Currently reading: Shanghai motor show 2011: Audi Q3
Junior SUV targets high-end market; arrives November; two petrols and one diesel

Audi has lifted the veil off its eagerly awaited Q3 by revealing the compact SUV in production form for the first time at the Shanghai motor show.

The Q3 is set to go on sale in the UK in November. Prices will start from around £25,000 for a 168bhp, turbocharged 2.0-litre front-drive model.

The Q3 is Audi’s third dedicated SUV. It follows the larger Q5 and oversized Q7 — both of which have exceeded their original sales targets.

See the official pics of the new Audi Q3 - now with Shanghai show pics

The new five-door Q3 is based on the same platform structure as the recently facelifted VW Tiguan, with which it also shares its transversely mounted engines and gearbox combinations. The Q3 continues the current Audi design lineage with a clean and unadorned exterior that provides it with a clear upmarket appeal.

The production car features trademark Audi styling cues, such as a single-frame grille, trapezoidal headlights, a prominent shoulder line along the flanks and a wraparound tailgate. However, the sharply dipping roofline of the Cross Coupé small SUV concept, shown in Shanghai in 2007, has been dropped.

At 4390mm long, 1830mm wide and 1600mm tall (roof rail included), the Q3 is 239mm shorter, 50mm narrower and 53mm lower than the Q5. Audi claims a 1500kg kerb weight for the base front-drive model. Weight-saving measures include the adoption of an aluminium bonnet and tailgate, although the remainder of the body is made from high-strength steel.

See spy pics of the Audi Q3 in action

The Q3 will arrive in the UK with a choice of three engines. A potential volume-selling fourth engine is expected to be added towards the end of the year. The petrol units are a 168bhp 2.0-litre turbo, available with front drive or four-wheel drive, and a 208bhp version of the same motor that comes with four-wheel drive only. Audi claims the 208bhp model is good for 0-62mph in 6.9sec and a top speed of 143mph.

The diesel option at launch will be a 175bhp version of Audi’s 2.0-litre common-rail engine, with four-wheel drive only. Also planned is a 138bhp version of the diesel that runs either front drive or four-wheel drive, but don’t expect it until the end of 2011.

Gearboxes include a standard six-speed manual on the lesser petrol and diesel units, and a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch auto for the more powerful engines. The more sophisticated transmission will also be offered on the base powerplants as an option.

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The S-tronic gearbox comes with optional shift paddles and, as a first on any Audi model, it uses a clutch to disengage the engine and allow the Q3 to roll freely, without any mechanical drag on a trailing throttle, when the driver dials up efficiency mode.

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Unlike the Torsen-based full-time four-wheel drive system of Audi’s existing SUVs — the Q5 and Q7 — the smaller and more affordable Q3 relies on a simpler and lighter Haldex multi-plate clutch arrangement. Further traction enhancement comes by way of an electronic differential lock integrated into the standard ESP stability control.

The Q3 attempts to trump its compact SUV rivals with a typically high-quality interior. The dashboard flaunts a design common throughout the Audi line-up, as do the instruments, switchgear and trims.

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Accommodation is claimed to be on a par with that of the Tiguan, with seating for up to five adults. Audi also claims a nominal 460 litres of luggage capacity, which can be extended to 1365 litres when the rear seats are folded away.

There is also a long list of optional extras. Included are high-end items such as a Bose surround sound system with 14 individual speakers, a hard-drive-based navigation system that operates in combination with a seven-inch colour screen, on-board internet access and a parallel parking assistant that uses 12 ultrasonic sensors to steer the car into tight parking spaces.

Production of the Q3 will take place at Seat’s under-utilised Martorell factory in Spain. Although Audi hasn’t officially announced any volume targets for its latest model, insiders say internal sales studies point to a potential for annual sales of up to 100,000 units.

Greg Kable

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