What is it?
The second-generation Audi Q3 is a larger, more substantial-looking and generally more serious second swing at compact SUV segment dominance from Germany’s car brand of the four rings. It’s also yet more fresh meat for the apparently unstoppable conveyor belt of downsized, upmarket ‘soft-roaders’ that, over the past 12 months or so alone, has brought us the Volvo XC40, BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace, Lexus UX and DS 7 Crossback, as well as the second-generation Range Rover Evoque. And those are just the ones from premium car makers; with only a fortnight of 2018 remaining, we’d better not start on the rest.
With that much fresh competition out for a share of a growing haul of spoils, Audi clearly didn’t feel it could leave much to chance this time around. And so where the original Q3 looked more like a Nissan Qashqai-sized crossover hatchback, this one is larger and squarer than its forebear, as well as roomier and more grown-up.
You can tell as much at first glance. The old car’s ‘fast’ sloping rear hatch and its relatively dainty features have been replaced by a larger, more upright and SUV-typical outline, and a frontal aspect with more of what you might call a big Audi glower.
Audi says this design is more bold and daring than the last (well, wouldn’t it just), pointing to the car’s interestingly carved shoulder line, its bracket-like headlight and tail-light settings, and its Q8-aping octagonal ‘single-frame’ radiator grille as evidence. To this tester, all that seems only dressing on a pretty ordinary on-the-eye meal – but one which, for all the apparent convention of its design, looks like it ought to be better-placed to do everything that owners will expect of it than the last Q3 ever was.
Moving onto the VW Group’s apparently omnipresent MQB platform, the Q3 has just launched in Audi UK showrooms. It comes with a choice of 1.5-litre 148bhp ‘35 TFSI’, 2.0-litre 187bhp ‘40 TFSI quattro’ and 2.0-litre 227bhp ‘45 TFSI quattro’ petrol engines. There will be two 2.0-litre turbodiesel options (148bhp ‘35 TDI’ and 187bhp ‘40 TDI quattro’), the cheaper of the two being available with either front-wheel drive or clutch-based four-wheel drive.
Trim levels will open at Sport and finish at fully loaded Vorsprung, although middle-rung S line trim is expected to account for just over half of UK sales and brings with it the usual sporty bodykit, 19in alloy wheels and lowered sport suspension.
And since the first cars on UK roads are all 35 TFSI S line derivatives with front-wheel drive and seven-speed twin-clutch ‘S tronic’ gearboxes, that’s what we looked to for our first UK driving impressions.