The new Q3 S is a pared-down manual gearbox-equipped version of Audi's baby SUV. Configured and priced to take on the rival luxury hatchbacks from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, the Audi comes with a starting price of just Rs. 24.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
To bring the cost down, the Q3 S features a six-speed manual gearbox; Audi's chucked out the Quattro all-wheel-drive system too. Another feature noticeably absent is Audi’s trademark daytime-running LED lamps.
That said, Audi has done well to avoid giving the car a stripped-out look. The Q3 S gets optional black 18-inch alloys and smoked headlamps. The rest of the exteriors, however, remain unchanged. Standard equipment in the cabin includes leather-covered seats and steering wheel, cruise control, a fold-out 6.5-inch MMI screen that comes with Bluetooth connectivity, and electrically adjustable wing mirrors. On the safety front, you get four airbags and rear parking sensors, along with driver assist functions like Hill Start Assist, Cruise Control and ESP.
However, once inside, you do notice that some essential bits of kit have been omitted. There's no electronic climate control system and the MMI system is the basic one. This means the centre console does look a bit basic, especially the manual controls for the aircon.
Otherwise the Q3 S is very similar to the normal car. Legroom and headroom are just about adequate, unless you’re very tall; the seats are nicely cushioned and have good back support and general build quality is excellent.
Out on the road, the Q3 S drives pretty well despite the car's lower 140bhp (the Quattro comes with 174bhp). Press down on the light clutch, engage first gear and you’ll discover a smooth clutch action. The engine makes a healthy 32.6kgm from as low as 1750rpm and torque stays healthy till 2500rpm, so performance feels pretty effortless.
The Audi Q3 S is also quite enjoyable to drive – the gearbox is slick, light and positive, and you often find yourself shifting gears just to revel in the shift action. This Q3, despite its lower power output, never feels slow. This is partly due to the fact that this car, at 1445kg, weighs a considerable 140kg less than its all-wheel-drive sibling.
That means this two-wheel-drive Q3 gets to 100kph in 9.9 seconds as against the Quattro’s 8.3sec – not too bad a disadvantage – and in the real world, has more than enough performance. Compare it to rivals like the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz B-class, and you’ll see that it is pretty much par for the course.
Apart from the super-light steering, the Q3 S drove pretty well and we really didn’t miss the all-wheel-drive traction of its sibling at all. The handling is secure, if uninspiring, and the Q3’s stability at speed is rock solid. It rides well too – the suspension is pliant and handles broken surfaces with a reasonable amount of confidence.
Paring down a luxury car is difficult to do well. Audi has, however, done an excellent job with the Q3 S. It looks really attractive from the outside, the insides still resemble those of a luxury car and the S drives and rides well too. And that's probably why the car is sold out for the next six months.
Price Range (in lakhs)*
Ex-showroom price Rs. 24.99lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Installation Front, transverse, FWD
Type 4 cyl, 1968cc, common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel
Torque 32.6kgm at 1750-2500rpm
Power to weight 96.8bhp per tonne
Type Front-wheel drive
Gearbox 6-speed manual
Chassis & Body
Construction Five-door monocoque, SUV
Spare Space saver
Front Independent, Macpherson struts, anti-roll bar
Rear Independent, multi-link, anti-roll bar
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric
Front Ventilated discs