood
If you’re looking for a V6, you won’t find one under the hood. Instead there’s a turbocharged 4-cylinder that just cracks the 200 horsepower mark. A decade ago that would have been considered ample performance numbers but today, only 200 horses in an Audi product seems sluggish.
Thankfully, it can’t quite be described as sluggish as the 207 pound feet of torque kicks in a mid-range, but it does cause a bit of second guessing in terms of passing on the highway or even getting off the line.
On the road
The good news is while you’re on the highway, the Q3 feels typically German with a solid planted feel. I mentioned those 20-inch rims though, and while they are gorgeous, you’d be well advised to skip them. While sitting on low-profile winter tires, you do feel the majority of imperfections on the road to the point where passengers will notice, as many of mine throughout the week with the Q3 did. Don’t take this to mean that the ride is unbearable, in fact personally, I don’t mind a bit of a choppy ride in the name of performance, but when non-car people notice, you know it’s not insignificant.
Given its small size and low-ish stance, the Q3 rewards with exceptional handling abilities in the bends. Unfortunately the lackluster power can throw a bit of a peg in the proverbial wheels, but you can certainly balance that out by switching to ‘S’ mode which hangs on to the revs a bit longer.
During my time with the Q3 we did end up having a bit of unexpected weather in the form of the dreaded white stuff but this gave me the opportunity to try out Audi’s famous Quattro all-wheel drive system. The end result? Well let’s just say Quattro is famous for a reason. Even with those fat 20 inch wheels the Q3 performed excellently.
While scooting around town the Q3’s small stature comes in handy, especially in parking lots, though the wide turning radius does take some getting used to.
Fuel consumption numbers are officially rated at 12.0 L/100 kms city and 8.2 L/100 kms highway. My real world mixed driving resulted in 10.2 L/100 kms, which isn’t too bad, but considering the Q3 requires premium gas, that could potentially have more of a hit to your pocketbook than you anticipated. And considering a big reason why people are interested in compact SUV’s in the first place is better fuel economy, that’s certainly something that should be taken into consideration.
So, would you take this over a loaded Tiguan? I honestly don’t see why you would. And perhaps more to the point, I don’t know why you would take this over a mid-trim Q5. It has Quattro standard, more space, more conventional looks, and is likely to hold it’s value better. Does that mean the Q3 has no place in this world? Of course not. The non-premium compact luxury segment is on fire and it isn’t a stretch to say that the premium segment is following suit. People who have always wanted an Audi are likely the target demographic. It introduces them to the brand and Audi hopes it’ll retain them when it comes to upgrade. But if it were my money, skip the prestige of the four rings and get yourself a Tiguan.
Base Price: $34,300
Price As Tested (includes fees): $49,845
- Surprisingly zippy 4-cylinder
- Easy manoeuvrability
- Fit and finish you’d expect from Audi
- Gorgeous 20-inch rims
- Those 20-inch rims produce a harsh ride
- Small interior
- Not the most fugal for a 4-cylinder
- Q5 looks decidedly better
- BMW X1
- Mercedes-Benz GLA
- Lincoln MC