From £24,825
Q3 rides, handles, performs and generally behaves competently enough

Our Verdict

Audi Q3
The Q3 is Audi's answer to the Evoque and BMW X1

The Audi Q3 is a desirable and capable contender that fails to engage its driver

What is it?

The entry-level version of Audi’s new compact SUV, the Q3. If we’re being absolutely precise about this, it’ll be later to market than the rest of the range – albeit only by a month, deliveries starting in December 2011 – but it’ll still account for a big chunk of all Q3 sales. It’s reckoned that every other example of the baby 4x4 sold in the UK will be powered by this engine.

Priced from less than £25k, the cheapest Q3 has front- rather than Quattro all-wheel drive, 138bhp, 236lb ft of torque, and a six-speed manual gearbox rather than a seven-speed twin-clutcher. Weighing just a smidge over one-and-a-half tonnes and fitted with switchable engine ancilliaries and an automatic starter-generator, the car emits just 138g/km of C02 and should return better than 50mpg in everyday use – both impressive figures for any taller-than-average family car.

But does it have the quality, refinement, and impressive dynamic deportment of the high-spec diesel we drove just a couple of weeks ago?

What’s it like?

A taste of the Q3 at its most basic certainly doesn’t reveal any shortcomings in the car in terms of material quality and uniformity of finish. Our test car featured dark textured plastics and leathers, patterned aluminium highlights, a tactile three-dimensional black and dark grey fascia and black cloth seats, and feels markedly more special and expensive than a BMW X1. Comfort’s good – better, slightly, in the front row than in the back – and only a flat squab on the standard driver’s seat spoils a fine driving position.

On start-up it becomes pretty clear straight away that £25k buys you a bit less sound and vibration insulation, in the entry-level Q3, than you get in the 175bhp diesel; why else would a less stressed 2.0-litre diesel engine sound noticeably more gravelly at idle than its higher-powered equivalent?

During typical use the step-down in terms of refinement is equally clear. Under load at low rpm and at high revs the entry-level engine sounds decidedly noisier than the pricier tune. It’s still acceptably refined by class standards, but doesn’t add to the impression of premium-brand quality you get from much of the rest the Q3.

And unfortunately, neither does the cheapest Q3 go down the road quite as comfortably as we hoped. The fixed rate chassis of our test car provided accurate and stable handling and good lateral and vertical body control. Traction, exclusively from the front wheels, was commendable too, admittedly on dry tarmac. But there was an unbecoming restlessness to the car’s ride, which felt slightly unabsorbtive and took too long to settle after being disturbed by bumps that an adaptively damped Q3 might just glide over. That spoiled the car’s overall dynamic performance slightly.

Should I buy one?

Chances are that, if you’re buying a Q3, this is the one you’ll get – and you’ll be getting a car that rides, handles, performs and generally behaves competently enough. Considered as an overall package, this bottom-rung Audi offroader does justice to its maker’s reputation for producing cars of sufficient quality, class, style and real-world efficiency to be worth paying a premium for.

It’s just a shame that Audi’s engineers couldn’t reproduce the same refinement and polish from higher-spec Q3s in the mass-selling model. Cynics might call that a deliberate failure; a designed-in shortfall to encourage customers to option the adaptive chassis and the more expensive diesel engine. Whatever the reason, the cheapest Q3 isn’t quite the car we’d hoped it might be.

Audi Q3 2.0 TDi 140 SE

Price: £24,560; Top speed: 126mph; 0-62mph: 9.9sec; Economy: 54.3mpg; Co2: 138g/km; Kerbweight: 1450kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls in line, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Installation: Front, transverse, front-wheel drive; Power: 138bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
5

14 July 2011

[quote Autocar]

It’s just a shame that Audi’s engineers couldn’t reproduce the same refinement and polish from higher-spec Q3s in the mass-selling model. Cynics might call that a deliberate failure; a designed-in shortfall to encourage customers to option the adaptive chassis and the more expensive diesel engine. Whatever the reason, the cheapest Q3 isn’t quite the car we’d hoped it might be.

[/quote]

At this price point, something has to give.

No, it may not be as well polished as the higher end vehicle but this is the entry point and it will allow Audi to sell these cars by the bucket load to the fleet market.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

14 July 2011

I don't expect that Audi will lose too much sleep over any criticism over its cheapest Q3 as long as the top of the range - largest profit models sell well.

14 July 2011

[quote Autocar]On start-up it becomes pretty clear straight away that £25k buys you a bit less sound and vibration insulation, in the entry-level Q3, than you get in the 175bhp diesel; why else would a less stressed 2.0-litre diesel engine sound noticeably more gravelly at idle than its higher-powered equivalent? [/quote]
I've noticed that several of the Ford/PSA engines sound smoother when the higher output versions are compared to lower tune ones. Could it be that higher injection pressures equal better fuel atomisation and hence better burning?

14 July 2011

[quote TegTypeR]

[quote Autocar]

It’s just a shame that Audi’s engineers couldn’t reproduce the same refinement and polish from higher-spec Q3s in the mass-selling model. Cynics might call that a deliberate failure; a designed-in shortfall to encourage customers to option the adaptive chassis and the more expensive diesel engine. Whatever the reason, the cheapest Q3 isn’t quite the car we’d hoped it might be.

[/quote]

At this price point, something has to give.

No, it may not be as well polished as the higher end vehicle but this is the entry point and it will allow Audi to sell these cars by the bucket load to the fleet market.

[/quote]

Strange because in every other installation that I've read about and from first hand experience in the A3, the lower powered unit is smoother/quieter.

15 July 2011

Quote: "you’ll be getting a car that rides, handles, performs and generally behaves competently enough"

That comment is hardly a ringing endorsement for a car which will amount to 50% of the sales. I expect it's Autocar-speak for "dull-as-dishwater".

I'm afraid that the triple whammy of the rising cost of producing cars in Europe, especially Germany, the weak pound against the Euro and the onslaught of environmental legislation are catching up with us.

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