Audi Q3 SE 2.0 TDI Quattro S line
Sector: Compact SUV Price: £31,715 Fuel: 47.9mpg CO2: 156g/km
Against the challenges of a weak world economy, Audi’s recent success in the tough premium segment is staggering. The German manufacturer launched its new LED-emblazoned family styling with the R8 back in 2008, and has sustained desirability by drip-feeding that futuristic style into the rest of the range ever since.
And there’s just as clever a trick being pulled off with the Q3, which does a very convincing job of taking the colossal Q7’s styling and shrinking it down to the size of a conventional hatchback, and with downsized running costs to match. It’s a recipe that’s guaranteed to net buyers.
This is a good looking car, too. Mistakable at a glance as the Q5, it’s only up close that it becomes obvious just how small it is. Tiny enough, in fact, to need cut-outs in the back to add headroom in that steeply raked roofline. But customers looking to downsize will find few disadvantages in practicality.
It’s also the first Audi to be manufactured by sister brand SEAT, with assembly farmed out to the Spanish brand’s factory in Martorell, near Barcelona. The shame here being SEAT won’t get the technology for its own sports-compact SUV, which would really suit its youthful customer base.
Engine choices are familiar, with the ubiquitous 2.0-litre TDI and quattro four-wheel drive offering refined on-road cruising ability and barely audible rumble at idle, while returning a tiny thirst for fuel. Consumption in the high 40s is easy to reach on motorway trips.
But there are chinks in its armour. Its feather-light steering makes the BMW X1 feel
much more reassuring to drive, and things like flimsy indicator stalks make the X1 feel better built too.
None of this matters, of course. The Q3 has all the right boxes ticked to make it a roaring success with affluent young buyers, and no amount of minor flaws will detract from that desirability. It’s just a shame it lacks the solid, mechanical feel that usually follows the four rings.
The Q3 has the right blend of upmarket badge, futuristic styling and sensible running costs to be an appealing option in the compact SUV segment. But the BMW X1 is far better to drive, and even siblings from Volkswagen and Škoda feel more solid and involving from behind the wheel.