Audi Q3: First drive
The Audi Q3 is Audi's 12th new car in five years and the latest car to enter the popular compact premium SUV sector. This sector has been receiving so much attention this year with the addition of the eye-catching Range Rover Evoque.
The Evoque's distinctive looks won't appeal to all, so why should you buy this new Audi SUV over established competition such as the BMW X1? I headed to North Yorkshire to find out.
Prices start at £24,560 for the Q3 2.0TDi SE and the Q3 is the third model in Audi's Q-Badged range of SUVs. The others are the massive Q7, which is a Premiership Footballer's favourite and the smaller Q5. However, the Q3 is the smallest model in the range.
The exterior styling is an attractive mixture of current Audi cues, but isn't as cool as the baby Range Rover. I particularly liked the Coupe-like roofline, the flattened rear window, the S-Line's larger alloys and the LED front and rear lights.
To save weight, the bonnet and bootlid are manufactured from an Audi favourite – aluminium. The German manufacturer claims that these are 50% lighter than the conventional steel items.
There are no surprises in the Q3's interior, as it's finished to Audi's usual quality standards. Most functions were controlled on the S-Line versions I drove, by the latest version of the Audi MMI systems, that's easy to use.
I really liked the Q3's tall, comfy driving position. The seats were also supportive and all round visibility is generally good.
There's enough room for two adults to travel in the back of the Q3 in comfort, but best avoid the optional panoramic glass roof (£1,100) if trips with tall passenger are often, as it robs valuable rear headroom.
There's also a good sized 460 litre boot; shame it's spoiled by being on the shallow side and there's also an annoying loading lip to get luggage over.
Just three engines will be available in the Q3 initially and I got the chance to drive them all.
The entry-level engine is a 168bhp 2.0-litre petrol which has 174g/km Co2 emissions and a combined fuel consumption figure of 38.7mpg. Overall it feels refined, sharp and quick but it's compromised by a notchy six-speed manual gearbox.
Next up is another 2.0-litre petrol, this time with 208bhp and seven-speed S-Tronic transmission only. The extra performance sees the emissions figure drop to 179g/km, with consumption down similarly to 36.7mpg.
To be honest, I found it hard to tell the difference between the two 2.0-litre petrol engines in terms of performance. Plus, I'm not sure that the S-Tronic works particularly well with this engine. Some of the gearchanges felt laboured on the hilly test route.
My favourite of the three, is the only diesel engine available – the 175bhp 2.0-litre. Audi predict that 50 per cent of Q3 buyers will go for this 156g/km emissions and 40.4mpg combination.
Only available with seven-speed S-Tronic transmission, it certainly has the most torque of the bunch. Again though, the S-Tronic feels a bit slow to react and this engine is noisier when compared to the petrols.
So, what's the Q3 like to drive? Well the first thing I noticed on all the cars that I drove was the ride, which was on the firm side. This means you'll feel all the road imperfections and on the 18-inch alloys, there was plenty of road noise too.
Go for the optional Drive Select system (£220) and you get a nifty de-coupling clutch, that disengages like the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid on the overrun. The system works well.
Still, the upside of the stiff ride is that the Q3 feels impressively agile. Despite the taller dimensions, body roll is kept well under control and there's plenty of grip.
So would I buy one? Personally, I think it comes down to a head versus heart scenario. For me, the Evoque's styling appeals to the heart, but the usual Audi quality appeals to the head. It would be a tough decision; still 2,000 British buyers have already plumped for the Audi Q3 and I'm sure it's going to be a massive success.