Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
We reckon the 1.5-litre 148bhp petrol (badged 35 TFSI) is the best match for the Q3 Sportback. Its mild hybrid technology recuperates energy as you brake, stores it in a small battery, and deploys it through an electric motor to aid the petrol engine. And it really works, helping to provide strong acceleration away from the line, plus there's useful punch in the middle of the rev range for fast A-road driving.
The 2.0-litre (45 TFSI) petrol gives you 242bhp for a hot-hatchback-like 0-62mph time of 5.8sec, delivering its best if you keep the engine spinning at 3000rpm or more – but it isn't cheap as we'll come on to explain later. Meanwhile, the 35 TDI 2.0-litre diesel can feel a little flat when overtaking on faster roads but offers a good compromise between pace and efficiency if you do lots of miles. The 197bhp 40 TDI diesel is noticeably stronger but considerably more expensive, partly because it's available only with quattro four-wheel drive.
A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard on the 35 TFSI petrol and 35 TDI diesel engines; it's reasonably light and easy to use even if it isn't the most precise shift action. You can pay extra to have a seven-speed automatic (S tronic) gearbox, something you get as standard with the 40 TDI and 45 TFSI, and it generally shuffles through the gears quickly and smoothly. It’s also less ponderous than the Range Rover Evoque’s automatic gearbox.
The Q3 Sportback’s diesel engines are fairly loud when you accelerate hard and, to a lesser extent, the same is also true of the 45 TFSI petrol engine. However, the Q3 gets close to matching the Evoque’s low levels of wind and road noise, even with 20in wheels (the largest available) fitted.
How the Q3 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 supposed to be the sportiest and combines heavier steering and a sharper (and often jerky) accelerator responses. If you've gone for Vorsprung trim, this also puts the adaptive suspension into its firmest setting.
Unfortunately, despite having plenty of grip, the Q3 Sportback is rather short on driver involvement. If you’re a keen driver, we’d recommend it over an Evoque, but the BMW X2 and Seat Ateca are considerably more fun through the corners.
The standard sports suspension that's fitted to almost all Q3 Sportbacks is relatively firm; you’ll notice the majority of road imperfections as you drive along. If comfortable is a priority then the Evoque is a better bet. As we've already said, Vorsprung versions of the Q3 Sportback have adaptive suspension and ride fairly smoothly is you switch to Comfort mode. It's just a pity they're so expensive to buy.
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