Last week, we were on hand to test drive the new, facelifted B9 Audi A4 in the Italian Alps, which you will read about sometime in the near future. However, a representative from Audi Singapore, which serves as Ingolstadt’s hub for the Southeast Asian region, had a surprise in store by also wheeling out the new 2019 Audi Q3 and A1 for us to roll around in Munich.

These cars, in particular the Q3, provided a taste of what’s to come for the four-ringed brand in Malaysia. The compact premium SUV is slated to arrive later this year, replacing the moderately successful original and renewing rivalries with the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Just one powertrain is on the cards for our market – a 1.4 litre TFSI turbocharged petrol engine, expected to produce the same 150 hp and 250 Nm of torque as this European-spec 35 TFSI model with a larger 1.5 litre mill. And while the car you see here gets a seven-speed S tronic wet dual clutch transmission, we’ll only receive the six-speed version. So, the same powertrain as the Volkswagen Tiguan, then.

Indeed, the rest of the car is based on the Tiguan, too, riding on the latest iteration of VW’s excellent MQB platform. But there’s no mistaking this for a Tiguan, not when the exterior borrows so much from its larger SUV siblings – especially the electric e-tron.

Up front, you gain inverted L-shaped headlights – available with Matrix LED technology – that flank the new octagonal “singleframe” grille for SUVs, while the blistered wheel arches are supposed to bring to mind the optional quattro all-wheel drive system (not fitted to this test car). The tail lights are of the same shape as the headlights, and the previous full-width tailgate has been ditched for a narrower, more conventional unit.

Exterior-wise, the car you see here is pretty much representative of Malaysian specifications, wearing 18-inch alloy wheels, body cladding painted in contrasting dark grey (not bare plastic, in other words) and silver front and rear scuff plates.

Against the measuring tape, the new Q3 is 97 mm longer, 25 mm wider and 23 mm lower than before, with a 77 mm longer wheelbase. The increased dimensions frees up space for both passengers and their luggage, boosted by 40:20:40-split rear seats that can slide fore and aft and be reclined in three stages. Boot space is 530 litres minimum, or 1,525 litres with the rear pews folded.

Inside, the sleek, minimalist dashboard and neat metallic detailing are reminiscent of other models like the A6, A7 and A8, albeit without the glitzy twin-screen interface. However, the 10.1-inch central touchscreen is linked to the latest MMI system based on VW’s third-gen Modular Infotainment Matrix (MIB3), paired to the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit plus instrument display that will come as standard in Malaysia.

The top system supports LTE Advanced connectivity and comes with options such as a WiFi hotspot, Google Earth navigation with live traffic data and on-street parking information, Qi wireless charging and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. This particular unit was also fitted with a smorgasbord of driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise assist that provides semi-autonomous driving.

We were treated to a brief drive on the autobahn headed towards Ingolstadt itself, one that barely scratched the surface of the car’s capabilities. Even so, it was clear that despite the lack of adaptive dampers, the comfort-oriented suspension and the smaller 18-inch alloy wheels of this car conspired to provide a supple, cosseting ride, as observed on the broken roads surrounding the Munich airport.

Damping was sufficient to keep body movements in check, while the regular “progressive” steering allowed for a better sense of what the front wheels were up to compared to Audi’s patchy variable-ratio dynamic steering systems – even though there was little in the way of actual feel. And while this Q3 was front-wheel drive, grip levels remained untroubled throughout our admittedly reserved stint behind the wheel.

The car also exhibited low levels of road noise and just a touch of wind noise, but the peace and quiet was spoiled somewhat by the 1.5 litre engine, which droned incessantly even at a cruise. There was decent pace considering the modest outputs, but the seven-speed gearbox was a little hesitant to drop a gear when I asked for it with my right foot. Perhaps the 1.4 litre mill and the six-speeder will work a little better here.

Unlike the Q3, the A1 has yet to be confirmed for our market, and in fact there are no plans to bring the second-generation premium supermini into Malaysia for now. However, the aforementioned representative did say that it was still an open question, so fingers crossed that it happens.

If it does come over here, it will likely be fitted with a 1.0 litre TFSI three-pot, producing 115 hp and 200 Nm and paired to a dry clutch version of the seven-speed DCT. The car in these pictures, however, was the range-topping 40 TFSI model, which received the VW Golf GTI‘s punchy 2.0 litre mill. This one made a hearty 200 hp and 320 Nm, hooked up to a wet clutch six-speeder.

As before, the A1 shares the same underpinnings and some of its mechanicals with the VW Polo, now sitting on a smaller A0 version of the MQB platform. It’s now five-door only and measures around eight centimetres longer and 10 mm lower than the outgoing Sportback model, resulting in more space and a boot that is 65 litres larger at 335 litres – expandable to 1,090 litres with the rear seats folded.

While the Q3 looked a little bit subdued in silver, the A1 screamed for attention, especially with the S line exterior package, gloss black trim and the striking Python Yellow paint you see here. Banishing its predecessor’s cutesy aesthetic, the new car sports a far more aggressive look, whilst still being pert and lovable all the same.

Audi’s new slimmer, flatter six-sided grille is front and centre of the car, flanked by angry trapezoidal headlights with hydrofoil-inspired segmented daytime running lights on these LED units – a graphic that is repeated at the rear. There are also large air intakes and vents at the front and rear of the car, but predictably they are all fake, just like the triple “inlets” above the grille.

They are inspired by the legendary Sport Quattro, as are the large, heavily raked C-pillars that contrast against the this car’s black roof. Despite being only front-wheel drive, the A1 still features the brand’s strong haunches on all four corners, filled out by stylish 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels here. A black diffuser integrating a pair of proper round tailpipes can be found at the rear.

Inside, the angular theme continues with a centre console tilted considerably towards the driver. There are a range of customisable colours for the driver’s side air vent trim, door handle inserts and gearlever surround, plus an optional ambient lighting system with 30 colours. Disappointingly, the cabin is filled with hard plastics, with only the top of the dashboard being soft to the touch.

Just like the Q3, the A1 is available with the latest MMI system with a touchscreen measuring up to 10.1 inches, along with the Audi virtual cockpit instrument display and all the connectivity bells and whistles. And like the Q3 we drove, this unit was also fitted with all the driving assistance systems available, including adaptive cruise control with stop and go.

In top-spec trim, our test car served up a far more striking first impression compared to its larger sibling, showing off its purposeful sporting intent. It rode a good deal stiffer than the Q3, even with the optional adaptive dampers in their softest setting. However, bump absorption was perfectly acceptable, despite the car still being saddled with a torsion beam rear axle.

The steering was also quite a bit quicker, and together with the A1’s far smaller size, it made for a much greater sense of agility behind the wheel, though it was not quite as darty as something like a MINI Cooper S. This front-wheel drive warm hatch also extracted plenty of grip from the sedate Bridgestone Turanza T005 rubber, feeling like it was capable of handling all 200 horses.

Ah yes, the engine. Make no mistake, this car was fast, being capable of a zero-to-100 km/h time of just 6.5 seconds. Audi played a few tricks to enhance the engine note, resulting in a loud grumble even in the regular Auto drive mode – the sporty Dynamic mode ratcheted up the decibel levels still further.

As we’ve become used to in the Golf GTI, the four-pot delivered plenty of punch and loved to rev, but the gearbox was again a touch slower to respond to throttle inputs than we would have liked. Still, the quick, seamless gearchanges themselves made using the manual mode a hoot. The A1 was plenty of fun to drive, and fairly refined to cruise in too, although this time it was the road roar that let the side down a little bit.

All in all, two very competent vehicles, and the Q3 should prove a formidable rival to other models in this burgeoning segment. As for the A1, that remains a delicious forbidden fruit, but one that we may not have to enjoy from afar for much longer if there’s demand for it. So quick, dial your dealer…

GALLERY: 2019 Audi Q3 35 TFSI


GALLERY: 2019 Audi A1 40 TFSI