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Audi Q3: 3 is a magic number

The UK's car buying community is gobbling up compact SUVs at a fearsome rate, with the likes of the Volvo XC40 and Jaguar's E-Pace showing that people really do like a premium badge and a high ride height more than most things.

It's why this new Q3 is so crucial to Audi, as it's an offering in a drastically growing segment. This is the first time we've got behind the wheel in the UK, and we're testing it in mid-range S Line trim.

What's new?

There's a fair amount going on here. The looks, for one, have been overhauled compared to the older Q3 - gone is the soft, rounded appearance in favour of a more imposing and, well, Audi-ish design. It's the same story inside, with Audi applying all of its latest tech in pursuit of a genuinely upmarket cabin. A variety of new engines are available, and though it's just petrol offerings to begin with, there will be diesel options arriving shortly. There's the choice of either two or four-wheel-drive, as well. It means that, in reality, there should be a powertrain option for everyone.

What's under the bonnet?

Here, we've got a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet, driving 148 horses to the front wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. There's 250Nm of torque, too, and Audi claims that it helps to push the Q3 to 60mph in nine seconds and onwards to a top speed of 128mph.

In S-Line trim, the Q3 rides on 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, and that means it'll return 48.7mpg combined, along with emissions of 133g/km CO2. Drop an inch of wheel size, and economy figures remain unchanged, though emissions fall slightly to 131g/km. These are reasonable enough figures, and pretty much on-par for the segment. Our car also rode on standard steel springs, though these can be updated to adaptive versions as an optional extra, albeit one with a £750 premium. It's worthwhile if you're after the best ride quality possible, mind.

What's it like to drive?

Let's start with the fundamentals. The engine feels just about powerful enough for the job in hand - although, on occasion, does seen just a touch breathless, particularly when overtaking or pulling on to a motorway. Once you're up to speed, it's smooth and refined; it's just that initial take-off which can be a little troublesome. Likewise the gearbox, which shifts sweetly when up and running, can be hesitant when pulling away from a dead stop - this is particularly noticeable on roundabouts.

Around town, the ride is a little susceptible to road imperfections, on occasions jiggling over larger bumps in the road when travelling at slower speeds. However, these iron out once you're moving a little quicker.

How does it look?

The design of the new Q3 is far more dramatic than the car it replaces. The front end is in-your-face and hard to miss; it's closer in line with the likes of the larger Q7 and Q8 models now. The chrome surrounds to the grille and vents up front give it a classier, more upmarket appearance, while sharper design lines on the flanks make it appear far wider than it actually is. It's a solid design, and likely one which will find favour with most. Our test car sits on larger 19-inch wheels and though they do look good, the smaller 18-inch versions don't dent the car's overall appearance that much either.

What's it like inside?

Audi has worked hard to lift the overall perception of quality inside the Q3, and save for a few scratchy plastics lower down the cabin, it's been wholeheartedly successful. The dashboard has been trimmed in soft-touch plastics, and when coupled with plenty of brushed aluminium effect trim pieces makes for a decidedly premium-feeling place to be. It's really very good.

A new widescreen infotainment system dominates the centre of the cabin, which when placed alongside Audi's virtual cockpit gives the whole area a very high-tech appearance. Thankfully it all works brilliantly in addition to looking good. There's plenty of space in the back too, while the 530 litres of standard boot space is respectable. This can be extended by moving the rear seats forward (they can be pushed forward on rails), or by folding them down completely - boosting capacity up to 1,525 litres.

What's the spec like?

Three trim levels are available with the Q3 from launch; Sport, S Line and range-topping Vorsprung Edition. Our test car fell into the middle camp, and Audi slates it as the one which most buyers will opt for. It packs 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, along with a full sports exterior styling package and tinted windows. You also get sports seats, finished in a mixture of cloth and leather upholstery.

LED headlights are fitted as part of the S Line specification, and you get a multifunction sport steering wheel too. As mentioned, the standard infotainment system not only looks good, but is decidedly brilliant to use too. It's easy to navigate and responsive to commands as well. We're glad there's still a conventional analogue volume dial to use, but it's been placed in an odd area - you'll find it on the right hand side of the dash underneath the heating and ventilation controls, pretty much as far away from the driver as possible.

Verdict

As we mentioned, the new Q3 falls into a heavily congested segment, one which its predecessor had nailed. This updated version, however, is likely to do just as well. Slightly underpowered engine aside, this latest Q3 feels a resoundingly good product both inside and out. We'd opt for a punchier petrol (or one of the diesels if you're planning on travelling longer distances), but do so, and you'll find yourself in a car which is almost scarily well-rounded.

Facts at a glance

Model: Audi Q3 35 TFSI S Line S Tronic

Price: £37,565

Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol

Power (bhp): 148

Torque (Nm): 250

0-60mph: 9.0 seconds

MPG: 47.9

Emissions (g/km): 134

Emissions (g/km): 161

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