The Big Three German manufacturers have all decided to get into the lower end of the luxury market, which can only be a good thing for first-time buyers who can't quite afford a full-sized sedan or SUV, yet want the image that goes with a premium badge. If the B-Class doesn't cut it for you, and if you want the presence to justify your hard earned money, take a look at this duo, the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1.
The Audi Q3 (Rs 28.02 lakh onwards) looks lean, sharp and sophisticated, but not butch or menacing. Our only grouse is, unless you buy one in that loud orange hue, it hardly gets noticed! The BMW X1 (Rs 23.85 lakh onwards), on the other hand, looks like the more rugged SUV of the two, but only just. Like the Audi, the Beemer too sticks to family values and shares design elements with its siblings, the X3 and X5, although it's nowhere as imposing as either.
Vast expanses of beige magnify the feeling of space in the Q3, and the quality and texture of materials used truly feels terrific. The MMI (multimedia interface) screen is cool and has a pretty intuitive touch-pad, too. It's better on space than the X1, although both are realistically no more than 4-seaters. You'll feel at home in the X1 if you are familiar with the interior of the last-gen BMW 3-Series. It's typically BMW - a sea of black surfaces, driver-centric ergonomics, an easy-to-read central console display and a much improved iDrive scrolling unit. It's almost as feature-packed as the Q3, but lacks "that special feel", if you ask us.
A 1968cc, four-cylinder diesel powers the Q3. While the motor produces 177 bhp@4200 rpm and 38.74 kg of torque at 1750-2500 rpm, the lethargic dual-clutch 7-speed automatic gearbox lets it down. As a result, you have an SUV that's relaxed when you choose to cruise, but can't keep up for when you're playing boy racer. It's nimble in the city, but fails to excite on the highway. The X1 is powered by a 1995cc, in-line four-cylinder diesel that produces 174.2 bhp@4200rpm and 35.69 kg of torque at 1750-3000 rpm. However, despite its slightly inferior numbers, the X1 is actually the better driver's car of the two. The 6-speed auto makes light work of rapid progress and if you're planning on taking to the wheel more often than not, you'll really like the Beemer.
Overall, while both cars offer a stiff ride and neither is a particularly good off-roader, if your plan is to plunge into the luxury car segment, either of these is not a bad way to start at all.