Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI SE S tronic

January 2012

picture of car from the front

Handsome Q3 looks best with grey lower panels

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 7Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 7Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Handsome and relatively understated looks
  • First-class cabin and material quality
  • Responsive yet relatively economical petrol engine
  • Comfortable ride with engaging driving experience

Gripes

  • Compact exterior means cabin may be too small for some
  • Wrong colour and wheel combinations can make it look ungainly
  • No two-wheel drive petrol version offered
  • Q5 is its biggest rival

A three-strong portfolio of SUVs has given German manufacturer Audi a strong foothold in a crowded market, all offering a desirable mix of premium luxury and versatility. But it is the smallest Q3 that is likely to be the most popular as it is the most affordable and is a more viable option for buyers keen to choose petrol rather than diesel power.

A cursory glance could mistake the Q3 for its bigger Q5 brother such is the similarity in exterior design. That's not necessarily a bad thing however as looks do play a big part in buying decisions in this sector. There are also clear elements of the A1 too, and this indicates the Q3's role in trying to tempt buyers who may have previously thought an SUV was too big or too intimidating to be a realistic purchase.

The mechanical make-up of the Q3 also follows on from the bigger Q5 and encompasses the best Audi technology available. Although the diesel offering are likely to the most popular, a choice of two efficient petrol engines using Audi's TFSI technology make this a viable alternative, and buyers who are determined to stick with petrol can enjoy both performance and economy.

All versions bar the high-economy diesel model come with the expected quattro four-wheel drive system, and transmission options are six-speed manual and a revised version of the seven-speed dual clutch S-tronic which will disengage the clutch when the driver lifts off the throttle to give a more efficient coasting mode. Choose the Drive Select system and an Efficiency mode is included designed to maximise fuel savings.

Inside the Q3 offers similar space to that of a conventional family hatchback, just with the added quality of a typical Audi cabin and the high seating position that is so desirable. It also can be specified with a huge range of high-tech kit usually reserved for models higher up the ladder; online connectivity to Google and in-vehicle WLAN hot spot are all available.

Our verdict on the Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI SE S tronic

The Q3 is a perfect example of the modern SUV, being big and sturdy enough to be practical and tackle minor off-road work but being comfortable and engaging to drive on-road. The high-power TFSI engine gives the Q3 real fizz and a keen driver will find its measured responses a strong performance a pleasure to use. That it does so while still offering respectable economy and emissions is a real bonus.

Costs
Costs rating 7

The Q3's list price is on a par with its premium rivals, and for the performance on offer the TFSI version will be relatively affordable to run although clearly more expensive than the comparable diesel versions. Insurance costs may also be a little higher than average with this being one of the fastest compact SUVs on the market.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 7

The Q3 makes the most of its relatively modes proportions. All cabin occupants have decent head and legroom, although taller drivers may want to do without the optional sunroof as it does reduce headroom a fraction. In the rear full-size adults will be comfortable, but seating a tall person behind another may leave the rear occupant a little short of space. The boot is also a generous size with the option of folding the rear seats to create a large and long load area.

picture of car from the rear

Clear family links with bigger Q5 and Q7

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

Unsurprisingly the Q3 uses a good deal of familiar switchgear and instrumentation from elsewhere in the Audi range, and this is certainly used to good effect. The dashboard layout is clear and attractive while the standard display screen and control system is easy to operate and understand. Arguably the highest spec models have so many menus and systems it takes a little while to become fully familiar with them all, but it is as straightforward as it could be.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 8

SE specification brings with it the standard suspension set up and smaller alloys wheels, and to avoid the slightly firm ride of the S line model this is the specification of choice. Wind and road noise levels are well contained and all the engines options are refined, but at cruising speeds the TFSI fades away to near silence.

Car security
Security Rating 8

All Q3 models come with an approved alarm and immobiliser system for a high level of security, and anyone seeking extra protection can raid the options list for a tracking device. Tinted rear windows and a useful luggage cover will also help to keeping prying eyes at bay.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

Every Q3 is packed with safety equipment with eight airbags, ESP and automatic activation of headlights and wipers. Extra security is provided by Quattro four-wheel drive versions, and the options list contains features such as blind spot and lane departure warning systems which provide the highest level of safety assistance available in the class.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

With the higher-output TFSI engine up front the Q3 becomes something of a pseudo hot SUV. In this guise it is only available with the slick seven-speed S tronic dual clutch gearbox, and whether cruising or making full use of the performance it is the ideal companion. Strong performance is available from low engine speeds and it is also happy to rev around to the red line. Despite being four-wheel drive the Q3 feels light on its toes and changes direction keenly and without fuss.

picture of car interior

High quality cabin is an Audi trademark

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 8

Family buyers will make up a large slice of the Q3's target audience and it has all the right attributes to satisfy those needs. Good space for passengers and luggage, a good view out from all the seats and the option of high-quality audio should keep all ages happy. The cabin is made up of tough but well-finished materials which will no doubt survive the onslaught of small children.

First car appeal
First car Rating 4

The Q3 would be manageable for a new driver and even be relatively cheap to run, but the purchase price would put it beyond most newly-qualified drivers.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

A high level of quality is taken as read with any modern Audi and the Q3 does not disappoint, despite being one of the more modestly priced offerings. Fit and finish are excellent and the materials used are of a very high standard. Despite their ubiquity Audis still have a strong image and are considered a desirable car, and in the right specification the Q3 will remain desirable throughout its life.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

The Q3 has a high ride height but is no leviathan, and so climbing aboard is problem-free. Front and rear seats will be at the right height for most people, while the boot floor is also at a comfortable height. Although rear space is relatively average there is sufficient space in the footwells and decent door apertures for those in the rear.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A multitude of audio options are available to a Q3 buyer but even the standard-issue radio/CD unit also offers an SD card reader, MP3 interface and Bluetooth connectivity as well as good audio reproduction. There are two further upgrades available including a full Bang and Olufsen system, WiFi hotspot and full Google Earth sat-nav imaging.

picture of car in detail

Q3 is practical with useful under-floor storage

Colours and trim

Although the standard issue sober metallics are well suited to many Audi designs the Q3 also looks very presentable in brighter hues. The standard grey lower panels give it the right amount of visual toughness, but the optional body-coloured style distorts its appearance negatively. On the inside the trim is up to the usual high Audi standards, but in many ways the standard cloth trim is more appealing than the commonly-specified leather.

Parking

A high seating position and good visibility means straightforward parking, while rear parking sensors are standard across the range. The optional upgraded parking system can include front sensors or even a rear-view camera, and with the full parking assist in place it is the work of a moment to get the Q3 into position.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 2.0-litre (168bhp and 208bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (138bhp and 175bhp). Transmission options: Six-speed manual fitted to lower output models, seven-speed dual clutch automatic fitted to higher output models. Trim levels: SE and S line.

 

Alternative cars

BMW X1 Odd looks, decent drive and strong engine range

Land Rover Freelander Kudos and off-road ability but not in most efficient two-wheel drive version

Volkswagen Tiguan In-house rival is just as competent

Mini Countryman More of a high-riding hatch but option of four-wheel drive



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January 2012