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£26,095 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£26,095
Brake horsepower
150bhp
Fuel consumption
51.4mpg
0–62 mph
9.20s
CO2
127g/km
Max speed
126Mph
Insurance Group
19E

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Nip and tuck time for the Audi Q3?

Correct. Audi’s unquestionably popular small SUV has reached middle age by car industry standards, and therefore receives its obligatory facelift. Over 400,000 Q3s have sold since its 2011 introduction, so quite understandably its update has been kept modest.

In summary: there are refreshed engines with the usual more
power/less consumption witchcraft, the headlights and taillights are
sharpened via a bulk order of LEDs, and the front grille is now a bolder
styling element thanks to its ‘3D effect’ frame. The equipment list has
also had a nice little tickle.

What are the highlights?

Kicking
off the range at £25,340 is a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol. It has 148bhp and
cylinder deactivation, two of its four cylinders shutting down to aid
fuel economy when throttle loads are low, familiar technology from other
VW group products. Its claimed figures are 50.4mpg and 128g/km of CO2
emissions, both improvements of around five per cent on the engine it
 replaces.

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The other petrol options are a 178bhp 2-litre TFSI,
which comes with Quattro all-wheel-drive but will be a minority seller, and the
even more niche five-cylinder RS Q3, which has had its power upped to
335bhp. Two diesels are offered, and the higher-powered 181bhp 2.0 TDI
Quattro (53.3mpg, 139g/km) will be the Q3 range’s bestseller.

Is that the one to buy?

The
181bhp TDI engine also appears in the VW Golf GTD and Skoda Octavia
vRS, applications in which it feels reasonably fiery. The Q3’s 1.6-tonne
mass, however, serves to dull any outright performance here.

But
it’s still very easy to see its appeal. Audi expects it to sell best
with the optional seven-speed paddleshift ‘S tronic’ gearbox, and thus
equipped, it’s an exceedingly effortless car to drive. The engine is
vocal at high revs, but its punchy mid-range torque (peak 280lb ft is
delivered between 1750 and 2500rpm) makes such a scenario avoidable.

It’s
all admirably polished, but if it’s simply a Q3 you crave, then the
£3900 cheaper 1.4 TFSI ought to be all the car required. Its claimed
fuel economy gives little to the diesel and, being petrol powered, its
engine is far more pleasant to work with, revving keenly and cleanly to
its limit. Its switches to two cylinders (and back again) are also
 imperceptible.

It proves that four-wheel drive and a slick
two-pedal transmission aren’t vital traits of the Q3’s character, too.
It can be specced with S tronic, but the standard six-speed manual is
sweet. And there’s little to separate its front-drive setup from the 4WD
of more powerful Q3s; both have grip aplenty and you’ll have to really
be goading either before traction starts to diminish.

What about that new equipment?

All
Q3s get LED rear lights, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control and
sports seats, as well as Audi’s Drive Select system, used to toggle
between a handful of different modes (including Eco, Comfort and
Dynamic) for the steering weight and throttle response. S line trim adds
18-inch alloys, LED headlights and electric operation for the
hatchback, while S line Plus adds another inch to the alloys’ diameter
alongside satnav.

Does it all work well?

The interior
of the Q3 feels solidly built and remains a feel-good place to be. Some
of the design feels a touch outdated compared to newer generation Audis,
something too complex for a facelift to fix. Operating the multimedia
system via controls mounted on the dashboard rather than the
transmission tunnel no longer feels particularly intuitive or
ergonomically pleasing, for instance.

But that’s hardly a deal
breaker, and Audi’s MMI software is still several notches ahead of some
rivals. Stubbornly esoteric Lexus, in particular.

So cheapest is sweetest?

Less
than a fifth of UK-bound Q3s are expected to use the entry-level 1.4
engine, but we reckon it deserves a fairer crack of the whip than that.
Speccing it so also keeps the Q3 from the firing line of the notably
more expensive Range Rover Evoque, which remains sharper both
dynamically and aesthetically.

What do you think?

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