Business / New Cars

Not the most inspiring, but perfectly pleasant

By Chris Knapman (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-03 11:30

Not the most inspiring, but perfectly pleasant

Audi is revamping its Q3 for 2015 with a revised exterior look that is far more edgy and sporty than before. [Photo/Agencies]

The new model benefits from improvements to engine efficiency and specification, adding further appeal to the German company's smallest SUV.

With the arrival of the 2015 Audi Q3, it seems apt to take a moment to consider the contributing factors in this German car maker's unstoppable rise to the top. This is, after all, a brand that was selling fewer than 20,000 cars per year in the UK in the early 1990s, compared with 142,000 in 2013.

So why such strong growth? Most obviously, there has been a boom in the popularity of premium cars, so that where once big hatchbacks from the mainstream manufacturers were king, now we all want German cars with fancy badges and soft-touch dashboards (and few do a soft-touch dashboard quite like Audi).

In addition, Audi's expanding range of sporty RS models has added an ever brighter halo to the range, while its small A1 hatchback has made the brand more accessible for those with smaller budgets. And there's the explosion in the popularity of SUVs, a trend Audi has capitalised on with its Q models.

It started with the Q7 in 2006, expanded to include the Audi Q5 in 2008 and then in 2011 the range was fleshed out once again by the smallest member of the family, the Q3. In those years alone Audi's sales in the UK almost doubled. Look at global sales and the Q3 has notched up 400,000 since 2011. Good business if you can get it.

Of course, in order to maintain this momentum, ranges must be replaced or refreshed, giving the press something new to write about, dealers something new to talk about and buyers something new to get excited about.

The 2015 Q3 falls very much towards the refreshed end of that replaced/refreshed spectrum. The exterior makeover amounts to some silver trim between the grille and headlights, which you might argue makes the new model look more dated than the one it replaces. It's even more subtle at the rear, to the extent that you'll only know if it's a new Q3 when, instead of a boring old blink, the LED indicators sweep across the light cluster.

The Q3 is Audi's entry-level SUV-at least until the Q1 arrives:

The interior is also a continuation of what Q3 owners have come to expect. So there's space for four adults (five at a push, if you can persuade somebody to take the uncomfortable central perch), plus a 420-litre boot that's an equal of the rival BMW X1's.

Up front you'll find heater controls located just ahead of the gear-lever, where they are tricky to operate without taking your eyes off the road, and a small screen that pops open from the top of the dash-a far cry from the slimline unit that glides out of the A3's dash, let alone the TT's Virtual Cockpit, which relocates the satnav to a 12-inch screen in the instrument binnacle. Or put another way, the Q3's interior, while well built, is starting to show its age.

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