Audi’s little SUV could be big trouble for BMW

 

 

By Philip Hedderman

Looks can be deceiving.

At first glance one could be forgiven for thinking the new Audi Q3 is merely a smaller version of the Q5, which in turn, is just a tinier version of the legendary Q7.

Not the case here.

If the equation were that simple then the whole driving experience would just be a double dilution of the 7.

Now while not exactly E=MC2, the new Q3 is quite a feat of automotive engineering.

You see, if you were to sit down with a team of SUV boffins and produced this particular wish list, I doubt they’d be able to fulfil all of them.
It would read as follows;
Rugged looks;
spacious and roomy;
high driving position with panoramic vision;
family friendly;
safe and secure;
economical;
environmentally friendly;
all-wheel drive;
and above all  – the ability to drive and handle like a saloon car.

Everything on the list bar the last one has been achieved in the past and is pretty synonymous with soft roading.

The Holy Grail is the drivability which Audi
have cracked with the Q3.

From the outside the sleek design leaves you in no doubt that we’re in SUV territory.

Avoiding the traditional boxy look, Audi have opted for a more slender, longer look thanks to the almost coupe-like sloping roof.

Couple that with the broader chassis, flared wheel arches and thick rubber mouldings which flow from beneath the sump around the sills to the rear where it is complimented by double chrome tail pipes- and you have a pretty macho little bus.

And if size does matter then you’re in for a treat as soon as the driver’s door swings open.

The deceptively roomy cabin has ample seating for five adults and class-leading boot space of 460 litres which trebled to 1,365 litres  when the split folding seats are down.

If that’s not enough then for a few Euros more customers can request a folding front seat should one want to ferry awkward loads around.

Like all of the Audi range the build quality is second to none with top class materials and soft touch surfaces at every fingertip.

Refreshingly there is only two trim levels to choose from (SE and S line) and there is a generous amount of kit on both.

The entry level SE  gets 17-inch alloys, aluminium roof rails and rear parking sensors. Inside you get Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, Driver Information system with 6.5inch retractable colour screen, iPod connectivity, pre wired Sat Nav, leather multi-function steering wheel and Hill hold assist.

Cough up an extra €3,500 and you’ll find yourself in the S line with 18 inch 5 spoke alloys, swankier interior and exterior, Xenon headlamps and LED rear tail lights.

Now it wouldn’t be an Audi if there wasn’t a shed load of optional extras on offer – although be fair, the only one worth bothering with is cruise control at €410.

All the bling in the world can’t make up for a poor drive, so can she match the exquisite good looks.

Absolutely.

The test car we drove was the 177bhp, 2.0 TDI Quattro, twinned with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

And what a combination?

Power and torque are in abundance, gearing up and down seamlessly while the grip from the all- wheel drive make this baby corner like it’s a little hot hatch.

It’s rare that a small SUV with a high centre of gravity can handle like a car but the Q3 has slayed that dragon.

It also dispels the myth that a 4X4 can be even reasonably economical.

The Quattro has emissions of 156g/km (tax band D) meaning road tax of €481 whole returning an astounding 47mpg.

Other engine options include a 140 bhp 2.0 TDi front wheel drive and two 2.0 litre TFSi petrol units  – 170 and 211bhp respectively.

The 2WD 140 bhp diesel (in tax band B €225) will account for the majority of sales and if that is even one tenth as good as the Quattro then the BMW  1 Series is in big trouble.

Any drawbacks?

None other than the price, which is a little expensive – especially for the Quattro which is closer to €48k, but you can feel the quality both in the drive and styling.

 Some though might argue that you get what you pay for.

 

The Audi Q3 2WD starts at €35,180.