It’s easy to see why the cars in the small premium SUV sector have been so popular for the past few years. With their hatchback dimensions and interior space, high-up driving position and the added bonus of posh badges on their noses, small premium SUVs look set to continue to grace many Brits’ driveways. Now Audi has given its Q3, first launched in 2011, a facelift to keep it punching hard.

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And as facelifts go, the Q3’s is pretty successful. From the front it’s easy to tell this refreshed example from its forebear – the most obvious change is the addition of, what Audi calls, a ‘3D-effect Singleframe grille’. Revised bumpers, xenon and LED daytime running lights and colour-coded lower bumpers and wheelarches join the glitzy new grille.

Naturally, like most facelifts, Audi has designed some new alloy wheels while towards the rear, the bumpers get a refreshed look, LED rear lights and ‘scrolling’ indicators – when the indicator comes on, the light scrolls from the inside to the outside of the lamp cluster in the direction the driver intends to turn.

To offer customers more bang for their buck, Audi has upgraded the standard kit on the three trim levels – SE, S line and S line Plus. Entry-level SE cars come with DAB, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and the facelift adds new 17-inch alloys, Audi’s adaptive drive system, full-colour body paintwork, xenon lights and handy features like a retractable luggage cover and sports seats with four-way electric lumbar support.

The refresh throws in LED ‘sweeping’ lights, electric, folding and heated door mirrors and a power tailgate to the S line’s aggressive styling and 20mm-lowered sports suspension. S line Plus tops out the line-up and gets front and rear parking sensors, 19-inch wheels sat-nav and tinted windows.

However, while the Q3 now comes with extra spec and the build quality is as top-notch as ever, the dashboard’s design is dated in comparison to the newer A3’s layout – the manual pop-up sat-nav looks especially yesteryear.

Audi’s engineers have been hard at work at making the new Q3 more environmentally friendly, too. Across the range there are CO2 improvements of between 1.5 and 18 per cent, despite the vast majority of models gaining power upgrades, and the firm has slipped in a new 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol with cylinder-on-demand technology. But the best-seller is predicted to be the 182bhp 2.0-litre TDI with Audi’s all-wheel-drive quattro system.

It’s the perfect engine for the Q3 – providing punchy levels of power (thanks to a 5bhp increase) and torque right across the rev range and delivering a good set of running costs. The 2.0-litre unit in SE trim returns 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and emits 139g/km of CO2 – 9g/km less than the outgoing Q3.

Just like the A3, the 2.0-litre lump makes its presence known on the move. It’s a bit growly around town and even at motorway speeds there’s quite an audible gravelly diesel noise, but it’s only a small niggle. Handling is composed and comfortable, especially on the fine-riding SE model on 17-inch wheels, and the driving experience is even more refined if the seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox is selected.

The Q3 makes for a fine family car thanks to decent rear leg-room and plenty of adjustment for the driver behind the wheel. There’s a good-sized boot too – at 420 litres with the seats up, it matches the Range Rover Evoque and BMW X1, but the two rivals beat the Q3 when the seats are down; The Audi’s 1,325-litre capacity trails the Evoque by 120 litres and is down 25 litres on the X1.

With great build quality, a premium image and sturdy residuals, the refreshed Q3 still makes a good case for itself in the sector. But while it’s a strong package, we’d be tempted to opt for a Range Rover Evoque just because it offers more style – a key component in anyone’s book in this market.

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