What is it?
This is the cheapest way in to the cute and compact Audi Q3 SUV. Ignore the faintly ludicrous £33,090 after-options ‘as-tested’ price of the car driven here; a considerably less challenging £24,560 buys you a front-drive, 138bhp 2.0 TDI engined example in SE trim and with a six-speed manual gearbox.
What’s it like?
Appealing, in a no-nonsense – or at least not much nonsense – way. It may only be driven by its front wheels, and only have a out-dated, low-tech manual gearbox, and only produce 138bhp from its 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, but the essence of what makes the Q3 such a desirable motor in the first place is undimmed.
In other words, this is a stylish if understated premium SUV but with the restrained footprint of a family hatch. The Q3’s cabin is never going to win awards for spaciousness, especially in the rear, but it is an extremely well-executed bijou driving environment. And you won’t waste half a Saturday afternoon circling the town centre trying to find a parking space to fit the car into.
Out on the open road the 138bhp motor is a proven and willing performer, and for the most part you won’t miss the extra 36bhp of the higher-powered variant. You will, however, notice the almost effortless 50mpg-plus fuel economy, stretchable to nearer 60mpg with a careful right foot on gentle motorway runs.
You might also notice occasional traction issues when gassing hard out of junctions or roundabouts as the inside front wheel spins and slips half a revolution or so. If the thousandths of a second in lost journey time this costs you will make a daily difference between life and death, then you probably need to a shell out for a quattro Q3; the rest of us will make do with front-wheel drive.
Should I buy one?
It depends where you’re coming from. If you’ve got £25k to spend on a small-ish SUV then that money will, for example, buy you an admittedly slightly larger but extremely well-equipped Skoda Yeti.
However, if you’re sold on Audi’s premium-quality build and associated badge kudos, and you want a compact car with the advantage of an SUV’s raised ride height and over-hedge viewing facility but don’t need four-wheel drive or a dual-clutch ’box, then this could prove to be an eminently sensible purchase. And if you plan on covering a lot of miles you can’t argue against the 138bhp 2.0 TDI’s everyday-achievable 50 – and more – mpg.