Audi Q3 review - early contender rings the changes

When the Audi Q3 first arrived on the scene in 2011 it was a bit of a trend-setter.

While the Qashqai-led family SUV market was taking off, it was dominated by mainstream models and premium players had yet to make much of an impact.

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Nine years later and there isn't a premium marque out there that doesn't have a mid-sized SUV (or two) on the market and everywhere you turn on the road there are Evoques, X2s, XC40s and GLCs, so the market for the new Q3 is rather different.

The basic recipe is still the same, though. It’s a mid-sized SUV based on the same MQB platform as the Audi A3 (and a million other VW Group cars) but is taller, longer and wider than the hatchback. Fittingly, it looks like a cross between the Q2 and the Q5 - smaller but sharper than the bigger model but not as eye-catching or youthful as its smaller sibling.

A simple engine line-up offers three petrol and two diesel options, with the smallest petrol - a 148bhp 1.5 - tested here.

Trying to stay at the leading edge, the Q3 comes with some fairly fancy tech as standard. LED headlights, lane keep assist, internet connectivity and the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display are all fitted across the range. As is the latest version of Audi’s truly excellent MMI navigation plus, housed in a 10.1-inch screen that is beautifully integrated into the dashboard and shows its German rivals how you should locate a media system.

Strangely, for all that fancy new tech, keyless entry and go still isn’t standard, and a reversing camera was notable by its absence - both a surprise in a car that cost more than £37,000 after options.

The rest of the interior follows a similarly tidy and simple design to the dashboard, which verges on the austere. Rivals, especially the XC40 and Evoque are more stylish but there’s little to criticise in the quality.

Audi Q3 S line

  • Price: From £33,200
  • Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
  • Power: 148bhp
  • Torque: 184lb ft
  • Transmission: Seven-speed DSG automatic
  • Top speed: 127mph
  • 0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
  • Economy: 39.8-41.5mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 161-155g/km

There’s no room to criticise its practicality either. A 530-litre boot can be extended thanks to sliding rear seats but with them in their normal setting there’s good rear space. Legroom is acceptable for adults unless your driver is particularly tall and there’s good head room. There is even enough space to fit three child seats side by side on the rear bench, but only just.

It might have been a problem with our particular car but unusually for Audi’s DSG, the  transmission was lumpy and jerky, especially at lower speeds and lower revs. Nailing the throttle pedal seemed to improve matters but it’s hardly a practical way to drive all the time.

It also won’t do your economy any good. Audi claims the 1.5-litre petrol engine will do around 37mpg and I saw mid-30s over a few hundred miles of driving. Audi also says it will do the 0-62mph run in 9.4 seconds but, if anything, it feels slower than this.

The driving, as required in all C-SUVs is sensible, safe and largely sensationless. If you want fun at the wheel look elsewhere but if you want a decent ride and secure handling then the Q3 has it covered. Our test car’s adaptive damping offered an enhanced but hardly massive level of variety between the comfort, dynamic and off-road drive modes.

Decent, sensible, secure - these words rather sum up the Q3.

In all honesty, it’s difficult to get excited about most C-segment SUVs, so the Q3 isn’t unusual. It does what it needs to with some smart technology and the usual high-quality sheen associated with the four rings badge but offers nothing particularly exciting or individual.

But if you wanted exciting or individual you wouldn’t be buying an SUV anyway.

This article first appeared on The Scotsman