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 its seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox to shuffle down in order to keep the Q3 motoring forwards with decent authority.
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 TDI 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 gets standard steel springs, S line models get the same, but stiffened and lowered, while switchable dampers which let you soften or stiffen the ride to suit the conditions are available as an option (or standard with (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 a Volvo XC40 on its equivalent R Design set-up and tends to thump over sharper-edged potholes. 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 doesn’t do much for its handling but, among rival SUVs, the Q3 deals with this better than most. There’s plenty of grip in tight turns and body lean is well controlled, especially if you specify the adaptive dampers.
S line models have larger alloy wheels than entry-level Sport trim cars, which contribute to even higher levels of grip. And the steering is accurate enough to let you to place the Q3 exactly where you want it on the road.
Audi Q3 estate refinement
The 1.5-litre 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.
As for the diesel, this is noisier than both petrols 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 in the real world you actually hear it less.
Gearbox wise, the 2.0-litre cars (40 TFSI and 45 TFSI) come as standard with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. This is very smooth when it changes up the gears and responds well to shifts up and down 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. This is frustrating, as progress would be smoother if it stayed in a higher gear for longer, rather than flaring the revs.
The six-speed manual gearbox which comes as standard on 1.5 petrol and 2.0-litre diesel cars is also disappointing, with a long notchy throw and an inconsistent weighting.
Thankfully, road noise is well suppressed for a car that comes predominantly on large wheels, and wind noise is limited to some minor buffeting around the door mirrors.