Compact and well-appointed, the Q3 aims to deliver the full Audi experience

Audi's latest offering, the Q3, is its smallest SUV yet. We have driven it in Goa to find out how good it really is.

Audi is taking a different route, at least at launch, from the one BMW took with its X1. While the Bimmer is equipped and specified to offer the best price possible, the Q3 aims to deliver the full Audi experience. As a result, the Indian-spec model is fully-loaded with kit and looks and feels as good as any of its bigger siblings on the inside. It also gets Audi's Quattro four-wheel-drive system as standard.

The Q3 is almost 250mm smaller than the Q5. If feels compact, measuring less than 4.4 metres from nose to tail. Many people mistakenly assume the Q3 is based on the Audi A4's platform. It is actually based on the Volkswagen Tiguan — a small SUV sold in other markets. Its engines are transversely mounted, allowing better interior packaging. As a result, it makes much better use of its interior space.

India will get the 174bhp variable geometry turbo-equipped 2.0-litre diesel, which we are familiar with from the VW Passat, mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and powering all four wheels. However, it doesn't feel as refined in this car as it does in the Passat. There is a slight buzz at idle and a little grumble at low engine speeds, but it's not too intrusive. There will also be a 208bhp 2.0-litre turbo-petrol available.

We drove the diesel which, with its 38.7kgm of torque, is responsive and shifts the car's weight well. Performance is certainly not lacking. The Q3 pulls very well in its strong midrange. As a driver's car though, it's not phenomenal. The light steering, like with many other Audis, is not that involving and doesn't give you as much drive feel as some other cars.

Despite this being the baby of the range, Audi hasn't skimped on the Q3's interior one bit. It is literally as well built as the Q7. The two-tone cabin is full of high quality stuff — like the double-stitched leather boot for the gearlever, rich wood trim, intricately detailed plastic parts and the MMI screen that rises out of the dashboard — although this is just an MMI ‘lite' and not the full-fledged system you get on the bigger cars.

The front seats are just as comfortable as either the Q5 or Q7's, if not as large. The rear seats are comfortable too, but there isn't as much headroom as you would get in the bigger cars. The boot, while not humongous, can easily swallow up 2-3 full-size bags, and this is possible largely because the Q3 uses a space-saver spare tyre.

The ride is not velvet-smooth, but it does offer a decently comfortable experience. You do feel some road irregularities, but the ground clearance takes care of any major issues. The handling is quite flat and enjoyable, with body roll well in check.

It does have other virtues typical of a larger 4x4. Its raised driving position makes for easy entry and exit from the car, as well as for a relaxing elevated view of the road ahead; for good visibility to the sides and out of the rear of the car too. Cabin quality is impressive and it is well-equipped as well.

The Q3 will be initially sold as a CBU (Completely Built Unit) in our market and CKD-assembly will start later at Audi's Aurangabad facility. It is compact, well-appointed, looks sharp and the very fact that it feels premium will no doubt make it popular here. We see long queues for the most affordable Audi in India.

Keywords: Audi Q3