Audi Q3 S Line 1.4

TFSI

Audi Q3, front
Audi Q3, front
Audi Q3, front
Audi Q3, front
Audi Q3, rear
Audi Q3, side
Audi Q3, interior

HAVING hit the road in 2011 the Q3 is a relative spring chicken in the expansive Audi range - but has quickly become established as one of the brand's big-hitters.

The combination of Audi's typically understated looks, plush interiors and the sheer desirability of the badge have proved a popular combination at the premium end of the compact crossover market.

There's no room for complacency in one of the motor industry's fastest growing and hotly contested sectors, though, so the Q3 underwent the mid-life makeover so beloved of car manufacturers earlier this year.

Exterior changes were subtle with a freshened-up grille, revised bumpers and new-style alloy wheels probably noticeable only to the keenest observers.

The Q3, therefore, remains somewhat restrained by crossover standards with aggressive design flourishes shunned for a look which owes more to its hatchback roots than any SUV aspirations.

Under the bonnet, though, the changes were more significant with the entire engine range tweaked to improve performance and efficiency.

And Audi is hoping that the new star of the line-up will be the 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine with cylinder-on-demand technology which powered this car.

First seen in the A1 and A3 ranges it cleverly shuts down two of its four cylinders when they're not needed - giving fuel economy a welcome boost in the process.

Paired with the snappy six-speed manual transmission that I had that offers potential average fuel economy of 49.6 miles per gallon.

But with a power output of 150ps it also offers some perky performance when needed, with a 0-62mph sprint time of 9.2 seconds.

From behind the wheel there is no telling when the two cylinders are taking a break and, when a sharp injection of pace is needed, they come back online quickly and seamlessly to ensure a prompt and positive throttle response.

The Audi drive select system is now fitted as standard, allowing the driver to switch between the comfort, auto, dynamic and efficiency modes at the push of a button.

The only drawback is that this engine is only available with front-wheel drive. Those wanting Audi's renowned quattro four-wheel drive system will have to plump for one of the 2.0-litre petrol or diesel options.

Inside the cabin changes are also largely cosmetic, but this is no bad thing given the typically high quality Audi interior.

A new three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and extra aluminium-effect detailing freshen up the look but everything feels reassuringly tactile and built to last with logically laid out controls and a slick pop-up 6.5-inch colour display.

Head and legroom is fine for four people, although an intrusive transmission tunnel will make life uncomfortable for anyone sitting in the rear middle seat on longer journeys.

The boot, at 460 litres, is big enough to cope with the average family's needs and the 60/40 split rear seats fold down easily to expand load space when necessary.

The SUV-style elevated ride offers a commanding all-round view for the driver while its compact dimensions mean that the Q3 is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre around town and into tight parking spaces.

And as you'd expect from a premium-badged motor, it comes with plenty of kit to keep you comfortable and safe.

The S Line car I drove sits in the middle of the range, above SE and below S Line Plus, and boasted sporty enhancements inside and out, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, iPod connection, automatic lights and wipers, all-weather LED headlights, a powered tailgate, six airbags and electronic stability control.

As with all Audis, a plethora of optional extras can further enhance comfort and safety but they'll also bump up the price, with satnav, digital TV reception, winter tyres, leather upholstery and heated front seats among the extras on my car, adding more than £6,000 to the base price.

FAST FACTS

Audi Q3 S Line 1.4 TFSI

Price: £27,515

Mechanical:150ps, 1,395cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 127mph

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 49.6

Insurance Group: 21

C02 emissions: 131g/km

Bik rating: 21%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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