It’s no secret that the SUV segments are the fastest-growing in the local motor industry (with worldwide popularity as well) and, as a result, you can basically buy an SUV as small as a Suzuki Jimny or a Nissan Juke, to something as massive as a Mercedes-Benz GL or a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

It’s therefore no surprise that almost all the manufacturers are trying to get a slice of the SUV pie and Audi, as one example, has been enjoying it for years after the Q7 and Q5 proved to be great successes for the brand.

Now, however, they’ve gone a segment lower with the new Q3 which, in my mind, in the same vein as its BMW X1 rival, has no point.

I’ll get to why in a moment, but let me give you a run-down on what makes this Audi good. Yes, I know, it looks like every other Audi but that’s not a bad thing. The design is smart, clean and in its SUV renditions, purposeful. The higher ride height and large grille give a sense of superiority on the road, which is great – even if this car isn’t much bigger than an A3. I particularly like the rump, where the sharply-angled tail lights with their smart lighting elements look great.

On the inside, it’s Audi business as usual. That means brilliant design, great ergonomics, top-quality materials everywhere and that typical sense of German class. It’s comfy and roomy, actually feeling bigger than it is. It’s an Audi though, so there are a few non-standard options you may need to fork out for, depending on the model. I tested the mid-range 2.0T FSI quattro S-Tronic which, while a bit pricey at face value at R421 500, offered a decent amount of standard equipment and a great powertrain.

With 125 kW and 280 Nm available from its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine you definitely won’t be left wanting for speed; 0-100 km/h is over in just 7.8 seconds. It also features Audi’s 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox which is as flawless as the skin on a toddler’s face. However, there is a price to pay for the performance and that is rather a bit too much thirst in the fuel department. Audi claims an average of 7.7-litres per 100 km which sounds great but, in the real world, expect something more like the 9.2 I achieved; even with start/stop technology helping.

That’s exactly why, for R10 000 more than this particular version, I would recommend the diesel-powered 2.0 TDI quattro S-Tronic. It’s the same car only with more power, more torque and it will be much lighter on fuel (Audi claims 5.9-lires per 100 km).

The Q3 was nice to drive (if a bit boring in that Audi way) with great ride comfort, good NVH levels and a sense of being cocooned off from the world. Sure, I’d like a little more fizz from a car like this, but it’s not so dull that you want to chew your wrists off. Luckily, the sound system is brilliant so at least you can drown out the mundaneness with your favourite music at full blast.

It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Spacious for its size, good-looking, economical if you go for the diesel, nice to drive and brilliantly-built. But what’s the point? It may have quattro but be honest, where are you ever going to take something like the Q3 off-road? And, if you do venture off-road, you won’t be climbing rocks or anything of the sort because it’s too low and it lacks the necessary off-road gadgetry for that sort of thing. Sure, you might find yourself on a dirt road at some point but trust me, you don’t really need four wheel drive for that.

Then you have to consider what you can get for the same sort of money. How about a BMW X3? Or a Chevrolet Captiva? You could also buy a Chevy Trailblazer, Honda CR-V, the new Hyundai Santa Fe, a Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Freelander, Nissan’s X-Trail, the Suzuki Grand Vitara or Toyota’s FJ Cruiser – all for the same sort of money as this Q3; along with a host of other alternatives which actually have proper off-roading credentials. In other words, if you’re looking for an off-roader, you’ve a lot to choose from.

And, if you’re not looking for an off-roader, why would you even be looking at the Q3 in the first place? An A3 would do a find job of just being ‘a car’ and you would be able to do everything you want to do in the Q3 in any case – except perhaps mount a pavement or two.

That’s why I find cars like the Q3 and X1 (the X1 xDrive20i auto retails for R433 619) to be completely pointless. Not because they are SUV lookalikes without real SUV capabilities, but because they are so damn expensive that you’d be stupid to buy them. If you want a small SUV, buy something like a Nissan Qashqai or a VW Tiguan. At least they can muster a degree of off-road driving and, because they’re much cheaper, it’s not such a train smash when you do eventually scratch them on some bushes or a rock.

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