Compact crossovers represent the new wave of mobility, and the premium segment has certainly taken notice. They fit the active lifestyle of today’s modern motorists who like to go off the beaten path to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. For the more discerning comes the need for more refinement and driving pleasure.

The Q3 is Audi’s recent entry into the premium compact crossover segment. It officially made its global debut at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show, four years after the Cross Coupe quattro concept designed by Julian Hönig. It made a glitzy entry to the Philippines early 2013.

The Q3 is built on the VW PQ35 platform which underpins compact cars like the second generation Audi A3 and second-gen TT, fifth-gen VW Golf, and crossovers like the VW Tiguan and SEAT Tribu. It was released to go against the BMW X1, Volkswagen Tiguan, MINI Countryman, and Range Rover Evoque. Although the latter is just in the list for size comparison purposes as it seems to have priced itself way ahead of the pack.

The Q3 was the first ‘Q’ model to have departed from the typically rounder look to feature a more chiseled form, not to mention the coupe-like lines to express a sporty character. The framed trapezoidal grill combined with the wedge-shaped headlights highlighted with LED daytime running lights give that distinct Audi appeal. The strong wheel arches are filled with 18-inch wheels wrapped with 235/50/R18 tires adding significant muscle to its appeal.

Audi Q3 interior

Inside, LED lighting illuminates the rather streamlined Audi look with a combination of soft touch grain leather, high quality plastic and aluminum forming the right amount of minimalism housing the ergonomically placed controls and buttons. It gets an automatic climate control system with good cooling that’s obviously a huge plus for our warm climate. The Audi MMI infotainment system features entertainment, telephony, and optional navigation. Connectivity is via a proprietary cable which wasn’t included in the test unit or via Bluetooth which I had trouble connecting both my iPhones to.

Audi Q3 engine

Under the hood is a 2-liter TDI engine with variable geometry turbo that is both able and frugal depending on how you drive. The engine produces 177 PS @ 4200 rpm and 380 Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm, this is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission which is quite smart enough to be left on just auto in either standard or sport for more spirited driving duties. Paddle shifters are mounted on the steering wheel for more flexibility with gears if you want to have it your way. Top speed is rated at 212 km/h by Audi, but we decided to skip this test as we don’t make top speed tests on public roads.

In the city, the Q3 is quite maneuverable zipping through traffic and the daily hustle and bustle of city life given its compact size, able TDI engine and short wheelbase. However it uncharacteristically has a wide turning radius compared to similarly sized vehicles, especially noticed in U-turns which is quite abundant in the Metro Manila road network. It effectively dampened bumps and ruts on the road quite well with its well-tuned suspension.

On the winding roads it took on corners quite impressively despite its height. It goes in and out of corners like a well-tuned tourer while taking fast bends with ease as the ESP (electronic stability program) and quattro all-wheel drive system automatically going to work when it detects the need to distribute torque to the proper place.

Audi claims a fuel consumption of 17 to 19 km/l, our brief test which was mostly restricted to the city garnered 10.5 km/l with moderate traffic, while our spirited pace up on the nearby mountain roads logged 9 km/l, which speaks much into its frugality. For safety, it comes with full Euro NCAP 5-star credentials thanks to six airbags, ESP, ABS with EBD, quattro all-wheel drive, and pedestrian crash safety features.

The Audi Q3 is an expressive crossover with dynamic styling and equally able performance and handling making it something for the daily commute and out of town getaways that seats 5 comfortably with decent cargo space of 460 liters. It’s like a supersized hatchback that has the SUV features without the bulk and mass at just the right size so you don’t get bullied on the road.

Price-wise it is quite competitive compared to the similar sized premium crossovers. At Php3,490,000 it slots right between a MINI Countryman S ALL4, and the top-spec BMW xDrive20d. I’m not normally a fan of crossovers, but I’d consider this as one of the few exceptions.