Audi Q3 estate performance
The petrol Q3 range kicks off with a front-wheel-drive 1.5-litre turbo model, badged 35 TFSI. This offers decent performance on paper (0-62mph takes 9.2sec) and has more than enough power for town driving, but faster roads often force the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox to shuffle down in order to keep the Q3 motoring forwards with decent authority.
The automatic gearbox doesn’t always behave itself, though; try to pull away quickly from a standstill and it’s irritatingly hesitant. That makes nipping onto a busy roundabout far more nerve-wracking than it should be. A six-speed manual is available, but we haven’t tried it yet.
Despite this, we would still recommend the 1.5 over the larger 2.0-litre petrol, because the latter is only available with quattro four-wheel drive and is less efficient as a result. It doesn't even make things more relaxing, needing plenty of revs before it gets a shuffle on, just like the 1.5.
The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel, by contrast, feels perfectly suited to the family-sized Q3. It pulls strongly from less than 2000rpm and feels far more suitable for lugging around people and luggage. Granted, with only 148bhp, it can feel a little flat if you’re overtaking on faster roads, but it offers the best compromise between pace and efficiency.
Audi Q3 estate ride
There are three suspension options to choose from. Entry-level Sport-spec cars get standard steel springs and S line models come with the same, but stiffened and lowered. Adaptive dampers, which let you soften or stiffen the ride to suit the conditions, are available as an option (or standard on Vorsprung trim).
Of the standard set-ups, we’ve only tried the stiffer S line version. It’s supple enough over large bumps, such as sleeping policemen, but the Q3 feels firmer than the Volvo XC40 on its equivalent R-Design set-up, tending to thump over sharper-edged potholes and fidget over pimply surfaces. Thankfully, the adaptive dampers smooth things out and help to control body movements over dips and crests extremely well.
Audi Q3 estate handling
Raising the ride height of any car never does much for its handling but, among rival SUVs, the Q3 deals with this better than most.
Body lean is well controlled, especially if you specify the adaptive dampers, and there’s lots of grip spread evenly between the front and rear axles. All in all, it feels a lot more agile than the XC40 and more predictable than the BMW X1.
S line models have larger alloy wheels than entry-level Sport trim cars, which contributes to an even higher levels of grip. All Q3s get progressive steering that gets faster the more you turn the wheel. This happens gradually, so placing the car accurately on the road is easy, and it makes for less arm twirling in tight turns.
Audi Q3 estate refinement
The 1.5-litre petrol engine seems to be noisier in the Q3 than in other VW Group cars. At idle and even when you're accelerating gently it's rather gruff, so the 2.0-litre is the smoother petrol option.
The diesel is noisier than either petrol when you rev it, but compared with the likes of the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Volvo XC40, the Q3’s diesel is actually very well insulated. And because it offers a good slug of low down grunt, you rarely find yourself having to work it as hard as you do the petrols, so you actually hear it rather less often in the real world .
Gearbox wise, the 2.0-litre cars (40 TFSI and 45 TFSI) come as standard with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. It's very smooth when it changes up through the gears and responds well to shifts up and down through the ‘box in manual mode. However, when left to its own devices it’s too keen to kick down to a lower gear when you put your foot down. It's frustrating, and progress would be smoother if it stayed in a higher gear for longer, rather than flaring the revs.
The six-speed manual gearbox that comes as standard on 1.5 petrol and 2.0-litre diesel cars is also a bit disappointing, with a long, notchy throw and inconsistent weighting between gears.
Thankfully, road noise is well suppressed for a car that's predominantly equipped with large wheels, and wind noise is limited to some minor buffeting around the door mirrors. Even so, the XC40 provides a calmer environment at motorway speeds.