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, giving the 35 TFSI peppy acceleration off the line, useful punch in the mid range and enough grunt at motorway speeds.
The 2.0-litre 45 TFSI petrol with 228bhp doesn’t add much in the way of real-world performance, while the 40 TDI diesel’s added mid-range grunt is mostly of benefit if you tow a caravan. There’s also the option of a 35 TDI unit – we haven’t had the chance to test this yet but we reckon the 40 TDI is still likely to be a better choice if you want diesel power.
We’re also yet to try the six-speed manual gearbox, but if you want an auto ‘box that’s another reason to choose the 35 TFSI: its mild-hybrid system makes it quicker to react when you put your foot down. The 45 TFSI and 40 TDI don’t use the hybrid system, and their automatic boxes feel seriously hesitant at times, rather like that in the Range Rover Evoque.
A plus point of the Evoque is how refined it is at speed. The good news is that the Q3 gets near to matching that car's low levels of wind and road noise (even with 20in wheels fitted). The Q3’s diesel engines are fairly loud when you accelerate hard, but its petrol units are relatively quiet and there’s not a lot of suspension noise.
Speaking of which, as standard you get passive suspension, with optional adaptive suspension available on higher trims. That adaptive set-up does a great job of smoothing out the majority of bumps and undulations, especially in town. Only the biggest potholes will produce a faint thud.
The adaptive set-up also keeps body lean well checked in corners, especially in its firmer Dynamic setting. The speed of the steering is progressive and turns the front wheels more quickly at slow speed so you don’t have to apply much lock in tight, multi-storey car parks. On the motorway it turns them more gradually so the car doesn’t feel nervous, but in Comfort mode, it’s still a little light when cornering and can feel a bit vague. If you’re a keen driver we’d certainly recommend the Q3 over an Evoque, but the BMW X2 and Seat Ateca are still the best-handling family-sized SUVs.