Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Two petrols and two diesels available
  • 35 TFSI introduces mild-hybrid technology
  • Manual and auto gearboxes; Quattro available

Audi is phasing-in the range of engines for the Q3 Sportback, but as of the beginning of 2020, the full petrol and diesel line-up is available.

Of the initial models the 35 TDI is the sole diesel – it’s a 2.0-litre motor with 150hp and a manual gearbox, capable of a 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 126mph. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard on these models. If you want an automatic transmission with this engine, it's front-wheel drive only and manages the 0-62mph sprint in the same time as the manual.

Joining it from the start was the 45 TFSI Quattro S Tronic. This 2.0-litre 230hp petrol engine produces 350Nm of torque for impressive acceleration, confirmed by a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds, topping-out at 144mph. It feels muscular and flexible on the road, progressing with urgency with the lightest of throttle applications – that peak pulling power is developed from just 1,500rpm. It sounds suitably sporty, too, with an appropriately sporty exhaust encouraging you along. 

Arriving slightly later was the 40 TDI Quattro S Tronic, featuring a 190hp version of the 35 TDI’s engine. On paper it’s got a lot to commend it, with 400Nm of torque from 1,900rpm resulting in a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 134mph.

Unfortunately, to drive it lacks lustre, and doesn’t feel remotely as fleet of foot as the numbers suggest it will. There’s no sporty sound to the engine, just a loud diesel clatter as you press on, and the seven-speed twin-clutch autobox seems less convincing than it does in the 45 TFSI, hunting for the right ratio for longer and being indecisive as it goes about its business.

Before the end of 2019 the 35 TFSI appeared and is expected to make up the lion’s share of sales. Both manual and S Tronics are available, with the 150hp 1.5-litre petrol engine featuring cylinder-on-demand – during off-throttle driving it will run on two cylinders to save fuel. This is the slowest engine, but not by much - it'll reach 62mph from a standstill in 9.6 seconds. 

More interestingly, the S Tronic features a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. In short, it gives the Q3 a small electrical boost when accelerating to make it a bit smoother, but it also makes the stop-start function a quicker process and less jerky. There’s 250Nm of torque available from 1,500rpm. It feels adequate rather than brisk to drive, though and the brakes have a less natural feel than those of the others, being spongier while the regenerative system harvests electrical energy. You soon get used to it, but it’s not exactly pleasant.

Six drive modes are available for the Q3 Sportback: Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency, Auto (which picks the one that best-suits the road speed and steering inputs), Individual (configurable) and Offroad. We’ve yet to sample the latter one, but it includes hill-descent control for making off-roading less challenging. Dynamic, with a sharper throttle response and heavier steering seems to fit the Audi’s character best, but sadly it doesn’t make it more scintillating to drive.

How does it handle?

  • Feels nimble, traction is impressive
  • Sensibly judged ride comfort/handling balance
  • Sadly lacks real engagement for keen drivers

Here’s this car’s biggest weakness: despite the implication of its name, it’s not that sporty to drive, unfortunately. Let’s be clear: it’s not bad – it corners with an impressive lack of bodyroll and versions fitted with Quattro four-wheel drive corner faithfully thanks to a very solid and planted feel, but there’s little going on to communicate to the driver that suggests fun is being had. For that, head towards a BMW X2 or even a Range Rover Evoque.

If being sated while driving is of less importance, then the Q3 will feel more polished as a comfy cruiser, able to ply motorways with the same level of deftness as being driven gently in urban areas, its steering and pedals all feel light to use, making them less tiring on longer journeys. Keep it in Comfort mode, with its gentler throttle response, and it’s a calm, largely serene driving experience. Is that really want you want from a crossover coupe, though?