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Long-term tests

Audi Q3: First report

Compact SUV is set for a gruelling stint on our fleet in the hands our staff photographer

  • The optional 14-speaker Bose surround sound system takes some beating. As you’d expect from a premium manufacturer, the sound quality is highly impressive. Better still, our Q3 is also fitted with the Technology Package, which includes a built-in 20GB hard drive for music storage. And the MMI controller is very simple to use.
  • There's not a lot wrong with the way the Q3 looks, but I think it’s too conservative. Fans of the brand’s subtle styling won’t care about this one bit, but after spending the last year driving around in a Kia Sportage, I’m used to getting lots of positive feedback from friends and relatives. The Audi doesn’t get the same reaction at all.
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I’ve spent a year behind the wheel of our long-term Kia Sportage, so the next car on the Gibson driveway has a lot to live up to, but I think I’ve found something that’s up to the job.

Audi is expanding its range to fill every possible niche, and the Q3 is its smallest off-road offering. I’m looking forward to finding out if it’s worth the premium asking price.

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My first impression is that it doesn’t address one of the biggest complaints about Audi. The firm’s Russian doll approach to styling polarises opinion, and as I was shown around the car for the first time at Milton Keynes Audi, I couldn’t help but feel that it doesn’t look as good as my Kia. The devil is in the detail, though, and the quality of the finish and materials inside is very high.

One area where the Q3 trumps my old car is under the bonnet. Its 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine is super smooth and has plenty of torque. I’m relishing the extra performance, as the Kia relied on a smaller 1.7-litre diesel.

As staff photographer for Auto Express, I spend a huge amount of time trawling the motorway network on the way to photo locations, and the Q3 is perfectly at home among all the executive saloons and HGVs.

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I reckon it has the smoothest ride of any current Audi. Road and engine noise are minimal, and our car’s brilliant Bose sound system (£690) makes even the longest journeys bearable. I have more than 50 albums on the built-in hard drive, so there’s always something different for me to listen to. One early concern about the Audi, though, was the size of its boot, as I’ve got quite a lot of camera kit to transport.

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I needn’t have worried, as there’s plenty of space in the back and the fixed parcel shelf is a great place to rest cameras while I retrieve other pieces of kit from the boot. The tall ride height is also handy, as it means I don’t have to bend over awkwardly when using the boot as a work bench.

The other big difference between the Audi and the Kia is the number of driven wheels. The Sportage is available with four-wheel drive, but our model was front-wheel drive, with the emphasis firmly on efficiency rather than traction.

Yet the Q3 is a proper compact SUV thanks to its quattro 4x4 drivetrain. As a result, I’m one of the few people in the office hoping for a bit of snow this winter – I can’t wait to test it.

To ensure I make every appointment in the packed Auto Express diary, I’ve even had the Q3 fitted with winter tyres, so it should be unstoppable whatever the weather brings. There’s plenty of other kit been added, too, taking the price for our model up from £28,460 to more than £40,000.

The extra complexity of the Q3’s quattro four-wheel-drive system is likely to mean heavier fuel consumption than I’m used to, but the car has a trick up its sleeve here, too. If you stick the Drive Select system in Efficiency mode, the S tronic automatic transmission decouples drive whenever you lift off the throttle.

This means that the car effectively coasts in neutral and the revs drop to tickover until you press the accelerator again. I’m seeing 38.7mpg fuel economy so far, so it seems to be doing the trick...

Extra Info

“I share Pete’s opinion that the styling is a little conservative, and in general the Q3 doesn’t break any new ground. But it’s comfortable and refined, plus the cabin quality is superb.”

Owen Mildenhall, Senior road tester

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