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Ahead with this Q

1/30/2015 7:32:55 PM
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A 1.4-litre engine may seem a tad inadequate for a car like the Q3, even though it is the smallest model in Audi's family of SUVs. But as it turns out, the Q3 1.4 is a regular Energizer Bunny that might put some bigger- engined rivals to shame.

The specs speak for themselves. Although having a modest displacement of 1,395cc, it has 150bhp and 250Nm of torque on tap. It is one of the most highly tuned 1.4-litre units in the group, second only to the twincharged 1.4 which produces up to 185bhp.

But twincharged engines seem to be fading in popularity now, as modern turbos continue to improve on cost efficiency.

The Q3's power plant is a case in point. Its maximum output is attainable within the realm of real-world driving.

Peak power is achieved at 5,000rpm, while peak torque arrives when the tacho points to 1,750rpm but tapers off after 3,000rpm. This may seem a rather narrow band, but does not appear to be an issue at all on the road.

The beefy engine puts the entry-level Q3 squarely in Category B, and partly explains why the small car has such a big price tag.

Its performance is anything but small, though. Audi says the Q3 1.4 accelerates from standstill to 100kmh in 8.9 seconds - quicker than what the bigger and pricier Lexus NX300h is capable of.

At the wheel, that claim is quite believable. The Q3 responds to throttle inputs like a car with a far bigger heart. Take-offs are accomplished swiftly and cleanly, with the compact crossover's seven-speed dual-clutch autobox swopping cogs with speed and stealth.

While other small-engined cars tend to betray their displacement deficit with subtle (and not-too-subtle) protest and unwillingness when subjected to a heavy right foot, the Audi seems to have an endless supply of get-up-and-go.

Endowed with a nimble and taut chassis, the car is able to take full advantage of its punchy pump. It swallows up the straights like a dragster and carves up corners like a hot hatch.

In the cabin, you are fully aware of the Audi's solidity and surefootedness. And yet it does not possess the heft of its fellow Q cars. If there was ever an SUV made for a densely built-up city, the Q3 would be it.

For that very reason, it is not a car you would want to go off-road with, on account of its front-wheel-drive set-up and relatively low ground clearance.

In the Singapore context, its 1.4-litre engine translates to low annual road tax; and its quietness and low profile tell us that it is not as intrusive as bigger SUVs.

The only disappointment is its rather big thirst. During this test-drive, its fuel consumption reading rarely falls below 10 litres/100km. Still, that is not too shoddy, given its big-car performance.

The other thing you might have to get used to is its uncharacteristically austere interior. Features such as cruise control, navigation, reverse camera, keyless system and multi-function steering wheel are not part of the deal.

But you still get electric parking brake, selectable drive modes, dual-zone air-conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity.

Among German rivals, the Q3 is streets ahead with its SUV-like stance, a coherent design language that is unmistakably Q, and a sufficiently special driving sensation that sets it apart from the hatchbacks and wagons in the group.

This is more than what you can say for cars such as the BMW X1, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mercedes-Benz GLA.


AUDI Q3 1.4

Price: $177,700 with COE

Engine: 1,395cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual select

Power: 150bhp at 5,000rpm

Torque: 250Nm at 1,750-3,000rpm

0-100kmh: 8.9 seconds

Top speed: 200kmh

Fuel consumption: 6.2 litres/100km

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