Downsizing is a strong motor industry trend, with buyers increasingly favouring smaller cars with the same kind of kit and creature comforts they have been used to in bigger ones. So Audi is bang on trend with its expanding lineup of SUVs – the acronym by which so-called ‘Sports Utility Vehicles’ are known.
First it was the big Q7, designed with the American market particularly in mind; then the mid-size Q5, more suited to the scale of things on European roads; now here is the more compact Q3, the smallest and potentially most popular of Audi’s 4x4 ‘Q’ series.
In the Q3, Audi has a highly credible competitor for the likes of BMW’s X1 and the Range Rover Evoque. To demonstrate the car’s rugged nature, Audi chose a demanding route across the North York Moors for the car’s UK introduction. The drive took us from high moorland back down to a craggy coast lashed by late autumn winds and high seas.
The Q3 is 4,385 mm long and 1,831 mm wide and is priced from £24,560 to £31,210, depending on engine choice and equipment. It shares features in common with the Audi A3, and also has the same basic chassis set-up and engine choices as the Volkswagen Tiguan, from the core company in the Volkswagen Group. Hunky styling and a cliff-face bonnet design give the Q3 a strong visual presence, plus LED-edged front lights and arrow-shaped rear lights are distinctive features. Although the car sits well in rugged terrain, it is much more an urban soft-roader rather than a rural mud-plugger.Performance
In this two-litre turbodiesel version, the Q3 has 175 horsepower on tap, and it gallops across big distances with both pace and relish. There is 280 lb ft of torque available, peaking at a modest 1,750 rpm. Head for a German autobahn, and the car’s flat out pace is 132 mph, while its 0-62 acceleration time is a very sprightly 8.2 mm. If towing is your thing, this car will haul a highly respectable 2,000 kg.
Sharing its underpinnings with Volkswagen’s capable new Tiguan, the Q3 has a supple, well-sorted feel on the road. It is an accomplished performer, equally at home on motorways, undulating B-roads and urban streets. On meandering, switchback moorland roads it felt impressively in control, a rapid transport machine with impressive behaviour around some trickily-cambered bends. The seven-speed S tronic auto box does its job with smooth efficiency, and is best enjoyed when controlled manually via the well-placed steering column paddles, set just where you need them at the quarter-to-three position.
We rate the diesel version the best of the bunch. The Q3 feels settled and secure with the extra engine weight up front, and this engine seems best suited to both the suspension set-up and the S tronic seven-speed auto transmission.
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