Lots of equipment and tech, practical, striking to look at
The powertrains, screens and materials aren't as polished as Audi's norm
What is it?
There are times when Audi, to great fanfare, brings out an all-new car and you look at it or even drive it and go "new, huh, really?" This is not one of those times.
The second generation Q3's body is bigger by 10cm, better-proportioned and a lot roomier than before. It had to grow really, just to open up a gap between it and the Q2, which arrived late in the old Q3's life and rendered it largely redundant.
Besides, since the first Q3 launched, the whole 'compact premium crossover class' has become very much a thing, and has coalesced around a fairly fixed size band and mechanical layout. See the BMW X1, Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace. Also funnelled into the same template are the Lexus UX and second generations of the Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes GLA. Hardly any of those existed when the first Q3 was born.
So what’s new?
For the new Q3, another variation of Audi's scary-goth LED eye make-up sits outboard of a socking great eight-sided grille frame and more angular front 'intakes' (most are actually blanks). The body's metalwork is fashioned into a set of sharp creases, amped up further by a dose of Ur-Quattro in the front and rear wings. It's German, so of course the base wheels, in this case 18s, look weedy and you'll want to step up an inch.
Inside, the infotainment moves to a touchscreen. No more dials for the driver: every model has the 'Virtual Cockpit' TFT screen.
But it’s been Volkswagen-ified underneath, hasn’t it?
Under the body, another sea-change. To absolutely nobody's surprise, it now uses the VW Group's MQB platform. It's the same wheelbase as the VW Tiguan. Top Gear asked the project chief if there were any fundamental chassis differences between the two. He was candid. "None. Well… the wheels."
That said, the Audi feels surprisingly more nimble than the VW, on account of its different set-up: springs, dampers, bushes and so on. And also because you sit 4cm lower in the Audi.
Tell me about the engines.
In keeping with the times there are more petrol engines than diesels. In fact just one diesel, the familiar 2.0 TDI with 148bhp or 197bhp. The petrols are the 1.5-litre with up to 148bhp, or 2.0-litre power with 187 or 242bhp. A plug-in hybrid option reached the line-up in 2021: this matches the top-spec quattros for power by combining a 1.4-litre petrol with an electric motor.
All the 2.0-litre ones have quattro. But many Q3s will be used entirely for gentle suburban bimbling, as opposed to actual sport-utiliting (look, it's a word ’cos we say it's a word). So, for obvious reasons the base petrol engine comes with front-drive.
And I’m guessing the badges all make sense?
Ha! Audi's new engine-output badges have been introduced to the Q3. So the lower-power engines are called 35 TFSI and 35 TDI, the 187bhp petrol is 40 TFSI, and the 242bhp petrol is 45 TFSI. The plug-in hybrid uses the same badge, but gains an ‘e’ to differentiate its hybridiness. Audi provided us with a page-long document laying out this new scheme. But nowhere did it say how they came up with those numbers, or more saliently, why.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Crossovers this size are pretty much default family cars these days, and even the premium ones can't just airily swerve the banal question of practicality. Sure enough the Q3 does fine on room and versatility. It's well-equipped too, and even reasonably generous in its pricing. You don't expect that in an Audi.
Its chassis is competitive, and perhaps more agile than most rivals. But still unengaging to steer, which is situation normal for an Audi. Rivals, bar the Jaguar E-Pace, have the same trouble.
Still, you can usually trust Audi to do a superb infotainment interface, unimpeachable cabin quality, and refined powertrains. To a greater or lesser extent the Q3 has fumbled all those three.