Long-term tests

Audi Q3: Fifth report

Our superbly versatile Audi Q3 SUV is proving to be a car of many talents

I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but if our Audi Q3 was a tool, then it’d be a Swiss Army knife. Over the past eight months, the classy crossover has proven to be one of the most versatile cars on our fleet, with an ability to shift seamlessly from family-friendly holdall to rugged off-roader and then into a quiet motorway cruiser in the blink of an eye.

As a result, the Q3 has become one of the most popular cars on our fleet, racking up over 20,000 miles since its arrival in December last year. The first person to make use of the Audi’s chameleon-like qualities was web reporter Luke Madden, who grabbed the keys for a marathon trip to the French Alps.

With its rear seats folded flat, the Q3 swallowed all of Luke’s snowboarding and skiing gear, while the grippy quattro all-wheel-drive transmission allowed him to confidently shrug off the snowy conditions. Better still, the muscular diesel engine continued to deliver returns of around 40mpg.

Next it was the turn of news reporter Damion Smy to do a little Channel hopping, as he travelled down to Le Mans to watch Audi’s hybrid-powered R18 racer score a historic victory in the famous 24-hour race. Once again, the Q3 was the perfect tool for the job. There was more than enough space for all of Damion’s camping gear, while the car’s top-notch refinement took the sting out of France’s long stretches of autoroute.

Happily, I’ve finally managed to get my hands back on the Audi. However, that doesn’t mean the Q3’s hard work is over: far from it. It’s now proving its worth as one of the most capable workhorses I’ve ever had.

While the well shaped 460-litre boot is smaller than most compact family estate models, it still manages to accommodate all my cameras, lights, tripods and car-cleaning kit. Only the fiddly, two-piece rear shelf causes any real complaint – it’s just a matter of time before one of its fragile fixings breaks.

And when I get to the photo location, the Q3 is always called on to help capture our great action shots. With its smooth ride and flat load area, the Audi is the perfect platform for me to get pin-sharp pictures in double-quick time. Then, at the end of the day, I can waft home in comfort, as I let the 2.0-litre TDI engine and slick-shifting seven-speed S tronic transmission take the strain.

At the weekends, the Q3 turns into a superb family runaround. The rear bench isn’t the most spacious in the class, but there’s more than enough room for my two daughters and all their clobber. And when I’m on my own, the Audi does a fine impression of a hot hatch.

The combination of compact exterior dimensions, well weighted controls, commanding driving position and four-wheel-drive traction makes the Q3 a rapid cross- country companion. On numerous occasions, the Audi has surprised drivers of supposedly faster and more focused machines.

In fact, the more time I spend with the Q3, the more I struggle to think of a more capable all-rounder. The problem is, I’m not the only one who’s come to this conclusion. Over the coming months, I’m going to have to work harder than ever to keep hold of the keys.

Our view

“Pete’s quattro model is hugely desirable, but the entry-level front-wheel-drive car is just as good and costs thousands less.” Lesley Harris, Road tester

Your view

“Why can’t Audi be more adventurous with its styling? At a glance the Q3 looks identical to both the Q5 and the huge Q7.” mblankman4, via www.autoexpress.co.uk

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