Following on from the war time success of the Willys MB, the Jeep legend started its civilian journey in 1945 post-war America, with the launch of the CJ-2A or the “Universal”. Around the same time, across the pond in Great Britain, Maurice Wilks (perhaps not wanting to be outdone and having identified “weaknesses” in the Willys design) set about building the first Land Rover. Based on an original idea drawn in the wet sand of a beach at Red Wharf Bay in North Wales, the box chassis design of the original Series I Land Rover, went largely unchanged right up to the final ‘Defender’ model rolled off the production line on 29 January 2016. Despite paving the way for today’s modern SUV’s, passenger comforts were a far cry from today’s vehicles. Climate control had significantly fewer ‘settings’, with the more limited option of either having or not having a sheet of canvas over your head.
So with the history lesson over, we can clearly see that Sport Utility Vehicles, or SUV’s, have come a long way since their time of conception. Today’s posh-roaders bear little resemblance to the workhorses of old, but if you happen to be in the market for a nearly-new or used Compact SUV, there is no shortage of players out there for this massively lucrative part of the car market. Up at the prestige end of the pack we find a trio of contenders from Audi, BMW & Land Rover in the form of the Q3, the X1 and the Range Rover Evoque respectively.
Although there are a number of alternative powertrains, all three of these vehicles are available with a 2.0-litre diesel, churning out a similar amount of power (being circa 180bhp). That said, the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1 are significantly lighter than the Range Rover Evoque, resulting not only in them feeling and being quicker off the mark, but also being significantly more frugal in ‘real world’ mpg tests. The weight advantage is, in part, down to the German contenders having a shorter and squatter stance than the Evoque. The result on the road is that the Audi and BMW feel much more ‘hatchback’ like whereas the baby Range Rover provides much more of a big 4×4 feel. Continuing with the on-road theme, despite the bigger feel, Range Rover have opted for a very quick steering setup, which combined with its greater body roll give it a very nervous ride, particularly on the twisty or uneven road surfaces. The opposite can be said for both the Audi and the BMW, who’s slightly weightier steering and more accommodating suspension setup leave you feeling much more confident, even over the lumpy stuff.
Looks, Kit and Caboodle
Internally, none of this compact SUV trio are going to disappoint, however with its considered mix of high end plastics and brushed aluminium complimenting its ‘concept car’ exterior styling, the Range Rover Evoque really takes the crown here. That angular bodywork does have its downsides however, making reverse parking a tad awkward due to the restricted rear three-quarters view (although the addition of the rear-view camera option aides this significantly). In the BMW X1, whilst a little less dramatic than the Evoque, you are presented with a surprising amount of standard equipment (particularly if you are familiar with BMW’s of old where you often felt honoured to receive a steering wheel without ticking it on the options list!). With models post 2015 even coming with ‘Active Guard’ forward collision assistance as standard, you can’t help but feel you really are getting a bit more for your money. If this added value should happen to induce a new found air of grandeur within you, you’ll also be delighted to hear that the frankly cavernous back seats will leave being chauffeur driven, a real pleasure. So far as quality is concerned, the Audi Q3 doesn’t disappoint either, with the same top drawer switch gear you can expect across the Audi range and an array of equally fancy options including, self-park function, panoramic sunroof and adaptive suspension to name but a few. Despite the available toys, there are a few niggles with the Q3, not least of which is that it can be a little cramped, particularly for the front seat passengers, whilst the overall styling is probably the most dated of the three.
Bang for your Buck
From a pre-owned perspective, with greater fuel economy, great standard equipment and insurance premiums lowered thanks to its advanced safety systems, if you are looking for a long term investment then you can’t go too far wrong with the BMW X1. It’s worth bearing in mind though it does have the greatest depreciation of the three, with the ‘residual value prize’ going to the Range Rover Evoque with the Audi Q3 sitting proudly in the middle. The long and short of it is, as long as you avoid the abused and neglected examples out there by buying from a reputable dealer such as Available Car, you won’t be disappointed with either of these great compact SUV’s and let’s face it, none of them will be as likely to mess up your hair-do (or your spinal integrity) as a Willys Jeep or a Series I Land Rover.