Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Good choice of petrol and diesel engines
  • All are strong performers
  • Manual and S tronic available

Performance in the Q3 is provided by a selection of familiar turbocharged petrol engines and turbodiesels, available in a combination of manual, S tronic auto and front- or four-wheel drive options, so there should be something to suit most buyers’ tastes.

TFSI petrol engines

Kicking off the petrol range is a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol featuring Cylinder-on-Demand technology. This shuts down two of the four cylinders when the car is just cruising along to boost efficiency. It works seamlessly and you don’t notice when it switches between modes.

The 1.4-litre engine produces 150hp and 250Nm of torque, and is capable of completing the 0-62mph benchmark sprint in 9.2 seconds when fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. Go for the six-speed S tronic automatic, and this drop to 8.9 seconds. Both versions will go on to reach a 126mph top speed, while this engine is only available with front-wheel drive.

If you want more shove from a petrol-powered Q3, your only other option in the regular line-up is a 2.0-litre TFSI producing 180hp and 320Nm. It comes exclusively with Quattro all-wheel drive and a seven-speed S tronic gearbox, helping this version of the Q3 sprint from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds. It’ll go on to reach 135mph.

TDI diesel engines

Your options are a bit more varied if you go for a diesel Q3. While there’s still only two options, there’s more choice when it comes to gearboxes and how many of the wheels you want to be driving the car.

The entry-level diesel is a 2.0-litre TDI with 150hp and 340Nm of torque. Fitted with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, it’s capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 9.6 seconds. Opt for Quattro all-wheel drive with the manual gearbox and it drops to 9.3 seconds.

A seven-speed S tronic gearbox is also available, only with Quattro, which also goes from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds and onto a top speed of 126mph.

If you want more power, there’s a 184hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI engine, available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed S Tronic. Both come with Quattro, and take 7.9 seconds to go from 0-62mph, helped by 380Nm of torque available from low revs to shove you along the road at a decent pace.

The S tronic gearbox can take a bit of time to work out what it wants to do if you surprise it and plant your foot to the floor, but for most drivers around town or on the motorway, it’s a smooth and responsive transmission.

You can control the gearshifts yourself by using small paddles on the steering wheel, and there’s a choice of driving modes available which can sharpen up the throttle response and steering weight.

Best to leave it in Comfort or Auto, though, and let the Q3 do its thing. It’s not a sports car and is best left to its own devices. In this mode, it’s a refined and relaxed car to drive.

Engines no longer available

When the Q3 was launched, a selection of different engines were available that can no longer be found beneath the bonnet, including a hot performance version – the Q3 RS.

Petrol power was provided by 170hp and 210hp versions of a 2.0-litre TFSI engine, both of which came with Quattro all-wheel drive as standard. They were capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in 8.2 and 6.9 seconds respectively.

The diesel line-up was different, too, with a choice of 140hp or 177hp 2.0-litre TDI units. The former came with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, while the more powerful latter came with Quattro and an S tronic automatic gearbox.

Sitting at the top of the Q3 line-up for a while was a hot Q3 RS, powered by a 2.5-litre TFSI petrol engine previously found in the TT RS and RS 3.

When first introduced, it produced 310hp and was driven via Quattro all-wheel drive and an S tronic gearbox. It received multiple upgrades in its life cycle, upgrading to 340hp and then 367hp for the Q3 RS Performance version.

The 340hp model was capable of a 5.2-second 0-62mph sprint time, which fell to 4.8 seconds for the Performance model, providing serious punch and performance that could rival the hottest of hot hatchbacks. 

  • Not the most engaging car to drive
  • Grip levels are good, but it’s not exciting
  • Choice of driving modes available

Unfortunately, the Q3 suffers where many Audis have done before - in the handling stakes. There’s little to engage the driver and the steering feels too lifeless to really instil any excitement into the experience.

The electric power steering does improve as you gather pace, but even at its heaviest, it feels like it could do with more weight and feedback. In Dynamic mode it is heavier and gives the driver more confidence, especially at motorway speeds, while this mode also helps sharpen up the throttle and gearbox response.

However, the steering is still quite vague and it's just not as good in this department as a BMW X1 or MINI Countryman.

There’s a bit of body roll around the tight corners, but it does feel well planted with good levels of grip - particularly in the S line models that come with sports suspension.

With its lower weight, the two-wheel drive diesel models performs better here than the Quattro counterparts. It’s a little more agile in the corners and offers a slightly more engaging drive, but go without the safety and security that Quattro all-wheel drive provides.