As What Car?'s chief photographer, my main concern when our Audi Q3 arrived was
how it would cope with carrying all my gear around the country. My previous long-term car (a Seat Alhambra) had more than enough space, but this Audi, despite its SUV stance, obviously isn't designed to be a load lugger.
However, over the past year, the Q3 has acquitted itself surprisingly well, and it wasn't just me who thought so. On the whole, it received nothing but praise from colleagues for its refinement and all-round ability. However, they also thought it wasn't as stylish as our long-term Range Rover Evoque.
Like most buyers, we chose the 138bhp 2.0 TDI diesel engine, although we specified S line trim, which gives it a sportier look over the SE model. The list price for our car was 27,815, but with options, including a 1100 panoramic glass roof, this increased to 34,545.
The glass roof turned out to be a worthwhile investment not only did it bring a lot more light into the cabin, but it could be opened to let in some fresh air.
I also found that it was ideal for popping out my head to get the perfect angle for photographs.
The classy interior was rather snug and a bit plain, but we couldn't find fault with the build quality; after more than 18,000 miles of use, the leather looked fresh and the plastics were unscathed. The other major plus point in the cabin was the all-round visibility, which is excellent for this type of car this and the Q3's relative narrowness made it easy to thread through small urban streets.
One option that wasn't so useful was Audi's Park Assist. For 500 (900 with a reversing camera), the system uses sensors to find a big enough space at the side of the road and then controls the steering to guide you in. In reality, the parallel park setting left a foot of space between the car and kerb, and the bay park setting couldn't cope with the typically small spaces we tried it in, either.
Audi's stop-start function is a standard feature on all Q3s, and this was a trump card over our thirsty Evoque. When combined with the slick six-speed manual gearbox, it meant the Q3 regularly returned average economy of 40mpg or more.
I was also particularly impressed with the sat-nav, which not only coped with full UK postcodes but also showed nearly every road on the map regardless of zoom level, which made finding obscure photo locations that bit easier.
My only real gripe with the Audi's equipment was the absence of a digital radio it's not even available as an option, which seemed strange and bit miserly in an otherwise high-tech cabin.
S line-spec Audis are somewhat notorious for having an unforgiving ride, but the chassis on the Q3 was a highlight. It handled sharply, while soaking up all but the worst of patchy road surfaces. The 138bhp diesel (available in front-wheel-drive only) was smooth, refined and economical. It was well matched with the six-speed 'box, too, which allowed for decent acceleration, despite having fairly tall gearing.
The Q3 managed to accommodate my camera gear fairly well over the year. Space was tight, admittedly, but I created more room by removing the false boot floor and shedding the polystyrene filling from underneath. In fact, I only discovered the boundaries of the Audi's practicality when preparing for a family ski trip. Four people plus their luggage simply wouldn't fit, so I borrowed staff photographer Will Williams' huge Honda CR-V instead.
Other than a small metal cover on the boot mechanism coming loose fixed by West London Audi at no cost the car performed faultlessly. The only other issue I had was an irreparable puncture, which meant shelling out 209 for a new tyre.
The Audi Q3 has been one of those cars that dealt with almost everything we threw at it without bother. It might not be as bold as our Range Rover Evoque, but it will cost you less to buy and run. Yes, Mazda's CX-5 is better value and offers more space inside (we've run one of those, too), but for the image-conscious buyer the Q3 is a fine choice.
By John Bradshaw
Audi Q3 2.0 TDI 140 S line logbook
Price when new 27,815
Price now (new) 28,020
Extras Technology package (1495); panoramic glass sunroof (1100); Nappa leather seats (795); towing equipment (625); metallic paint (525); parking system plus with park assist (500); heated front seats (260); LED interior light package (245); cruise control (225); off-road design alloy wheels (195)
Total price new 34,545
Current part-ex value 22,800
Overall test fuel economy 42.3mpg
Worst fuel economy 37.7mpg
Best fuel economy 46.1mpg
True MPG 46.9mpg
Official fuel economy 54.3mpg
CO2/tax liability 137g/km/22%
Contract hire 392
Cost per mile 59p
Insurance group/quote 18/562
Servicing and repairs
Repairs Loose boot catch (free); new tyre (209)