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Audi Q3 review (2011 onwards)
Summary - Delicious debut from Audi in the premium compact crossover segment.
We like - Standout interior, surprising space, enjoyable to drive
We don't like - Cost of options
Audi is terribly excited. The German manufacturer has spotted a market segment that it's not currently in and reckons it can dominate it. It's the "premium compact crossover" sector.
The only rivals are the BMW X1 and forthcoming Range Rover Evoque. If you thought the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 should be in the game they are simply not posh enough. As for those nice alternatives from the Koreans, forget it.
The quattro four-wheel-drive system is also well established, and it's available on most of the Q3 range. But the biggest-selling model will be the cheapest, the 2.0TDI with front-wheel drive.
It's the car we have appraised here, though we drove the whole range of Q3s with petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmissions and, of course, four-wheel drive. This entry model doesn't give much away.
Except, in true Audi style, there is a treasure chest of options that could well transform even this Q3 into a very expensive car indeed. There's sat-nav with Google Earth, active lane assist, self-parking, adaptive suspension -and that's before factoring all the interior upgrades.
The bestselling engine across the entire Audi range, the 2.0 TDI's decent performance and emissions are further helped by reasonably low weight. Generous use of high tensile steel and an aluminium bonnet and tailgate all play a part.
If you need more performance there's a 170hp version too, though that's coupled to four-wheel drive and automatic transmission, which adds £3k to the list price.
There are some nice features, like the hill hold that clasps the brakes as you move your foot from brake pedal to accelerator, plus an automatic parking brake that releases as you drive off.
Hill descent control will follow in the future. The Q3 is completely straightforward to drive too, with an accurate six-speed manual gearbox and good visibility.
Ride and handling
Like the quattro versions, this front-wheel-drive Q3 comes with extra ground clearance over and above what you'd get with an A4 estate. Yet the additional height doesn't have a noticeable effect on the handling, which always feels secure.
In fact you'd be hard pushed to tell whether this was a two- or four-wheel-drive car most of the time. The quattro versions only drive the rear wheels when the fronts start to slip, a condition you are unlikely to encounter unless you are off-road or driving in snow.
The ride is on the firm side, common in cars like this, but we doubt many would complain. Opt for fashion statement bigger wheels and the ride will suffer. As standard the alloys are 17-inch and the Q3 looks good on these.
Rivals can measure up to the Q3 dynamically but the Audi's interior is in a class of its own. The perception of quality is unsurpassed. The sweep of the dashboard is elegant, the switchgear is precise and nicely weighted, the steering wheel leather tactile in your hands.
You'll pay extra for lots of the niceties, but the basic equipment package is sound enough, with multi-function controls on the wheel, dual zone climate control and Bluetooth with an iPod interface and a flip-up dashboard screen.
Seats are cloth as standard, combining lots of adjustment in all directions with superior comfort. In the back, too. The Q3 may look like a big A1, but the interior space is remarkably good - four adults can travel here in a relaxed manner.
Luggage space is another surprise. The sill is very high, but the load area is deep enough to carry cases on their side, a rarity in crossovers. The capacity is almost 30% better than a Ford Kuga, for example.
But care is needed. Opt for the Bose stereo upgrade and a great chunk of luggage space is lost to the bass speaker. The capacity is also dependent upon dispensing with the spare wheel and opting for the can of sealant that will be standard in the UK.
Still, with Bose you get a lovely sound system with some very cool ambient lighting around the speakers to compliment that around the cupholders. All very premium.
Economy and safety
Without the weight of four-wheel drive to lug around this version of the Q3 can be impressively economical. There's start-stop too, which helps in city driving, while with automatic transmission and the right option pack, the Q3 will freewheel down hills.
The statutory combined figure for the manual 2.0 TDI is 54.2mpg, so reckon on somewhere the right side of 40mpg, a satisfactory result. CO2 is 138g/km, again a good figure in this market.
Euro NCAP crash test results are likely to appear later in the year but only a fool would bet against a full five stars. There are airbags to the front and side as well as curtain airbags, with more optional.
The MSN Cars verdict
We have no hesitation awarding the Q3 five stars. Yes, we know it's expensive if you get enthusiastic about the options but you get what you pay for and the baby Audi SUV has a genuine premium feel.
And this £25k model does the business extremely well, with quality and (potentially) great resale values giving it long-term appeal too.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||2.0 four-cylinder|
|Engines, diesel||2.0 four-cylinder|
|Power, hp||140 - 211|
|Torque, lb ft||207 - 280|
|0-62 mph, secs||9.9 - 6.9|
|Top speed, mph||125 - 143|
|Mpg combined||54.2 - 36.6|
|CO2, tax||138 - 179g/km / 23 - 28%|
|Ratings||Audi Q3 2.0 TDI SE|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|
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