Saturday 3 December 2016

How Q3 manages to make two go into one

But road noise can be a drawback

Published 07/06/2015 | 02:30

Audi Q3: 'compact crossover/SUV'
Audi Q3: 'compact crossover/SUV'

Now here's a car that combines many a modern trend ­- yet it left me in two minds. The Audi Q3 is one of those in-demand compact 'crossovers/SUVs'.

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It seems to be everything people are searching for in a tidy crossover; it's chunky, upright, slightly muscular and has the snob value of an Audi badge.

My test car was also in S Line trim, which is one way of saying they pampered it up even more and made the cabin, especially, that bit smarter.

Audi have cracked how to design and lay out a cabin. They are easily the best of the bunch at that.

Indeed, they are so good across the board at it that I've heard people criticise them for being 'all the same'. Lord, that's the whole idea: you get the same sense of being in an executive car when behind the wheel of the tiny-tot A1 as you do in the Q3 I had on test, or the large A8 flagship.

Anyway, this latest Q3, with its revised equipment line-up, looks, cabin, tweaks here and there and cleaner/more powerful engines (to meet tougher Euro VI emissions regulations) also has a 1.4-litre petrol.

It's not new or anything like that, but it has been quite a while since I drove the Q3 with a petrol engine. I think it's an important part of the Q3 package and makes more sense than a diesel.

I'm hopeful people are beginning to realise they don't need diesels for suburban driving or making the short commute to work. And they're missing out on the often quicker and nippier drive you get from a petrol.

But I know some won't pay a blind bit of heed - they have to have diesel. Just as they have to have a crossover. Well, it's their money but they should try a petrol just to see how much fun it can be, too.

This was a cracker; fun and feisty, with plenty of response. And not once did I notice a nudge from the 7spd automatic transmission as I mixed heavy city with motorway and country-road driving.

Also on the plus side were the excellent seats and driving position. Importantly, the car's height made it easy to get in an out of those seats. This is a recurring issue with readers looking for something they can slide, rather than stoop, into.

When you're comfortable and the old back is well supported, a rock-solid car and engine like this can be so enjoyable. Unfortunately, I have to report a couple of flaws. There was a lot of tyre/road noise from merely moderately poor surfaces; and more than I'd like from the engine compartment.

Maybe it was the 19ins wheels on my test car (up from 18ins) that helped generate the extra rumble but it was quite noticeable and definitely affected how I felt about a car I started out with so enthusiastically. See what I mean about two minds?

The other thing worth mentioning is the relative scarcity of room at the back. This is an area where crossovers can suffer, so take a bit of time to check; there can be big differences.

The boot, though, is more than decent (460 litres) and you get 1,365 litres by folding the split rear seatbacks.

But - and this is another part of the 'two-minds' element - there is a premium to be paid for posh little crossovers.

The Q3 range starts at €35,900. Rivals such as the Mercedes GLA start around the same money so I'm not picking on Audi. It's the going rate.

Yet I couldn't help thinking what a fine, big family car you'd get for that sort of money. Or how you'd deck out a Volkswagen Golf in finery and still have a lot of cash left over.

Of course, that is to miss the point in so many ways but I couldn't help it on occasion. I know too well that the Q3 and its ilk are all about getting two for the (premium) price of one: small hatch practicality and 'pretend' SUV.

So while one part of me can't overlook price and limitations, another knows deep down that - road noise apart - I really enjoyed driving this. See what I mean about being in two minds?

Facts & figures

Audi Q3 compact SUV, S-Tronic 7spd auto, S Line, 1.4-litre petrol, 150bhp, 5.9l/100km (47.9mpg), 143g/km (on 19ins alloys), road tax €390.

Equipment includes air con, cruise control, sports seats, multi-function sports steering wheel, Bluetooth, parking sensors, drive select, audio system/music interface, voice control, electric/heated mirrors, lumbar support, xenon lights. Options: black inlays, driver-info system, 19ins alloys.

Price: €41,100 + options €11,240 = €52,340. Range from €35,900. Delivery: €850.

My side of the road

I wonder if it is okay for radio ads to have beeping horns, sirens and 'pretend' sat-nav directions in them.

There are a few on the go at the moment and I raise the topic because I find them annoying while driving. Should that sort of ad be allowed considering they might distract a driver?

I'd like your views...

ecunningham@independent.ie

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