Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

You are here

Audi RS Q3 2020 review: Sportback and SUV

The RS Q3 comes is no ordinary small SUV - this one is a little monster.
EXPERT RATING
8
Any Audi with an R and S in front of the model name should make you look up and take notice? So is the RS Q3 worthy of those letters?

Think of Audi’s range of high-performance RS models as being like a knives in a kitchen knife block. They’re all sharp but they all do some things better than others. You wouldn’t use a bread knife to cut a tomato, would you? Well, I have before, because it was on the only clean knife and well, anyway it all went wrong, and it was a mess.

So, what kind of knife is the RS Q3, then? See, it’s a small SUV with 400 horsepower. Does it lose its SUV practicality? Is it like always driving an uncomfortable race car? Is it a fake – not really fast and just an expensive little ‘sporty’ SUV?

Well at the launch of the RS Q3 Audi also brought out almost its entire knife block of other RS models. And we drove them back-to-back. So having spent hundreds of kilometres driving both versions of the RS Q3 – the Sportback and the regular SUV version, along with the Audi’s other RS superheroes I know which knife the RS Q3 is and you will too after you read this review.    

Audi RS Q3 2020: 2.5 TFSI Quattro
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$89,900

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Like the household variety Q3 it’s based on, the RS Q3 comes in two body styles: a Sportback which has a sloping roofline giving it coupe looks; and a regular-looking SUV version which has the traditional more tall and upright design.

  • The Sportback does look the more venomous compared to the regular SUV. (Sportback variant shown) The Sportback does look the more venomous compared to the regular SUV. (Sportback variant shown)
  • At 4506mm end-to-end the RS Q3 is a big, small SUV. (Sportback variant shown) At 4506mm end-to-end the RS Q3 is a big, small SUV. (Sportback variant shown)

I’m not a fan of coupe SUV styling because it reduces headroom (read about that below), but the Sportback does look the more venomous of the pair.

That said they both look like little monsters in their RS superhero outfits which includes the aggressive front bumper boasting giant (and functional) air intakes either side of the enormous grille, 21-inch wheels with giant brakes and red calipers, side skirts and thick wheel arch surrounds for a flared guard look, chunky diffuser and huge oval tail pipes with a black finish.

The RS Q3 wears 21-inch alloy wheels. (SUV variant shown) The RS Q3 wears 21-inch alloy wheels. (SUV variant shown)

Inside there are leather RS seats with ‘honeycomb’ stitching, metal pedals, and a leather flat-bottomed RS steering wheel, while the doors and dashboard are trimmed with Alcantara and aluminium.

The rest of the interior showcases the Audi’s most up-to-date styling and tech revealed when the Q3 arrived in 2019 – from the integrated 10.1-inch media display to the dash controls which sense when your hand is approaching and light up to help them find their way in the dark.

At 4506mm end-to-end the RS Q3 is a big, small SUV. For a bit of perspective, it's little brother the Q2 is 4190mm long.

The RS Q3 comes in two body styles: Sportback and SUV. (SUV variant shown) The RS Q3 comes in two body styles: Sportback and SUV. (SUV variant shown)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

Ordinary Q3s have four-cylinder engines which make no more than 132kW, but the RS Q3 has a 294kW 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-petrol engine. Plus, with 480Nm there’s whopping torque for a small SUV.

This five-cylinder also powers the Audi TT RS and the RS 3 and is suited well to small and agile beasties like these, and also to the RS Q3 with its responsive and energetic ‘boosty’ nature. Aud’s 'S tronic' seven-speed dual-clutch auto shifts fast sending the drive to all four wheels

What's it like to drive?   9/10

In the intro I likened the RS model range to a knife block full of all well-crafted sharp things, each with different purposes.

At the launch of the RS Q3, Audi also introduced its other new and updated RS models to us, from the RS 7 and RS 6 Avant to the TT RS and even the R8 supercar.

The meat cleaver is definitely the RS 6 Avant which feels like a luxury locomotive with seemingly never-ending sledgehammer acceleration.

  •  The RS Q3 can go from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. (Sportback variant shown) The RS Q3 can go from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. (Sportback variant shown)
  • I was impressed by the ride comfort which never became harsh even in 'Dynamic' mode. (Sportback variant shown) I was impressed by the ride comfort which never became harsh even in 'Dynamic' mode. (Sportback variant shown)

I’m beginning to regret the knife analogy because I don’t know knives very well. But I do know cars and the RS Q3 is probably the opposite to an RS6 Avant in that it’s small and agile, with an energetic engine that pauses only to catch its breath in the form of building its boost before sling-shotting you towards the next corner. And it’s loud inside - even with the windows up.

I was impressed by the ride comfort which never became harsh even in 'Dynamic' mode. The suspension is soft enough for acceleration and braking to make the nose pitch and dip, but handling, body control and composure is excellent.

  • The RS Q3 is small and agile. (SUV variant shown) The RS Q3 is small and agile. (SUV variant shown)
  • The RS Q3's transmission is best left in auto and in the 'S' setting. (SUV variant shown) The RS Q3's transmission is best left in auto and in the 'S' setting. (SUV variant shown)

While you can shift gears yourself using the paddles in manual mode, that transmission is best left in auto and in the 'S' setting. You’ll get the full noise under hard acceleration and lightning quick shifts to go with it.

Regular Q3s take eight to nine seconds to accelerate from 0-100km/h. The RS Q3 can do it in 4.5 seconds, which is getting into properly quick territory where steering wheels also becomes a handrails for something to hold onto as you’re yanked down the road with superb all-wheel drive traction.

The same 2.5-litre five cylinder is in the RS 3 Avant but that weighs about 200kg less and can hit 100km/h in 4.1 seconds. But the only way I can sit in the back of an RS 3 is if I put my knees under my chin – not so with the RS Q3.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

This will depend on whether you buy the Sportback or the regular SUV-shaped RS Q3, but practicality does not vary between them as much as you may think.

The Sportback loses out on headroom for the rear passenger because of its sloping roofline. I can still sit back there but at 191cm (6'3") with amazingly high hair I’m getting pretty friendly with the ceiling. Legroom though is fine – and I have legs for days.

Having said that, if I was a backseat passenger on a trip further than just down the road I’d prefer to be in the regular SUV-shaped RS Q3 where its tall, flat roofline offers loads of headroom, and legroom is also good.

All RS Q3s, like the Q3, are five seaters, but bags not sit in the squishy middle back seat.

The Sportback loses out on headroom for the rear passenger because of its sloping roofline. (Sportback variant shown) The Sportback loses out on headroom for the rear passenger because of its sloping roofline. (Sportback variant shown)

The boot’s cargo capacity is the same for both at 530 litres, which is also equal to an ordinary Q3. If you want to see how high the boot’s load lip is, I demonstrate it in the video above – best not to watch while eating, though.

I’ve never met an Audi with outstanding cabin storage and the RS Q3 is no exception, with small door pockets and a tiny centre console bin.

Up front are two cupholders, while behind the shifter is a wireless charging pad. (SUV variant shown) Up front are two cupholders, while behind the shifter is a wireless charging pad. (SUV variant shown)

It does have four cupholders (two up front and two in the back) and the wireless charger living in the hidey hole near the shifter fits my big phone, so it’s not all bad news there.

Next to the wireless charger there are two USB ports (a mini Type-C and a larger Type-B), while the second row has two Type-C USB ports.

There are directional air vents for those in the back, too.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The RS Q3 lists for $89,900 for the regular SUV body shape while the Sportback is $92,900.

Both come with the same standard features, including a 10.1-inch media display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 15-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system, leather RS steering wheel, proximity key, 360-degree camera, front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, power tailgate, 'Matrix LED' headlights and three-zone climate control.

The RS Q3 scores 'Matrix LED' headlights. (SUV variant shown) The RS Q3 scores 'Matrix LED' headlights. (SUV variant shown)

The standard RS seats are Nappa leather, the front ones are heated and power adjustable.

Looking at the standard features for a Q3 it’s clear Audi has fitted the RS Q3 with everything it has for the model – a lot of the equipment such as the sound system, climate control and LED headlights are optional on a ‘normal’ Q3.

Inside the RS Q3 is a 10.1-inch media display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Sportsback variant shown) Inside the RS Q3 is a 10.1-inch media display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Sportsback variant shown)

Some of these features had to be optioned on the previous RS Q3, too, so relative to the outgoing model the new car is better value.

Compared to it’s rivals the Audi is good value, too. The Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 is $91,735 while the BMW X3 M40i is nudging $110K.  

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

ANCAP gave all variants of the Q3 the maximum five-star rating in 2018 with the exception of the RS Q3 which is yet to be tested.

What I can tell you is that for this model Audi’s made the safety features standard across the range and this includes the AEB system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross traffic assistance, lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance.

The airbag count is also the same as a regular Q3 at six, and like that SUV you’ll find three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts for child seats across the second row.

Q3s come with a space saver spare, but the RS Q3 has a puncture repair kit.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

High-performance cars with combustion engines love fuel and lots of it. Audi officially says the RS Q3 should use 8.9L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. We’ll be able to test that once we have an RS Q3 in our garage, but either way, that’s on the thirsty side.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

The RS Q3 is covered by Audi’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which not only falls behind in duration compared to mainstream brands but also its direct rival Mercedes-Benz which now has five-year/unlimited kilometre coverage.  

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km with a three-year plan ($2320) or five-year plan ($3420) available.

Verdict

The RS Q3 is absolutely worthy of the RS badge – it’s plush, quick, comfortable, handles superbly and doesn’t lose any practicality over a regular Q3. Which knife is it then in the Audi RS model knife block? Well there was a moment on the launch when our convoy encountered roadworks in the bush and it meant everything from an Audi R8 (rear-wheel drive), RS 7, RS 6 Avant to a TT RS were forced to gingerly drive for a couple of kilometres on a bumby dirt road. I was in the RS Q3, with all-wheel drive, more ground clearance and softer suspension with more travel than the others – and it was tempting to stomp on the accelerator and leave the rest in my dust. So, it’s the adaptable one in the block - the small knife you end up using for everything.  

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Pricing guides

$87,406
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$84,911
Highest Price
$89,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.5 TFSI Quattro 2.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $84,911 2020 Audi RS Q3 2020 2.5 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Design8
Engine & trans9
Driving9
Practicality8
Price and features8
Safety9
Fuel consumption7
Ownership6
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

Share