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Road tests

Audi Q3

Shrunken Audi Q5 arrives to take the fight to BMW X1 with a blend of high quality and refinement

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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The Q3 is an assured performer, but petrol models don’t show the newcomer in the best light. The more economical diesels will be the stars of the range. Despite this, the 2.0-litre petrol shows that applying traditional Audi values to the small off-roader sector is a recipe for success. It’s not the most eye-catching or innovative car in its class, but its high-quality interior and responsive handling make the Q3 a convincing package.

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Downsizing is a buzzword at the moment, and that makes the latest addition to the Audi line-up hot property. The new Q3 compact SUV is designed to do everything the Q5 can do, but in a smaller, more affordable package.

There are few surprises on the outside, as the Q3 mimics the look of its bigger stablemates. Short overhangs emphasise its compact dimensions – at 4,385mm, it is almost identical in length to a Ford C-MAX – but familiar Audi styling cues abound, so the Q3 is instantly recognisable. With its trademark grille, headlamps and curving roofline, it looks like a Q5 that has been put on a hot wash.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Audi Q3

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The similarities with other models in the company’s range continue inside, where its high-quality fixtures and fittings are an Audi staple. The top-grade materials and logical layout make the Q3 easy to get along with as soon as you sit behind the wheel.

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Only two trim levels (SE and S line) are available, but standard equipment is generous across the board, with dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity all included.

It’s practical, too, and the cabin provides just enough space for adults to sit one behind the other. The 460-litre boot is big enough for most day-to-day jobs and buyers can even specify a folding front passenger seat on SE models for longer loads (£130).

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Power comes from a choice of two turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engines, producing 209bhp and 168bhp respectively, and a pair of diesels (138bhp and 175bhp).

All apart from the entry-level diesel come with the company’s confidence-inspiring quattro four-wheel-drive set-up. The two-wheel-drive version emits 138g/km of CO2, but it doesn’t arrive until December, so we got behind the wheel of the 168bhp 2.0-litre petrol.

Audi bills the Q3 as a small sports SUV, so does the driving experience live up to this claim? We think it does, as the newcomer proves agile and responsive from behind the wheel. Best of all, it achieves this without compromising comfort.

On the undulating North Yorkshire roads of our test, the Q3 soaked up bumps and ruts impressively. The precise steering, positive gearshift and progressive brakes make it as easy to drive around town as on twisty country roads, and the suspension does a good job of keeping its raised body upright.

It’s not as engaging or enjoyable as the very best cars in the class, but its combination of performance, refinement and comfort holds all-round appeal.

The smooth-revving TFSI petrol fitted to our test car suits the sporty brief and is incredibly smooth, but given its CO2 emissions of 174g/km and fuel consumption of 36.7mpg, we think diesel models will be a far better way of enjoying Q3 ownership.

A host of fuel-saving technologies are designed to improve the Audi’s economy, including a smooth stop-start system and brake recuperation, but there’s a good reason why BMW doesn’t even offer a petrol version of the X1 in the UK.

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