Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
We reckon the 1.5-litre 148bhp 35 TFSI petrol is the best match for the Q3 Sportback. Its mild hybrid technology recuperates energy as you brake, stores this in a small battery, and deploys it through an electric motor that aids the petrol engine. And it really works, providing peppy acceleration off the line, useful punch in the mid range and enough grunt at motorway speeds.
The 2.0-litre 45 TFSI petrol gives you 227bhp for a hot-hatchback-like 0-62mph time of 6.5sec, delivering its best if you keep it spinning at 3000rpm or more. As such, though, you may struggle to find a road where you can safely make the most of it.
We have yet to try the most powerful of the diesels, the 187bhp 40 TDI, but the 35 TDI feels perfectly suited to the family-sized Q3. It pulls strongly from less than 2000rpm and is well up to the task of lugging around people and luggage. Granted, with only 148bhp to call upon, it can feel a little flat when overtaking on faster roads but offers a good compromise between pace and efficiency.
A six speed manual gearbox is standard with the 35 TFSI engine, but we have yet to try it. The seven-speed automatic (optional with the 35 TFSI, standard on the front-wheel drive 35 TDI and all 40 TDI and 45 TFSI versions) generally shuffles through the gears quickly and smoothly, but can be indecisive when a burst of speed is called for, being a little too eager to kick down to lower gears. It’s less ponderous than the Range Rover Evoque’s gearbox, though. With the 45 TFSI engine in particular, there’s a noticeable paucity of accelerator response when pulling away, too; gentle pressure on the accelerator often seems to be ignored, but pressing harder results in a surge of power that you don’t always want. This makes graceful progress rather tricky at slow, urban speeds.
The Q3’s diesel engines are fairly loud when you accelerate hard, and, to a lesser extent, the same is true of the 45 TFSI petrol engine, but things settle down at a cruise. There’s a minimum of humming from the suspension, and the Q3 gets close to matching the Evoque’s low levels of wind and road noise (even with 20in wheels fitted).
How the car feels on the road can be determined through Audi’s Drive Select system, which is standard across the range. Of its preset modes, Dynamic is the sportiest; it combines heavier steering and a sharper (and often jerkier) accelerator and, when fitted, automatic gearbox response. Where Adaptive Suspension is fitted (it's standard on Vorsprung trim and optional elsewhere), this mode sets the springs to their firmest setting, which keeps body lean nicely in check.
Unfortunately, though the steering is more satisfyingly weighty in this mode, and the big tyres provide loads of grip, the Q3 Sportback is still a little short on feel-good involvement. If you’re a keen driver, we’d certainly recommend it over an Evoque, but the BMW X2 and Seat Ateca are still the best-handling family-sized SUVs.
While Dynamic mode feels rigid enough to pummel bumps into submission, Comfort mode does a great job of smoothing out the majority of bumps and undulations, especially around town. Potholes are still noticeable, but as a gentle tremor rather than an earthquake. The standard sports suspension of entry-level models is set up a little more stiffly than the suspension of the regular Q3, and you’ll definitely notice the majority of potholes and road imperfections as a result, but not to the point that things become uncomfortable on a long journey.
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