The next Q3 han­dles well for an SUV and will bring more ver­sa­til­ity to the badge

AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JOHN CAREY

Be­cause it’s plain and porky-look­ing, the Q3 re­ally stands out in Audi’s cur­rent cat­a­logue. More re­cent mod­els from the Ger­man brand — the Q7 SUV, A4 sedan, A5 coupe and TT sports car — are all at­trac­tive. And all of them are among the most ca­pa­ble cars in their classes. The seven-year old Q3 isn’t. It has a too-small cargo bay and a not-roomye­nough rear seat, and isn’t nearly as good to drive as its price tags prom­ise.

This will change in the mid­dle of 2019. That’s when the se­cond gen­er­a­tion Q3 goes on sale in Aus­tralia. Audi has pre­sented the new Q3 to in­ter­na­tional me­dia in north­ern Italy and it brings big im­prove­ments.

Audi has en­larged its small SUV, stretch­ing its length by al­most 100mm and adding nearly 20mm of width. The in­crease in rear-seat roomi­ness is sig­nif­i­cant. Be­hind the rear seats’ 40-20-40 split-fold­ing back­rest is a much larger lug­gage com­part­ment with a clever floor height ad­just­ment fea­ture.

But wait, there’s more. The rear seat slides fore and aft, eas­ily al­ter­ing the ra­tio of pas­sen­ger space to cargo ca­pac­ity.

These mea­sures make the new Q3 a much more use­ful and ver­sa­tile ve­hi­cle than the car it will re­place next year.

Gone, too, are the dumpy, frumpy looks. The new model’s sharply creased ex­te­rior pan­els add some flair to an over­all shape that’s bet­ter pro­por­tioned and more mus­cu­lar look­ing. The new Q3 will look right at home among other mod­els wear­ing the four-ring badge.

If the out­side is good, the in­te­rior de­sign is even bet­ter. The lay­ered and stepped dash de­sign de­lib­er­ately echoes the vis­ual themes of the ex­te­rior. Its cen­tre­piece is a lus­ciously hi-res touch screen sur­rounded by an alu­minium frame that mim­ics the style of the Q3’s grille.

For cost rea­sons, the glass touch­screen lacks the fin­ger­tip feed­back that’s a fea­ture of Audi’s top-end lux­ury mod­els. Still, it adds a real touch of upmarket class to the new Q3. And be­cause the Audi’s on-screen menus can do so much, there are few phys­i­cal but­tons and switches to clut­ter the in­stru­ment panel’s clean look.

The screen and the cen­tre con­sole below it are an­gled 10 de­grees to­wards the driver. This is a car that fo­cuses on the driver in other ways, too. The wide range of ad­just­ment in its com­fort­able and sup­port­ive seats means all sizes should be able to find a per­fect driv­ing po­si­tion. The Q3’s rel­a­tively slim wind­screen pil­lars bring bet­ter-than-av­er­age for­ward vi­sion.

The new Q3 uses the same car-con­struc­tion build­ing blocks as many other mod­els from the gi­ant Volk­swa­gen Group. Known in­side the

AUDI Q3 35 TFSI PRICE $45,000 (est)

WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km

SAFETY Not yet rated

EN­GINE

1.5-litre 4-cylin­der turbo, 110kW/250Nm

THIRST Not yet cer­ti­fied

0-100KM/H 9.2 secs

com­pany as MQB, it’s a set of com­po­nents — sus­pen­sion, steer­ing, brakes, en­gines, trans­mis­sions and more — that pro­vides a sound foun­da­tion for above-av­er­age cars.

MQB does its thing again in the new Q3. The Audi’s re­fine­ment is truly out­stand­ing. This is a quiet and al­most vibe-free ve­hi­cle. Its sus­pen­sion is calm and ca­pa­ble, smooth­ing out bumps with im­pres­sive ef­fi­ciency.

And for an SUV, its han­dling isn’t bad at all. The Q3’s height rules out sports car re­sponses but it dis­plays real tal­ent when the driver de­cides to up the pace.

The sole dis­ap­point­ment is the Q3’s feel-free steer­ing. Its driver de­serves a bet­ter sense of con­nec­tion with its ag­ile chas­sis.

With the new Q3 comes a new en­gine for the least costly model that’s most pop­u­lar in Aus­tralia. The cur­rent front-drive 1.4 TFSI ac­counts for about 60 per cent of Q3 sales here. Its re­place­ment will be badged 35 TFSI, and it will have a 1.5-litre four-cylin­der turbo. Max­i­mum power and torque fig­ures re­main un­changed at 110kW/250Nm.

Though a lit­tle grav­elly sound­ing at low and mid­dling revs, it’s a rea­son­ably re­fined en­gine that de­liv­ers de­cent rather than out­stand­ing per­for­mance. The Audi’s seven-speed du­al­clutch auto, how­ever, does an out­stand­ing job of mak­ing the most of what the en­gine has to of­fer. It’s very good at smoothly pick­ing the right gear in nearly every sit­u­a­tion.

When the Q3 goes on sale in Europe in about Novem­ber there will be two other en­gines. The 45 TFSI qu­at­tro will have an up­graded 2.0-litre turbo four and the 35 TDI qu­at­tro will have an up­graded 2.0-litre turbo diesel four. Both will fea­ture all-wheel-drive. Ex­pect this pair, along with the 35 TFSI, to be in­cluded in the Aus­tralian line-up.

Ac­cord­ing to Audi Aus­tralia, prices are un­likely to rise much com­pared to the cur­rent Q3. This means the 35 TFSI should cost about $45,000. Un­like the cur­rent 1.4 TFSI, it has the looks, qual­ity, tech­nol­ogy, space, ver­sa­til­ity and sheer use­ful­ness to jus­tify its pre­mium price.

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