Audi covers all its bases and more

With its fresh look and pretty architecture, there’s little doubt the Audi Q3 is one of the more eye-catching members of the increasingly numerous compact SUV segment or, to be more specific, the premium compact SUV segment.

Audi covers all its bases and more

Up against the likes of the Mercedes GLA, the BMW X1, and, most expensively, the Range Rover Evoque, the Audi contender has a lot going for it.

Perhaps the best looking of the three German contenders, the Audi is a very saleable machine and, when fully stacked, undoubtedly the best of the trio. While it will struggle to match the abilities of the Evoque as a sheer off-road contender, it is capable of beating the others into a cocked hat. The other thing going for it is that it is substantially cheaper than the Range Rover.

With a stand-out road presence that catches the eye of even the most uneducated car appraiser, the Q3 is also blessed with the sort of build quality that so many others strive for but never achieve.

There are funny things going on in the way manufacturers are now compartmentalising their vehicles and thus the Q3 actually falls somewhere between a Crossover and an SUV. It is now more a road-biased car than an off-roader — perhaps unashamedly so. As it now has a much greater 2WD predisposition, the chances are it will appeal to a greater number of people.

Having driven the version fitted with the VW Group’s 1.4 TFSI turbocharged petrol engine, it seemed to me that it is definitely a car that knows its target market.

That’s not to say it is a car which I, personally, would particularly like to own, favouring as I do a full 4WD rather than the front-wheel drive option on offer in the tester. Readers will know by now of my preferences in this regard, although I do accept others might not feel the same way.

If you’re looking for a vehicle which provides absolute peace of mind in any driving circumstance, then there is only really one way to go: The one with Audi’s ‘quattro’ system in place.

Thus I find it hard to accept the understeery tendencies you expect from a normal saloon or five-door hatchback from a car which costs north of €40k. I’d certainly be looking for more for my money, but that’s just me; many punters are not as picky.

But let’s go through what’s on offer here. We’re familiar with the 1.4 engine which outputs some 150 bhp, has a top speed of 204km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 8.9 seconds, all of which makes this Q3 impressively brisk. With 250 Nm of torque available between 1,750 and 3,500 rpm, there’s plenty of push available through each of the seven gears on the S Tronic auto gearbox.

The S Line spec we drove was added to with many extras, including 19” alloy wheels which, while looking great, actually harm your CO2 output. In normal circumstances your emissions here are 136 g/km, but with the 19s on board, it goes up to 143 g/km. This in turn ups your annual tax bill from €280 up to €390. You might want to reconsider those alloys, then.

Diesel afficionados might cavil at the consumption return of 5.9 l/100km (47.9 miles per gallon), but it’s not that bad and I bet Audi will have something smaller and more efficient coming down the tracks shortly.

One thing which cannot be argued is the quality of the interior, for which Audi has a worthy reputation. The premium feel on offer here is second to none and the manner in which the manufacturer makes its cars’ interiors so special is a lesson in how to do it right.

I didn’t feel quite the same about the driving characteristics, for many of the reasons listed above. I wasn’t mad about the understeer and you really do have to be in a saloon/hatchback mindset when driving, rather than in SUV mode. Otherwise the handling is good and the grip levels decent enough, but the two-wheel drive system simply does not offer the same peace of mind as the quattro system — or even the Haldex system seen on several models.

Worth noting too that if you want to add spec to the Q3 then it’s going to cost you quite a bit. I hate the feeling that I’m hitting the ‘repeat’ button here, but people should be aware that stuff like those 19” alloys cost nearly two grand extra; the leather upholstery another €2k; fancy dan steering wheel with paddle shifters will add €275; and the MMI navigation system will cost you €2,160. Be careful what you wish for.

I did like the Q3, despite what you might be thinking. It may not be a car I’d consider buying, but I can see why many would. The striking good looks, impeccable interior layout with seriously impressive ambient lighting (particularly so in the dark), and the overall comfort levels all add up to a car which has desirability written all over it.

Not necessarily my sort of poison then, but I am sure there are many that will sup contentedly from this cup without any bother at all.

Audi is covering an astonishing amount of bases across its model range now and this is one car which might be regarded as somewhat ‘niche’ but it is also one which will keep quite a number of people very happy indeed.

Colley's Verdict

The Car: Audi Q3

The Cost: From €39,500 to €52,340 as tested.

The Engine: The growing swing towards petrol engines continues here.

The Specification: Undoubtedly well coutured inside and out, but you can rack up a lot of extra euros if you’re not careful.

Overall Verdict: Will appeal to many — but not me.

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