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Audi Q3 TFSI e review: The colour of your money for latest plug-in hybrid

Easy on the fuel because of hybrid system but pricey when extras added

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Audi’s plug-in Q3 TFSI e in Tango Red Metallic pumps out a strong 245hp for an SUV of its size

Audi’s plug-in Q3 TFSI e in Tango Red Metallic pumps out a strong 245hp for an SUV of its size

Audi’s plug-in Q3 TFSI e in Tango Red Metallic pumps out a strong 245hp for an SUV of its size

The Audi Q3 is one of those nice compact SUV/crossovers that is a good fit for driving around town while also being roomy and robust enough to take the family anywhere around the country. I always look forward to a drive in one.

It is big enough without being unwieldy and small enough to have few worries about getting it into a tight parking spot. I tend to fixate on parking these days – there is so little of it available.

The only thing really against my test car is price. A glance at the extras gives an idea of where the guts of €10,000 can be added in a jiffy; €60,000 for the one I had on test. 

OK, I like the car and I am being a little bit negative on the pricing – so what’s it doing being reviewed here?

Well, this TFSI e version happens to be the brand’s first plug-in hybrid compact SUV/crossover. On the face of it that doesn’t appear to make a lot of difference.

But when I tell you the system pumps out a strong 245hp – the combined output from the 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor – you can see how the car now has an extra dimension.

Not that we’re going to get all wrapped up in performance but that is a more than decent smattering of power for a compact SUV of this size.

You know, I often think that plug-ins are a bit of an enigma. They are made so you can charge them sufficiently overnight, for example, to get you to work and back – in this case 51km is claimed – without touching the precious fuel in the tank and relying totally on electric power.

But the hybrid system adds a fair bit of power and you would need to have green blood in your veins not to feel like giving it a lash.

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Of course giving it that bit of a lash means you soak up fuel which negates the benefits of having a plug-in hybrid in the first place. See what I mean about its enigmatic nature?

I consoled myself by thinking that if I owned one I’d be far more careful with the right foot. Really? Who am I fooling?

With that much power on tap I’d give it a lash at least once a day.

Especially as it can nip from 0-100kmh in slightly more than seven seconds. Nicely quick.

But I noticed that when I hit the throttle with the engine not in play there was a wee pause before response. Little bit of a damper.

Under normal circumstances the 45 TFSI e defaults to full-electric mode when you set off, so it is near silent. And around town it was reassuringly quiet on battery power only.

But I ate into the reserves quickly while on the open road – partly because it had a nice handling/ride touch to it as well – though in slightly slippery post-heavy rain conditions the front wheels spun a bit when I hit the accelerator hard.

And after all that came the real surprise: All people wanted to talk about, despite my best efforts to explain its workings and how it had driven thus far, was the colour.

For example, I had a few construction workers gather around while I was parking it in a tight spot in south Dublin one bright sunny morning recently and they all said the same thing: they’d only buy the car in that colour of red. So, if you are ordering it the name is “Tango Red Metallic”.

One of my audience was desperately looking to buy one for his wife – there must be money in construction – but they are scarce as hen’s teeth. Q3s I mean, not wives. So too are its rivals such as the BMWX1 xDrive25e and Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge. So too are a lot of cars, as we know, because of supply problems.

In fairness, in red the Q3 was a most pleasant car on the eye. I’ve driven better designed motors – some from Audi it must be said - whose lines have been ruined by awful shades of grey.

To more practical matters: the cabin will take four adults without any squeeze. It has a nice interior, with classy touches here and there, and I found it exceptionally easy to get in and out.

However, boot space is cut a bit compared with other Q3s because the battery lies beneath it. But it is not a big loss.

I enjoyed it and I can see its attraction: you can be “green” with your purchase and sneak in a bit of real driving at the same time.

There are some quibbles such as the boot and the price. The entry level starts at around €50,000 but that’s quickly left behind if you want a bit of decent spec.

There are lots of high-level technologies aboard and the hybrid system adds to expense, no doubt. But €60,000 for my red Q3 is really looking for the colour of my money.

Yet, if money was no object, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.


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