Heartbreak Hötel

Sometimes we can’t help which cars we fall in love with – a quick glance from just the right angle and we’re hooked by a fancy bit of brightwork or even some distinctive wheels. In my lifetime I’ve had some crushes on the most unusual of cars; a Toyota Previa, Renault Scenic and Vauxhall Corsa are just 3 vehicles I’ve needed in my life at various points, but having taken off my rose-tinted shades I can now look back and cringe.

For some reason I thought that the Previa was the bees-kness, instead of an egg shaped hearse.

I guess part of the appeal for a lot of these vehicles is the idea that I can’t have them. The Previa for example was a vehicle that one or two friends had on their family’s driveway, and as a large car with lots of seats and a high-up driving position I found it very impressive and secure. Of course the fact it performed like a snail and looked like one too didn’t perforate my 7 year old brain, but given that my parents were accustomed to buying decade-old superminis it was never going to be an option for us. I suspect that it’s this rule of opposites which in part drew me toward 4×4 vehicles like my current BMW X5; the antithesis of everything a true BMW should be in some ways and also the type of vehicle my dad may have sneered at being floored past whilst he was on his bike, the X5 nevertheless presents me with the opportunity to get what I want from a car – something I like the look of, with a comfortable interior and (whisper it) a degree of respect or prestige on the roads.

Again the Shogun was another car I had a nonsensical love for, despite it being truck-like and a slug to drive the chunky looks floated my boat.

Still that hasn’t stopped me from falling in love with various vehicles along the way and of course even as we speak I still get my head turned by more expensive metal. However even before I was in the position to buy a car I really wanted, I had long tried to exercise a degree of authority or sway over my aforementioned parents as they engaged in their occasional searches for a new car. I quickly realised that no amount of begging or pleading was going to land a nearly new Ford Galaxy or Mitsubishi Shogun in my life, but for a long time I simply aimed at them buying a vehicle with rear doors. Yes that’s right, in an age where the average mother of 2 kids sees something the size of my X5 as the minimum requirement, we made deal with 3 door city cars with next to no rear leg room – even when 5 of us went on our annual holidays to the West Country (ie 4 hour drives!).

I tried to get my mum to choose the CRV over the Jazz initially, before accepting that despite a split level boot and high driving position the 4.5m length ruled it out.

When my Dad passed away and my Mum decided to buy her own car (and in the process sell me her Astra) I decided to be reasonably sensible and present her with choices that she may like, but ones that I liked too or at least would tolerate. For a long time I fought hard to get her to consider a 3rd generation CR-V, citing her interest in the reliable and practical Honda Jazz as reason to choose the crossover. When that was ruled out I decided that it was only fair that the smaller (but nearly as chunky) Nissan Qashqai deserve some serious consideration, but again that was dismissed after an unfortunate viewing of one in a Morrisons car park. We actually got around to test driving a Ford Focus but the appalling customer service given by the salesman meant that we more or less walked in and out of the nearby Honda dealer with the ownership of a brand new Jazz in tow.

A bit bright for what is essentially a pensioner-mobile, but on the whole Honda’s smallest model has performed admirably for my Mum over the past 6.5 years.

As her beloved Jazz nears the 7 year mark, it seems that the time for it’s replacement is growing gradually closer (despite having less than 30,000 miles on the clock and never have gone wrong I hasten to add!), so unfortunately for my Mum I have already started to put the feelers out in terms of what she might potentially buy next. I will just say now that I suspect she’s going to end up with the forthcoming new shape Jazz, but given the horrific mess they have made with the styling, increasing prices and under-powered engine, I owe it to both her and myself to come up with a few (dozen) alternatives for her to at least look at. She never reads this site and likely never will, but you’re still going to have to put up with any serious developments over the 6 months to a year, but in the meantime I’ll fill you in on the car I have decided she needs to buy – although of course she definitely won’t!

In S-Line spec, Audi’s Q3 is a handsome beast with LED running lights and attractive wheels, but against competitors such as the Evoque and Lexus NX it looks a bit dull.

When Audi first launched their Q3 back in 2011 I was most definitely NOT a fan of their small n squashed crossover. Their big-daddy Q7 I always lusted over and after it’s 2012 facelift I even grew to respect the mid-sized Q5, but the Q3 with it’s slanted rear roof, bunched up taillights and budget A1-esuqe interior is not something which ever really wow-ed me. I have obviously been in the minority though, as these things are everywhere! I guess Land Rover and Audi’s product planning teams had it spot on when they spotted a gap for premium badged family hatchbacks with a little more ride height, and although BMW’s X1 has apparently sold the most in this market, it’s the Evoque and Q3 which I see at every corner where I live and work. Either car I think would suit my Mum down to a tee, but for the moment it’s the baby Audi which I have in my sights (mainly because it’s slightly cheaper and available with a petrol engine).

The rear is no better, a bit of a toad by all accounts

Time has been kind to the Q3’s looks; as with all Audi’s it has been conservatively styled and has meant to it appearing just as mildly interesting and classy as it was when it first rolled off the production line 4 years ago. Audi’s bold corporate grille has lost it’s shocking-ness and although the optional LED-running lights give the car a bit of visual interest, it is not enough to make prospective buyers run for the hills. I have always been less fond of things towards the rear of the car, but while the slanted roof no longer bothers me at all, the one-piece boot/tail lights still look a little too squat for my liking. The Q3 has just undergone a very minor facelift which has merely added a little bit of chrome around the grille to make it look like the new Q7, but in lighter colours it’s not really very noticeable. For most upscale buyers the S-Line package is a must have, but I think my Mum would be more likely to get an SE model with it’s smaller (and more comfortable) wheels, and of course a lower price tag too!

Smartly detailed with a reasonable amount of kit, the Q3’s cabin has been class leading for the majority of it’s life time although it now has competition from the new X1 (see below).

Inside the Q3 is akin to virtually every other Audi pre 2015, so has a pop-up navigation screen (manual pop up unfortunately), classy metal accents everywhere and soft touch plastics too. The design is still a cut above most mainstream models and is very easy to use, but like I mentioned previously it is probably more similar to the current A1 rather than the new shape A3, which gets a more minimal design and nicer air-vents. Newer Audis also get a fancy massive screen where the instrument panel normally is, but on the whole the Q3 gets a B+ even when compared to cars like the Honda HRV and Fiat 500X, which are considerably newer. Space is quite generous too, and as this is a Qashqai sized vehicle on the Golf platform the average family could very easily get a weekly shop and 4 people in it, with 5 at a pinch as ever. In terms of my Mum’s usage the rear seats are majorly going to be used for shopping bags and the boot will eventually have to fit a small dog inside, but in the longer term she may end up on baby sitting duties so it would be nice to know that a couple of car seats would fit in the rear and a double buggy in the boot too.

Believe it or not the Q3 has a boot a similar size to my (2 classes up) X5! Shows how far things have come in the past decade.

The Germans are renowned for being notoriously stingy with their equipment levels, but in recent years they have learnt to throw a few niceties in if they are intending to compete with ever nicer mainstream models who often heap a tonne of stuff in for free. The Q3 does pretty decently considering it’s low(ish) opening price; climate control, Bluetooth technology and a colour screen all come as standard, but unlike some rivals the leather seats cost quite a bit more, as will cruise control, parking sensors and the basic SD-based navigation. There are plenty of option packs which roll a lot of these things in for a pretty penny, and I guess for those buying via PCP they won’t make a whole lot of difference to their monthly payments, but private buyers need to think carefully before going too mad (and used buyers need to make sure that business customers haven’t skimped on the creature comforts either!).

Facelift Q3’s have a chrome strip around the grille and headlights, but white ones don’t show it very well.

Being based on the A3/Golf platform is no bad thing when it comes to road handling, and with smaller wheels the Q3 is apparently the perfect beast for those whose driving blends town trips with a few motorway jaunts – it handles tidily and as long as you don’t expect miracles from cars with S-Line suspension the ride quality isn’t too awful either. OK so maybe it can’t take a corner like BMW’s X1 or go off road like Land Rover’s Evoque but the vast vast majority of buyers are going to use them to drive around at 30-40 mph down straight roads and traverse the occasional speed-bump a little too fast. That said the engines in the Q3 all give rather spritely performance, again at least for this type of vehicle; the base 1.4L turbocharged petrol has 150bhp and the 2.0L version gets 180bhp, good for 0-60 in 8.9/7.6 seconds respectively. The diesels are all VW’s familar 2.0L TDI, in either 150bhp or 184bhp tunes, with 0-60 coming in either 9.3 or 7.9 seconds. Now things start to get a little complicated as all the 2.0L engines (diesel or petrol) can be had with the quattro AWD system, choosing quattro means you also have the option of a DSG automatic transmission – both of those add £1500 each to the asking price, apart from the 2.0L petrol where they are both standard (and so curiously makes it a bit of a bargain if you want both and a petrol engine).

The Evoque is a formidable competitor and when comparably equipped is actually pretty good value

Admittedly most buyers in this segment are going to be after one of the diesels, which start at just under £27k for a front wheel drive manual model. When you look at these engines in something like a Golf you may not think that is bad value, especially when they should still be able to return 61mpg and get £30 road tax (for now anyway), but remember that the less plush Skoda Yeti starts a good £6k less with the same engine and likely better equipment too. The presence of a petrol engine is what interests me about the Q3 though, as it’s 51.4 mpg combined fuel figure is the same as my Mum’s Jazz, and driven sensible I suspect it could equal the 38mpg which she has averaged in that. 9.2 seconds isn’t the fastest 0-60 time and neither is the lack of quattro amazing for snowy weather, but the increased ground clearance and all-weather tyres should ensure that the latter is not too much of a problem, and it will still be a good chunk faster than the Jazz with it’s low down torque from the turbo.

If only the Q3 was a little shorter, maybe the upcoming Q1 could be a better bet if it arrives on time.

So why do I know that my Mum won’t buy the Q3? Well it’s a combination of 2 main issues, namely size and price. The most insurmountable of these is definitely size – the Q3 is simply too big for my Mum to even consider drivin, this being despite the fact is is only 4.38m long and 1.83m wide (for reference her Jazz is 3.98m by 1.7m). More than the dimensions though it is the visual bulk that scares her, as she sees it as several classes up from the Jazz, which admittedly it is, but realistically the size is going to make very little difference being driven up and down to the supermarket once a week/to the local park. Price, well although she could certainly afford it, I can understand why she would probably furrow her brow at the idea of paying around £10k more than a comparably equipped Jazz, and a good £7k more than the slightly larger new HRV from her beloved Honda. Other factors include a dealer which isn’t walking distance away (silly I know), plus the fact she isn’t overly fond of Volkswagen Group products for some reason.

The new X1 is probably the fiercest competitor of the Q3, and whilst it’s more expensive it does come with an automatic and diesel option as standard.

For the rest of you who have come here looking for information on the Q3 but have less qualms about size and price? Well I do really like the car but even in the hour or so since I’ve started writing this post I’ve come to the conclusion that for new buyers you are better off looking at alternatives if you want any niceties in your crossover; the Land Rover Evoque starts at £30k, is pretty well equipped as standard and holds it’s value like a Ming Vase – I’m not a massive fan of the smallest RR but you can’t beat it if you want leather seats and a diesel engine – adding these to the Q3 makes it more expensive than the Evoque! The latest BMW X1 is about to launch too and is much much improved over it’s predecessor – it can be a little pricey but comes as standard with an automatic and a diesel engine, if you want those the cost works out roughly the same but the Beemer is bigger and fresher, plus cheaper to run. However if you’re looking at nearly new or used cars, then the Q3 comes across as not too bad value; those rivals have better residuals and so a year old Q3 can easily be found with a few choice options for under £25k, whereas those same Evoques will probably have stayed the same price!

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