Overall rating: 4/5
Though far from adventurous in the styling department, the new Audi Q3 retains all of the company's usual high quality appeal. Is it dramatic enough to beat Land Rover's forthcoming Evoque though?
In the Metal:
'Neat' pretty much sums up the Q3. It's a virtual facsimile of its larger Q5 relative, only smaller. That's not a complaint, as it looks good. Audi's styling is currently concentrated heavily on head- and tail lights. They're the most dramatic aspect of this sub-compact SUV contender. Overall, it's as appealing as the awkward looking BMW X1 isn't, and restrained in the face of its rather try-hard Range Rover Evoque rival.
You could only be in an Audi inside. The interior is beautifully finished in high quality materials. Even without leather it's classy and appealing. There's space for four adults, though rear legroom isn't overly generous - but then there's a Q5 for that. Likewise the boot's not vast, but it'll suit most small families.
The 2.0-litre TDI unit will be the most common engine, this 177hp version coming as standard with quattro four-wheel drive and the S tronic seven-speed automatic. It's quiet, with only the slightest grumble heard when you really push it, the 2.0-litre unit smooth and flexible. Rapid enough too, with a 0-100km/h time of 8.2 seconds and top speed of 212km/h. Audi offers Drive Select, which allows four different settings - Dynamic, Auto, Comfort and Efficiency. Comfort suits it best, with lighter steering and, if fitted with adaptive dampers, more supple suspension. The steering is precise and even offers a modicum of feel, the Q3 driving much like its Q5 relative - which means like a tall hatchback. Body roll isn't an issue unless you're being silly and on smooth Swiss roads the Q3 is rarely unsettled - we'd avoid the firmer S line suspension in Ireland though.
Choose Efficiency via Drive Select and the Audi Q3 manages functions like climate and cruise control to best maximise economy. Officially it'll use 5.9 litres/100km (47.8mpg) on the combined cycle, though expect it to be nearer a little more thirst in realistic day-to-day driving.
What you get for your Money:
SE and S line trims are the only two available, and they're both fairly comprehensively specified. Alloy wheels, parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, iPod integration and navigation preparation (allowing you to activate navigation in the future by purchasing a SD card) all come as standard.
Prices for the Irish market start at €33,850.
Economy is impressive on this 177hp TDI model, but if you want even more miles from your fill-ups (and most Irish buyers will) then the 140hp version with a manual six-speed gearbox and front-wheel drive has an official consumption figure of 5.2 litres/100km (54.3mpg). Of course, more importantly its emissions are just 133g/km, which means Band B tax. It's rather sweet to drive too, though you might miss the quattro four-wheel drive when it snows this winter.
There's little revolutionary in the Audi Q3, but the combination of high quality, dignified styling, economy and a decent drive create an appealing all-rounder. It looks restrained in comparison to the forthcoming Evoque, but for many that'll be a large part of its appeal.