(Pocket-lint) - The Audi Q3 has been one of the German car maker's most successful models, with the compact crossover SUV selling north of a million cars since its debut in 2011.
Over the past six-and-a-bit years Audi has facelifted the Q3 a few times, offering some changes above and below the bonnet and a high-octane RS version for people who like their SUV with an element of automotive thuggishness.
But come 2018, the Q3 was starting to look a little long in the tooth, prompting Audi to reveal a second-generation model, offering a serious re-work of the first-gen car and a slathering it with a whole load of tech.
At a casual glance the Q3 doesn't look miles apart from its predecessor, but look more closely and you'll spy a much more aggressive machine. Sharp, angular lines on the vents and lights convey a more sporty look with a larger front grille giving the impression of a snarling maw.
Look at recently refreshed Audi models - like the A6 and Q8 - and you'll see where this sharper and more aggressive design has come from. But it also has a few neat touches of its own such as a slick pair of lines that run up bonnet creating a neat 3D-effect, while flared rear wheel arches give the eyes penty to drink in when looking closely.
In the mid-spec S-Line trim in Turbo Blue, the Q3 looks particularly dashing. The entry-level Sport trim loses a few of the sharper angles around the front vents, while the top-end Vorsprung model comes with contrasting trim highlights and 20-inch 5-spoke star design alloy wheels.
But regardless of the model, the Q3 is a good-looking SUV, mixing enough flair to pull an admiring glance or two - but without overdoing things so as to look ostentatious.
Simple Germanic luxury
Things get even better on the Q3 inside.
Audi has given the Q3's cabin a solid makeover, significantly modernising the car's look over its predecessor. The trim and switchgear of the older car has been refreshed with sharper compact designs and digital readouts to make better use of dashboard space, while the metal-effect trims look smarter and more refined.
One thing that hasn't changed is Audi's level of build quality, with pretty much every part of the Q3's inside feeling solid, including the rotary air conditioning dials. The one exception is a chunk of plastic below the aforementioned dials where a volume knob sits but nothing else; it looks a bit like an oversight by Audi's designers.
Copious use of soft-touch materials make the cabin a nice place to sit, though you'll want the S Line spec to get the trim in a mix of leather and cloth to get the premium Audi feel. While people with more cash to burn can opt for the sport seats and interior to be slathered in Alcantara and leather. It does look good when it is, so it's money well spent.
Speaking of dried out cow skin, the leather-covered steering wheel of the fully-kitted out S Line model we had to test feels very nice. Audi hasn't festooned it with buttons either, which means you're left feeling like a driver rather than someone operating a small plane.
There's also a decent amount of space in the back seats and boot thanks to the new Q3 being a little larger than its predecessors (some 97mm longer and 18mm wider - which doesn't sound like a lot but it does have real-world impact). That means there's plenty of space for two adults to sit comfortably in the back, though fitting in a fifth person would be a squeeze.
As for the boot, there's 530 litres of luggage room; push the rear seats forward and that becomes 675-litres; lay them flat and there's 1,525-litres of total space. That trumps rival SUVs like the Volvo XC40 ad BMW X1.
While Audi offers a good handful of options for the Q3's exterior design, there are frankly a bewildering amount of options for the Q3's interior. These range from the aforementioned leather trims and heated seats to ambient lighting packs, privacy glass and panoramic glass sunroof. But go for the S Line and you'll be well covered with a smattering of included ones without breaking the bank.
Where you will want to splash the cash is with the car's tech, and there's a lot to spend your money on.
Like every refreshed Audi over 2018 and 2019, the Q3 gets the car maker's Virtual Cockpit, which as standard comes with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster for the driver, plus a separate 10.1-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment unit.
Both screens are sharp and clear, but an extra £250 gets you a larger 12.3-inch instrument cluster that can display more data and provides a 3D navigation map. It might seem like a fair bit to shell out for an extra bit of information, but it adds to the whole Audi experience and is very pleasant to glance at while navigating around.
The infotainment screen is also a tech tour de force, with sharp graphics and subtle haptic feedback that makes navigating the menus when on the move - as a passenger, anyway - feel more intuitive.
At times there can be a few too many menus to tap through; on a twisty, bumpy road the ability to accurately tap the third menu option in a row can be a bit challenging. But for essential functions like aircon, there a rotary dials and simply switches, which are appreciated - especially when top-line models in the line-up, like the flagship Q8, lack such physical controls in place of a haptic-feedback second infotainment display.
Voice control is also on offer and works pretty well; think Siri levels of accuracy as opposed to Google Assistant.
As expected with any new Audi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are integrated into the system, which is a neat touch - but far from essential given Audi's MMI system has more than enough functions for most people to get their teeth into.
When it comes to entertainment, the Vorsprung Q3 sports a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system; it's a £995 option for the Sport and S Line models. With 15 speakers, a 16-channel amplifier and kicking out 680 watts of audio power, the speakers deliver the very clean and crisp sound that B&O is known for. It's incredible - if you can plump for the pricier model or relevant speaker pack to have it added. With the speaker pack comes an extended ambient lighting pack, which offers coloured and contoured lighting through the car. It looks rather nice and again conveys that premium Audi feel.
Swaddled in safety
You'll have figured out by now that the Q3 is flush with options. And the lengthy list continues when it comes to the suite of safety and driver assistant tech the car can offer.
As standard there's cruise control, lane change monitoring, rear parking sensors, and Audi's Pre-Sense collision-detection tech, all of which makes the task of day-to-day driving a bit less risky.
But things get more interesting when options are added in. Go for the Vorsprung model and you'll get adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera for aiding challenging maneouvers, and an emergency assist feature that can detect when a driver is drifting out of a lane and, if cruise control is active, can safely stop the car if the driver doesn't respond to visual, acoustic and haptic warnings.
Camera-based traffic sign recognition picks out important signs like speed limits and traffic warning and displays them on the instrument cluster and is a rather swish feature, while cross-traffic assistance warns the driver of traffic zipping behind them when they're reversing, applying the brakes if a collision is imminent.
Probably the most interesting bit of kit is the parking assistant feature, which makes use of the sensor suite on the Q3, calculates the ideal parking path for slotting the car into a bay or when parallel parking, and then autonomously takes care of the steering while the driver controls the accelerator and brake. It's a long-way from self-driving but is a neat example of how some autonomous tech can be fitted into today's cars.
Of course, for the lesser Q3 trims, these safety features come as £300-to-£800 extras. It also means there's the potential to have a lot of beeps and pop-up warnings nagging you about how you're driving; for keen drivers and petrolheads, such systems might be not be as desirable as they are to folks who want the latest in German car tech.
Not the drive of your life
Speaking of driving, that's arguably where the Q3 disappoints a little.
There are a three petrol and two diesel engines options for the UK, with these ranging from the the 1.5-litre turbocharged 35 TFSI, which kicks out 148bhp, to the top-end 45 TFSI motor, which delivers 230bph. There's no electric or hybrid option, but the latter could pop up as 2019 chugs along.
Depending on the engine, there are options for front-wheel drive or Audi's Quattro four-wheel drive system, and either a six-speed manual or the S tronic automatic gearbox.
We got our hands on a fully-kitted out S Line model with the 45 TFSI engine. With a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds our Q3 was pretty nippy on paper, and when it got going it proved to be so on the road.
But the S Tronic transmission saldy got in the way. At times it felt a bit slow on choosing the right gear and changing up too quickly when we wanted it to hold onto a lower gear for a little longer when tackling a mountain road.
The steering suffered from a similar lack of dynamics. It is nice and precise with Audi's progressive steering becoming sharper as the steering angle increases - helpful when tackling twisty corners - but it is devoid of feel and feedback and still feels a bit light.
The Q3 does win some points back when it comes to how stable it feels when tackling hills. With the sports suspension and Quattro setup of our S Line, there was little body roll when the car was driven around corners in enthusiastic fashion. When pushed with the gearbox being controlled by the paddles and not the car, we could really feel the Q3's stability and grip come into its own.
While the Q3 looks aggressive and sporty, it really feels most suited for navigating A roads, pootling around scenic towns or cruising along dual carriageways. Sure there's some fun to be had in the corners and on B-roads, but it never really comes across as a car for driving enthusiasts. Which is fine, really, as it fits the bill for its target audience and looks great in doing so.
If driving is your heart and soul then the Q3 is not the Audi you're looking for. But for people who want an attractive and tech-filled compact SUV for somewhere between £30-40k, it's a compact SUV that might be right up your street.
Start adding up the options and the Q3 is far from cheap, though it's nowhere near as expensive as some of Audi's larger SUVs. But it does provide access to some of the best technology in the car world with the attention to detail and premium feel Audi has built its name on. It's these additions that make the Q3 feel special and worthy of your attention.