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Audi Q3 2.0 TDI 177PS quattro SE Auto

Click to view picture galleryTotally debadge Audis latest
  compact SUV, the Q3, and everyone
  would still look at it and say
Audi.
  And, as you
d expect, its a classy-
  looker with
Q family styling and
  distinctive kerb appeal
...”


THERE'S THE SAME 'COUPE' SIDE PROFILE, muscular wheel arches, rounded rear end and the aggressive front face with the large vertical slatted grille flanked by signature daytime running lights. Inside it's much the same as other Audi Q models although simpler in looks.

It's only just gone on sale and already 2,000 Q3s have been snapped up; in a full year Audi UK expect to sell 8,000. While that's very impressive, even better is the fact that 60% of customers will be 'conquest' buyers moving across to the Audi brand. The corresponding launch of Range Rover's new Evoque in the same sector might dent Audi's aspirations although on average the Q3 costs less to buy and run.

Four engines are available two petrol and two diesel along with two levels of trim, making the Q3 a very focussed range targeted precisely at customers buying into this still growing compact SUV/Crossover segment.

“Customers specifying
the S tronic auto have the
option of Audi’s Drive
Select with this gearbox
that, in addition to the
comfort, auto and
dynamic modes, now
provides an ‘efficient’
setting which, every time
the driver lifts off the
throttle, disengages its
active clutch, thereby
allowing the Q3 to use
the momentum already
built up to ‘coast’.
Press the brake
or throttle pedal and the
clutch re-engages
...”
Audi UK are very sure about one thing eight out of every ten Q3s sold will have a diesel engine, of which half will be fitted with the 174bhp (177PS) 2.0-litre TDI unit with SE spec being chosen by just over half of all customers. Business user-choosers keen to reduce their Benefit-in-Kind tax bills will be sure to be interested in the two-wheel drive 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI version that arrives in December.

To buy a Q3 you'll need a minimum of 24,560. Range prices top out at 31,360 although 28,460 will get you one of the expected best-selling 174bhp 2.0 TDI turbodiesels in SE trim with quattro all-wheel drive and a seven-speed S tronic auto 'box.

Q3 customers covering fewer miles have a choice of two 2.0-litre petrol engines. The most popular of the pair will be the 167bhp unit with a six-speed manual 'box and quattro 4WD; the second is a 208bhp quattro fitted with a seven-speed S tronic automatic.

Customers specifying the S tronic auto have the option (for 220) of Audi's Drive Select with this gearbox that, in addition to the comfort, auto and dynamic modes, now provides an 'efficient' setting which, every time the driver lifts off the throttle, disengages its active clutch, thereby allowing the Q3 to use the momentum already built up to 'coast'. Press the brake or throttle pedal and the clutch re-engages.

This new Drive Select function is claimed to improve fuel economy although the on-board computer didn't show any significant improvement in mpg. Driving the steep downhill sections of the North Yorkshire Moors, it was certainly 'interesting' using this setting; a touch of the brakes and the gearbox changed down promptly to restore engine braking. I suspect that this 'efficiency coasting' feature will be more effective in urban commuting and on busy motorways where cars are constantly slowing down and then speeding up again.

We tested the main-selling 174bhp 2.0-litre TDI with the auto 'box, quattro all-wheel drive and Drive Select and the overall fuel consumption came out at 35.8mpg not close to the official Combined Cycle figure of 47.9mpg. Tailpipe emissions are 156g/km so road tax is 165 per year. Company car drivers will have to pay 24% in BIK tax.

The 174bhp TDI unit works well in the Q3, both for urban driving and on the open road. And it's likely to be a popular choice for school run mums because of its compact length; it's also easy to park and nimble, with sharp accurate steering, and a composed ride. Plus it looks classy and has lots of kerb appeal.

The Q3's lightweight construction (helped by an aluminium bonnet and tailgate) gives it lots of agility on the open road while the quattro 4WD provides copious amounts of grip during cornering. The ride is firm but still compliant and generally comfortable.

“The Q3’s lightweight
construction (helped
by an aluminium
bonnet and tailgate)
gives it lots of agility
on the open road while
the quattro 4WD
provides copious
amounts of grip during
cornering.
The ride is firm but still
compliant and
generally comfortable
...”
Although its sales will be relatively small, the cheaper 25,690 167bhp 2.0-litre petrol SE is likely to appeal to lower mileage users. This direct injection engine is combined with a six-speed manual 'box and has quattro all-wheel drive as standard.

The engine has 73lb ft less torque than the 2.0-litre diesel so needs to be worked a little harder but even so it manages zero to 62mph in 8.2 seconds and the top speed is 132mph identical figures for both engines. The official average mpg is 38.7 but on our test drive over the same route it came in at 26.3mpg. With 174g/km CO2 emissions, road tax is 265 reducing to 190 for the second year onwards.

Climb aboard and you'll find that the Q3's cabin is very much up to Audi's usual high standards of build quality; the fascia layout is simpler but the plastics used around the door pulls look more obvious than on the more expensive Q5 and Q7 models.

Bodies or boxes? If the former, the Q3 will seat five; if the latter there's a maximum 1,365 litres of load space although the split rear seatbacks do not fold completely flat. Incidentally, in five-seat mode the boot is a healthy 460 litres, and the braked towing weight a practical and usable 2,000kg.

The most popular SE models come well kitted-out with dual-zone climate control, a good quality sound system, colour information display screen, iPod connection, Bluetooth connectivity, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers and power windows and door mirrors plus aluminium roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Upgrading to the top S line spec will cost you another 2,750 and gets you styling changes, more powerful headlights with LED front and tail lights and 18-inch wheels.

Optional equipment includes a hard-drive based SatNav, bigger information display screen, turning headlights, automatic high beam assist and blind spot and lane departure warning systems. And if you plan to use your Q3 for some multiple purpose activities, you might want to tick the boxes for luggage load bed and rear sill protectors.

Against? Rear seatbacks do not fold completely flat, limited off-road capability, watch the costs of those options! For? Well balanced and good looking Audi 'Q family' styling, agile handling, sharp steering response with good feedback, minimum body roll and lots of road grip during cornering.

Overall the Audi Q3 is a valuable addition to the brand's line-up despite the tough economic climate, sales of compact Crossovers and SUVs are growing significantly and the Q3 is well placed to catch downsizers from larger SUVs and, best of all for Audi, bring in new conquest customers. David Miles

Audi Q3 2.0 TDI 177PS quattro SE Auto | 28,460
Maximum speed: 132mph | 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds | Overall test MPG: 35.8mpg
Power: 174bhp | Torque: 280lb ft | CO2 156g/km