IT continues to be a lucrative time for SUVs with lots of talented vehicles vying for attention, particularly in the smaller-car category, writes Roy Lewis, and among the top contenders is Audi’s Q3, a compact and refined fivedoor 4x4 crossover which offers a measure of off-road capability together with rather exceptional composure on the tarmac.

It’s a good vehicle to drive with all the fine tuning by Audi having produced a suspension arrangement supple enough to cope with pockmarked streets yet firm enough for stable and well controlled cornering for the driver in a hurry.

As is usual with Audi there is a good range of advanced motors, with the 2-0-litre 140PS turbo diesel being a firm favourite with its excellent blend of performance and economy.

Prices are not cheap but represent value for money, especially as all the models are well equipped.

Prices start at £26,200 for the 2.0-litre 170PS SE Quattro five-door petrol to £31,715 for the 2.0-litre TDi Quattro five-door with 177PS and in S line trim.

The popular 140PS oil burner with a six-speed manual gearbox, provides plenty of pulling power and is also a flexible and punchy motor when the need arises. Its quietness and refinement will amaze owners of older diesels while its excellent fuel returns will impress.

With much use of aluminium for body and suspension parts, Audi has kept the weight of the vehicle down considerably and this in itself aids both performance and economy.

Behind the wheel the driver has plenty of seat and steering column adjustment to obtain a first-rate position and with the seating set fairly high there is a commanding view of the road ahead.

With generous ground clearance and short overhangs the driver can head for the hills with some confidence.

The Q3, the smallest of Audi’s Q-series, will also tow a trailer across a muddy field but it is not the best vehicle for anything too serious off the highway as it puts onroad handling above prowess over hill and dale. On the road it handles very well.

The interior is just what you might expect from a premium vehicle with first-rate fit and finish and a generous amount of standard equipment.

Considering the number of controls, the dash and steering wheel layouts are remarkably easy to follow.

The cabin is roomy and the boot is a decent size for family use considering the size of the vehicle.

With the top specification S line, high-quality leather upholstery adds a further measure of opulence. It also has alloy wheels, climate control, a stability programme, traction control, Bluetooth and parking sensors.

There are numerous options, too, and these include a technology package with satellite navigation and a driver’s colour information system. And there is damper control available for fast cornering.

The Q3 is not only one of the best compact SUVs but with the marque’s reputation for reliability and splendid residual values it’s a good buy budget permitting.

Key points: 􀁧 Top speed: 122mph.

􀁧 0-60mph: 9.9 seconds.

􀁧 Fuel: 49.6mpg.

􀁧 CO2 emissions (g/km): 149.