When it comes to this kind of car, there are certainly cheaper options. The question though, is whether there are really any more desirable ones.
If ever there were any doubts that this car is more of a ‘Crossover’ - a family hatchback with SUV styling cues - than any kind of proper compact SUV, then the Q3’s roadging experience should set them firmly to rest. Yes, you have this class of car’s more commanding driving position at the helm, but otherwise, the at-the-wheel experience is exactly like the ordinary Focus-sized five-door model you might be driving right now. Unlike a truly capable 4x4, it doesn’t roll through the bends or crash through the potholes that infest our country’s terrible tarmac. Which means that virtually no acclimatisation is required if you come to Q3 ownership fresh from something more conventional.
But then much the same is true of any Crossover model. In essence, that’s partly the point of this kind of car: lifestyle attitude without any of the adventure-orientated mechanicals you probably don’t really need. Things like the kind of weighty permanent 4WD system you get on all versions of this car’s larger Q5 showroom stablemate. This Q3 may look similar to that car but under the skin, it’s a very different thing, with engineering that for all the ‘vorsprung durch technic’ marketing is really more Volkswagen-based than borrowed from anything you’d recognise in an Audi. That means underpinnings shared with an old MK6 Golf and the kind of simpler multi-plate clutch ‘on-demand’ 4WD set-up you’d get in the Wolfsburg brand’s compact Tiguan SUV.
But, as I’ve said, you won’t be buying this car with thoughts of striking out across the Serengeti. Many Q3 owners indeed, will take the opportunity to save both money and weight and choose a powerplant that will allow them to order their cars without any quattro technology at all. Two engines allow this option, with the least expensive of the pair, the 1. 4-litre TFSI petrol unit, actually only available in two-wheel drive form.
Most buyers though, will probably want a diesel. It’s the lower-powered 2. 0 TDI derivative (with power output enhanced in this revised model from 140 to 150PS) that can come front-driven, a variant capable of 62mph in 9. 6s en route to 126mph. Most owners though, tend to upgrade this variant with the extra-cost option of quattro traction, if only because this is necessary to give themselves the chance of specifying the brand’s slick 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto transmission that comes as an alternative to the standard 6-speed manual gearbox. I’m actually trying an S tronic ‘box here, though in this case it’s mated to the pokier of the two TDIs available to Q3 folk, this particular 2. 0-litre unit only available with quattro 4WD. It’s also been enhanced for this updated Q3, now putting out 184PS and therefore being the same engine you’d find in a Golf GTD hot hatch, hence rapid performance that’ll see you make 62mph from rest in just 7. 9s on the way to 136mph.
On the subject of rapid performance, if that’s your over-riding priority, then as a Q3 buyer, you’ll be turning your attention to the pair of high speed petrol variants, both of which come only with quattro traction and the S tronic gearbox. First up is the 2. 0 TFSI model, offering 180PS.
In an altogether different league though, is the flagship version of this car, the RS Q3, one of the very fastest Crossovers it’s possible to buy.
Those who, perhaps understandably, think that Audi has done little more than shrink a Q5 in a hot wash to create this model might be interested to find that it’s actually based on a concept car (the ‘Cross Coupe Quattro’) announced in 2007, well before that larger SUV saw the light of day. That prototype seemed pretty avant garde back then on the motor show circuit, but in finished production form, this Q3 has always seemed a conservative-looking thing, though the coupe-like roofline and sharply sloped D-pillars do give its silhouette an expressive and sporting demeanour.
With this revised model, Audi’s design team has tried to further build on this, primarily at the front where the brand’s familiar Singleframe front grille is now more distinctive, with a 3D-effect emphasised by chromed vertical bars on this S line model and enlarged top corners that extend to revised headlights that use either ‘xenon plus’, ‘all-weather’ or full-LED technology, depending on the trim level you choose.
Up-front, there’s the slightly raised driving position this class of car usually delivers and it’s easy to get comfortable thanks to plenty of flexibility, both from the now more supportive height-adjustable sports seats and the reach and rake-adjustable three-spoke steering wheel.
Is it all classy enough? It’s a fair question to ask, given fears that Spanish construction of this car alongside humbler SEATs would lead to a cheap-feeling interior. Such worries continue to be groundless with this revised model which, like its predecessor, manages to offer exactly the same high quality finish you’d get in an Audi Q7 model costing three times as much. It
Time to move out back where plusher variants get this power-operated tailgate that rises to reveal a 420-litre cargo area.
The capacity’s very usable too, with four lashing points and a reversible boot floor made from velour on one side and plastic on the other so that you can flip it over for the carriage of things like muddy boots and muddy dogs.
As with almost any model of this kind, this one can easily manage the school run, an extended shopping trip, a weekend away or the annual family ski trip to Chamonix. The difference here though, lies in the quality, the depth of engineering and the sheer feel-good factor that you’ll get by having this car on your driveway.
Yes, you can certainly buy something slightly bigger and SUV-ish for this kind of money. But after trying a Q3, you probably won’t want to.