The affordable luxury car market is a very important space in India. BMW realized so with their X1, Mercedes are understanding it with their B Class and Audi took to the Q3 to improve its ranking.
Now, by the end of this year, Mercedes would have gone another step with the A Class and BMW with the 1 Series. Audi India believes that their affordable offering should be either a sedan or a crossover.
While the recently unveiled A3 Sedan is still sometime away, Audi India has just launched the Q3 in a petrol guise. Priced at INR 27.37 lakhs onwards (ex-Showroom Maharashtra, before the 2.5% price increase) the Q3 petrol is one of the most affordable Audis you can buy right now.
So, should you?
On the outside:
[Above - Badging on the bootlid the only clue to the firepower underneath the bonnet]
There is nothing to differentiate the Q3 petrol from the diesel. Apart from the '2.0T' badging at the rear. I don't need to tell you about the good looks of the Q3, or the Audi like Bulgarian beard with the day time running lights as I'm sure you're fully aware of what a Q3 looks like by now.
On the inside:
Open the solid doors and you're greeted by a cabin that you will like spending time in. Everything looks good, feels good and the cabin of the Q3 does put a smile on your face at the end of the day. I actually prefer the Q3's cabin to the A4 for a few reasons. One is the seating position which is bang on accurate for our Indian roads.
Then there is the airy SUV like feeling you get inside the Q3 despite its compact dimensions. And finally I really like the center console which looks simple and minimalist. Even the S-Tronic gear lever and the climate control switches look particularly good.
Rear seat comfort is excellent and you've to commend Audi for the brilliant packaging, as the Q3 measures a mere 4.3 meters bumper to bumper. Open the trunk and you're greeted with a pretty big boot that will more than suffice for your luggage. 460 liters is the capacity of the well shaped boot and all of a sudden the small Q3 is not so small anymore.
[Left - Driver and front passenger's seats electrically adjustable. Right - Rear seats are very comfortable to sit in.]
[Left - Automatic air conditioning and a reduced MMI display come on the High variant of the Q3 - Right]
The top end Q3 you see here is generously equipped. You get powered seats for the driver and the passenger, a huge panoramic sunroof, climate control and so on.
I did find a couple of features missing. The first being a fully keyless entry and go system. In the Q3, you need to unlock the doors by pressing the Unlock button on the key fob. This is something that you shouldn't have to do on a luxury car, especially when your neighbor's Nissan Micra can do better. Also, there is no push button start on the Q3. Once again, Nissan Micra!
[Left - Day/Night mirror adjustment is manually done while there are no parking camera's on offer - Right]
And finally, I think Audi would do well to give a reversing camera especially on their SUV range as just a conventional set of parking sensors do not do the job as well as a camera. Otherwise, the Q3 is pretty much loaded with all the stuff you need.
Under the hood:
Pop the hood to find Audi's 2.0-liter TFSIq petrol engine doing duty in their baby Q model. This is a four-cylinder unit that produces maximum power of 211bhp and churns 300Nm of torque between 1800 and 4900rpm. Audi claims that the Q3 petrol will do the 0-100km/h sprint in a quick 6.9 seconds and the Q3 will chug forward to a top speed of 230km/h. 11.72km/l is the official fuel efficiency claim as well.
[Left - 7-speed S-Tronic gearbox is seamless in shifting cogs and the engine is silky smooth as well - Right]
All that power and torque is supplied to all the four wheels via Audi's traditional Quattro system and a 7-speed dual clutch S-Tronic transmission helps in doing so. You can use the gear lever's Tip Tronic function to shift manually as paddle shifters are not on offer.
What's it like to drive?
[Above - Dimensions of the Q3 make it very easy to drive through congested and small roads. City driving is a breeze.]
The 2.0-liter engine settles into a very smooth and quite idle the minute you switch it ON. Rev the engine and it does so willingly. Slot the S-Tronic in D and it's a very smooth drive that awaits you. You can have a relaxed foot on the throttle and even in start and go traffic you'll barely feel the cogs shift.
The dimensions of the Q3 mean that you can drive it like a regular sedan in our congested roads and the light steering only supplements this further. In city driving conditions, the engine is very responsive and visits to the red line are very minimal. However, put your foot flat down and you can see the tacho swiftly move to 6500rpm even when you're in D mode.
[Left - Twin exhaust's for the Q3. Right - Good ground clearance means that you can park as close to the kerb as you want without fear of the door scrapping it while opening]
Step on the accelerator to close a small gap and the gearbox does hesitate a bit and you tend to put your foot down to engage the kickdown button. Also, flat out performance becomes a bit sluggish once you're past 130km/h so it is best to engage the cruise control at about 100-120km/h whist driving on the highway and drive in a relaxed fashion. The upshot to the Q3 revving like a mad man is the sweet exhaust note that comes from those twin exhaust pipes and if you listen carefully you can hear the four cylinders working overtime as well.
[Left - Fuel efficiency is not the Q3 petrol's strong point, does come with Start/Stop however. Right - Steering is very light, good for the city, not so good at speed.]
Overall, the engine performance of the Q3 petrol is more than adequate for your everyday use. But something to worry about is the fuel economy. While Audi India claims 11.72km/l, the figures I managed were no where near that number. Granted, there were five people with a full boot and the car was driven a bit spiritedly, and in that case the Q3 petrol did about 4.65km/l. After driving it in regular Mumbai city traffic I did managed about 6km/l when the car was devoid full load. In an ideal case and when driven less spiritedly, I expect the Q3 petrol to return about 7km/l in city commuting and about 8-9km/l in an open highway at constant speed.
In terms of driving dynamics and steering feel, the Q3 is not a BMW X1. The steering feels super light at all speeds, which is a shame considering that the Q3 does corner pretty well. Body roll is well in check and you don't feel as though you're driving a SUV around sharp bends. The suspension copes up pretty well with most of the bumps and potholes Mumbai has to throw at you. Its only over a few really rough stretches at higher speeds does the ride get a bit bad. For other purposes, the Q3 is a very comfortable car to be in.
[Left - Very usable boot, but loading lip is a tad high. Right - 60:40 split folding seats adds to the practicality.]
Why I think this Q3 is fantastic value for money and 'the one' I would go for?
If you're in the lookout for an affordable luxury car, chances are that you've about 30 lakhs to spare and the brand you choose is important. In which case, your options would be the Mercedes B Class, the BMW X1 and this Audi Q3.
[Note: I'm assuming you don't want the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 or the Mercedes C Class as you want something different].
[Above - LED tail lights and head lamps with day time running strip are characteristic Audi. You cannot mistake it for any other brand.]
Now for about 26 lakhs (ex-showroom Mumbai), Mercedes will happily sell you their B Class which comes in petrol. I've driven the B Class and I can tell you that the rear seats are a bit of a letdown as is the ride quality. Also, the 1.6-liter engine doesn't feel all that special.
So for about 27 lakhs, BMW will do you a deal for their X1 which comes in diesel. However, the Beemer is a two-wheel drive car and the rear seats still don't have that spaciousness one would expect.
This is where Audi has got it bang on. The Q3 is a genuine SUV with four wheel drive and it can go off-road if you need it to. It has a very good ground clearance for our roads and doesn't feel a handful to drive on our congested roads. Then there is the massive interior which feels every bit like a luxury car.
Even though the B Class cannot be compared to the Q3, it doesn't take a genius to realize that for a little bit more money they can possess a 4x4 SUV which is much larger and more comfortable than the Merc. While BMW may have a diesel (that is locally made attracting a lower tax) in the X1, the off-roadability appeal of the Q3 should not go unnoticed.
Those would be my reasons for choosing the Q3 over the rest. That being said, I think the Q3 highlights a major drawback, not only with Audi but with many manufacturers these days: Completely Built up Unit cars that are imported into India.
With the latest budget playing spoilsport on imported vehicles, I think its time the MBA folks of these manufacturers realize that their affordable offerings need to be assembled, if not fully built in India. When you do decide to buy your Q3 or the B Class or even a Volvo, you'll be shocked with the number of zeroes that come under 'Tax'.
[Left - Q3 benefits from Audi's Quattro technology that sends power to all the four wheels which are alloy - Right]
Audi India have realized this, which is why they've promised a locally assembled Q3 this year. Volvo are realizing this, which is why they're scouting for a place to assemble their cars. Even Mercedes are keen on getting their locally assembled B Class out soon.
At the end of the day...
....I would be happy to have this Q3 petrol in my garage provided
(i) I'm a petrol baron
(ii) I'm not going to use the car so much that I would have rather bought the diesel.
Apart from the fuel efficiency bit, I really like the Q3. I know for a fact that if I bought the B Class I would be complaining about the lack of rear seat comfort and the ride. If I bought the BMW X1, I would be complaining about the 2WD only and the rear seat legroom. With the Audi Q3, I can find no reason to complain, and that for me is important.
[Left - Instrument cluster neatly executed. Right - Textures used on the door trim speak about the superb build quality and feel.]
What I Liked:
- Brilliant packaging on the inside
- Superb build quality
- Easy to drive in the city
- Ground clearance and off-road ability
What I Disliked:
- Poor fuel efficiency
- Some essential features should be made standard
- The CBU taxes I need to pay