What is it?
Maybe you thought Audi had already left no market niche unfilled, but the new Q3 does plug an obvious one. This smallest of the Q-car SUVs rivals the BMW X1 and the new Range Rover Evoque, and combines A3 front-end underpinnings with the rear ones of a VW Tiguan. The look is typical Audi Q – bold nose with bevel-edge, vertical-bar grille, a rounded tail, LED bands around the lights. It's not a full-on off-roader, rather a posh SUV in a compact package.
Engine and performance
The entry version has front-wheel drive, a six-speed manual and a 138bhp TDI turbodiesel. A 174bhp version of this 2.0-litre unit is matched to four-wheel drive (a Haldex clutch linking the transverse powertrain to the rear axle as needed), while two tunes of 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine also use 4WD. The 167bhp unit has the six-speed manual, the 208bhp one has a seven-speed S-tronic double-clutcher as does the more powerful diesel.
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Above this there's a Q3 2.5 with the TT RS's five-pot, here detuned to a still-tasty 305bhp. It's not on sale in the UK.
Weight-saving measures include an aluminium bonnet and tailgate and a large proportion of high-strength steels, but even the base model weighs a hefty 1445kg. Options include an on-board wi-fi connection.
What's it like to drive?
Remarkably good. We sampled the top two engines and both are punchy, quiet, smooth and quick to respond. The TDI is torquier, the TFSI ultimately quicker with a surprising 6.9sec 0-62mph time and a 143mph top speed. The double-clutch transmission can be clunky at times but shifts quickly, with manual paddle-shifting giving smoother progress. It steers accurately, the electric assistance feels credible and the ride is very smooth for an Audi – at least with the optional Drive Select, whose three damper modes feel only subtly different from each other. This system also has an Efficiency mode, which causes the double-clutch transmission to freewheel on the overrun, saving fuel.
We also tried one of four prototype 2.5s built by Audi's Quattro division, still with an early exhaust system (too throbby under the floor) and running on fidgety S-line sports suspension. It proved predictably rapid and sounded very enticing at the tailpipe. We'd like it in the UK, please.
It's roomier, better-looking and somehow more complete than an X1, and is currently the small SUV of choice although the Evoque may well change that. It also makes you wonder at the point of buying a more expensive but barely more spacious Q5.
The interior is right up to the best Audi standards, with a soft-touch skin right to the base of the doors and the dash, and the design theme of a shrunken A8. The latest Q3 is available to order now with prices ranging from £25,340 to £30,820.
|Engine||1998cc 4-cyl turbo petrol|
|Max power||207bhp @ TBC rpm|
|0-60||6.9 sec (claimed 0-62mph)|