Petrol Q3s start with a turbocharged 1.4-litre unit driving the front wheels. It’s powerful and rarely forces you to change down on steep hills. In fact, we'd choose it over the more powerful 2.0-litre engine since that one is available only with quattro four-wheel drive, and is less efficient as a result.
At the top of the range sits the RS Q3. It’s all-wheel drive and automatic only, and gets a 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol engine. It's extremely quick in a straight line; there’s even a Performance version that’s quicker still, thanks to a power boost.
Of the two diesels, the lower-powered unit is the best. It’s easily strong enough to cope with a full load, pulling from low down over a wide band. The higher-powered diesel feels more strained under load and is hard to justify.
Audi Q3 ride comfort
For the most comfortable ride it’s worth sticking with SE trim, or deselecting the lowered suspension offered on more expensive S line cars (a no-cost option). In this guise the Q3 does a brilliant job of keeping large bumps and ruts under control at low speeds, and keeping the car’s body stable.
That said, even if you do decide to keep the S line model’s lowered suspension and larger wheels, the Q3 does a far better job of keeping its ride controlled than other S line models in the Audi range. Even the lowered RS Q3 remains composed, even over patchy surfaces.
Unfortunately, the faster you go in any trim level, the more uncomfortable the ride becomes. The car thumps into large potholes and expansion joints, jostling its occupants.
Audi Q3 handling
Raising the ride height of any car doesn’t do much for its handling but, among rival SUVs, the Q3 deals with it better than most. There’s plenty of grip in tight turns and body lean in corners is fairly well controlled.
S line models have larger alloy wheels than entry-level SE cars, as well as lowered suspension. These contribute to even higher levels of grip and body control.
However, although the steering winds on and off smoothly, and the Q3 is relatively quick to turn in, it doesn’t have a great deal of feel, meaning you can’t quite sense the front wheels biting and so plot an accurate course through bends. Even the high performance RS Q3 fails to communicate with the driver, although it does resist roll better than lowlier versions.
Audi Q3 refinement
The 1.4-litre petrol sounds less strained under hard acceleration than the 2.0-litre engine. Even so, both engines remain smooth when revved hard. While you might expect the RS Q3’s bigger, sportier engine to be a noisy thing, it can be refined, too.
The diesels are slightly more audible, and they send a little more vibration through the steering wheel and pedals. However, when compared with the likes of the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA, the Q3’s diesels are more refined.
At a cruise you can hear the tyres growling a little, particularly on the larger wheels of S line models, but wind noise rarely exceeds a murmur on any model.
The six-speed manual gearbox’s shift has a well-weighted, precise quality, making the Q3 an easy car to drive around town. Similarly, shifts from the automatic S tronic gearbox are quick and smooth.
Strong and super-smooth, this entry-level petrol rarely forces you to change down – even up hills. It’s a fairly cheap option for company car drivers but really, it’s best suited to those who regularly make short journeys. It’s available with six-speed manual and S tronic gearboxes, but comes with only two-wheel drive.
2.0 TFSI 180
This engine pulls even harder than the 1.4, but sounds and feels more strained when doing so. Higher CO2 emissions and poor fuel economy also make it hard to recommend over the smaller petrol motor. It’s offered only with quattro four-wheel drive and a seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox.
2.5 TFSI 340
Indecently fast, but costs a lot in road tax and fuel. It’s best to stick with the already-impressive pace of the 2.0-litre petrol if performance is your main priority.
2.5 TFSI 367
Even more rapid than the 340 version but with the same claimed fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. We’d still go for the 2.0-litre petrol.
Our pick 2.0 TDI 150
The pick of the engine range, this smooth diesel is easily strong enough to cope with a full quota of passengers, pulling from low revs over a wide band, while remaining relatively frugal. It’s available in front-wheel drive, manual form but the seven-speed S tronic automatic is only offered in combination with four-wheel drive.
2.0 TDI 184
Much like the petrols, the lower-powered diesel is so good that this more expensive engine fails to make as much sense. Also, it’s available only with four-wheel drive, which pushes up CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.