David Motton

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I DROVE THE Range Rover Evoque a couple of weeks ago and came away very impressed. I've now had a chance to drive one of its key rivals, the Audi Q3. How does it match up to Range Rover's new small 4x4?

I DROVE THE Range Rover Evoque a couple of weeks ago and came away very impressed. I've now had a chance to drive one of its key rivals, the Audi Q3. How does it match up to Range Rover's new small 4x4?

 

Aside from a couple of reservations, very well. The Q3 is smaller and lighter than the Evoque, and on the twisting roads over the North Yorkshire Moors it showed impressive agility and grip. The steering feels rather light and remote, though.

 

Audi's 4x4s often handle well but at the expense of ride comfort. With the optional adaptive suspension dampers set to 'comfort', the Q3 copes with rough surfaces well enough, although the Evoque is the better bet if a supple ride is a priority. Put the suspension in 'dynamic' mode and bumps are felt more sharply but you can enjoy the Q3's nimble handling to the full.

 

The standard springs and dampers -- which Audi expects 95% of buyers to choose -- strike a reasonable compromise most of the time, although the car is not quite as settled over rough surfaces as it is with the adjustable suspension set to 'comfort'. The difference isn't huge, though, so we can see why most buyers are expected to stick with the regular suspension.

 

We tried all three engines that will be delivered to the first customers next month (a 138bhp front-wheel-drive diesel model arrives in December). The best seller is expected to be the 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel. It should make a fine engine for towing, with strong mid-rev pulling power and good refinement. Official combined economy is 47.9mpg and prices start from £28,460.

 

The 2.0 TFSI petrol with 168bhp is almost £3000 cheaper than the diesel, starting from £25,690. Performance is strong, so we'd question the need to spend extra on the 208bhp version, which is priced from £28,610. The official combined figure for the 168bhp engine is 38.7mpg, an improvement of 2mpg over the more powerful petrol.

 

Those prices compare favourably with the Evoque's. However, there are some strong arguments for spending the extra on the Range Rover. The Q3's smaller size -- especially its narrower width -- is noticeable in the back. Rear-seat space is similar to a VW Golf's, and the narrow cabin means rubbing elbows if three passengers travel in the rear.

 

Then there's the Q3's slim-line weight. Even after adding 75kg for the driver the Q3 2.0 TDI Quattro weighs 1660kg. That's less than the Evoque, and gives an 85% match figure of 1411kg.

 

Even so, our day driving the new Audi has shown it deserves to be considered alongside the Range Rover by anyone shopping for a small but upmarket 4x4.

 

We'll publish a more detailed review of the new Q3 in the magazine soon.

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