What is it? The third of Audi’s Q-badged SUV models, but that’s not why it’s called the Q3. It’s more of a size thing – the new car is a good deal smaller than the Q5, and absolutely tiny compared with the Q7.
This compactness means the Q3 will be fighting it out with a select bunch of premium SUVs, most notably the BMW X1, and Range Rover’s Evoque.
What’s it like to drive? To start with, you’ll have three engines to choose from, all of which are turbocharged direct-injection units.
The entry-level 168bhp 2.0-litre petrol is smooth, flexible and very swift. The six-speed manual gearshift isn’t quite so satisfying, though, because the changes are notchy.
There’s another 2.0 petrol, with 208bhp, but it doesn’t feel a whole lot quicker than the lower-powered unit. It comes with only the seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic gearbox (which holds on to gears too long and is reluctant to kick down), so is a lot more expensive.
Most buyers will go for the 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which also comes in S tronic form only. The engine certainly feels strong enough for the job, but the hesitant nature of the gearbox slows your progress. The diesel is louder than the petrols, too, and generates more vibration through the pedals.
It’s a shame, because otherwise refinement is generally good. Wind and road noise are well isolated, and the suspension goes about its work quietly.
The ride has a firm edge that means you feel plenty of the surface beneath you, but it stops short of being uncomfortable. This firmness pays dividends in corners, too – the tight body control means the car stays flat, and with strong grip thrown into the mix, the Q3 changes direction with impressive agility. Only the steering disappoints, because it’s overly light and pretty lifeless.
What’s it like inside? Don’t go thinking that the Q3 is as practical as a Q5 – it isn’t. There’s no more passenger space than you get in, say, a Volkswagen Golf, and if you add the optional panoramic glass roof (£1100), tall passengers will find themselves short of headroom in the back. The rear of the cabin is also too narrow to comfortably accommodate three people.
The boot isn’t ideal, either. It sounds quite sizable at 460 litres, but the space is shallow and there’s a lip that you have to load items over.
Still, there’s plenty of other stuff to like inside the Q3. Build quality is superb, with the slick switches and posh materials you expect from Audi. Most functions are controlled through the latest version of Audi’s MMI system, which makes everything pretty easy to find and use. What’s more, the high driving position is comfortable, adjustable and gives you a good view of the road ahead.
All Q3s come well equipped. SE models get climate control, Bluetooth and automatic lights and wipers, while S line trim adds all sorts of sporty-looking design touches.
Should I buy one? There’s no denying the Q3's strong image and desirability, and that should help resale values. It’s a good bit cheaper to buy than the Range Rover Evoque, too, and model-for-model, it’ll cost less to run.
Wait until December, and there’ll be another version that’s even better value. With a 138bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine and front-wheel drive, it’ll give you 54.3mpg and emit just 137g/km of CO2. What’s more, it’ll be the cheapest model, starting at £24,560. We haven’t driven it yet, but it sounds like it’s worth waiting for.
With style-led cars such as SUVs, though, your choice will probably come down to which one you like the look of most. We think the Q3 will appeal to plenty of buyers, but we also think the slinkier Evoque will appeal to even more.
Range Rover Evoque
What Car? says
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