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Road tests

Audi Q3

Germany's answer to the Evoque has landed - is it good enough to stand out from the crowd?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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There's no doubt the Q3 flies under the radar more than the flamboyant Range Rover Evoque, but for plenty of buyers that's no bad thing. Once again Audi has managed to distil the class-leading build quality and premium feel from higher up the range into a compact model that's relatively affordable - with prices starting from under £25,000. There are compromises for the high driving position, such as increased body roll, but the supple suspension, incredible refinement and powerful but efficient engines make up for that. If it's big enough for your means the Q3 is a hugely versatile car - and yet another brilliantly exploited niche by Audi.

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Downsizing doesn't just apply to engines, SUVs are shrinking too. This is the Q3, the third and smallest member of the ‘Q’ family and Audi's answer to the BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque.

It measures around 250mm shorter, 70mm narrower and 65mm lower than the Q5, but interior room has been cleverly maintained. There’s space for five adults with plenty of leg room in the rear, and with the split-folding rear bench lying flat there's 1,365-litres of boot space.

Video: watch our video review of the Audi Q3

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Distinctive design cues include the steeply raked rear screen, wraparound tailgate and LED lights front and rear. SE models, as tested here, get plastic sills and bumpers and 17-inch wheels as standard, while S line models (an extra £2,750) get 18-inch alloys, body-coloured bumpers and as a no-cost option stiffer S line suspension that lowers the car by 20mm.

Engine options are simple – there’s a 2.0 TFSI and a 2.0 TDI to choose from. Both come in two states of tune – 138bhp or 175bhp for the diesel and 168bhp and 208bhp for the petrol – and all feature direct injection, are turbocharged and get stop-start as standard. The two lower-powered engines come with a six-speed manual, while the top models get a new more efficient seven-speed DSG ‘box, which proved to be smooth and intuitive in auto mode and, thanks to lightning fast shifts, great fun to flick through the gears with the paddles, too.

Ideally, the light steering could offer more feedback but it’s a setup that’s aimed at ease of use. Tip the car into a corner and body roll is noticeably more pronounced than in, say, an A5 Sportback, but the pay off is a surprisingly compliant ride, especially on the 17-inch wheels and standard suspension.

We drove the 175bhp oil-burner which was smooth, fast and incredibly refined. Granted, the 208bhp TFSI model is ultimately the faster and marginally quieter car, but it has to  be worked harder to extract its performance, the diesel on the other hand is just so effortless to drive in a variety of conditions - thanks to all that torque. And at £150 cheaper than the top-spec petrol it’s definitely the engine to go for, unless you put efficiency above all else that is.

The Q3 is Audi’s first SUV to be offered as a front-wheel drive model. It’s only available with the 138bhp 2.0 TDI engine, and first deliveries don’t start until December – a month ofter the rest of the range - but it returns 54.3mpg and emits just 138g/km of CO2.

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