Audi Q3 (2011-2018) review - Engines, performance and drive

The Audi Q3 crossover hasn’t turned its back on its hatchback roots – it’s agile, powerful and fun to drive

Unlike most of Audi’s hatchbacks and smaller SUVs, the Q3 isn’t based on the VW Group’s MQB platform for front-engined, front and four-wheel-drive models. Instead, due to its age, the car uses the firm’s older PQ35 underpinnings. While this platform isn’t as advanced or as versatile as the more modern MQB set-up, it does still feature MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear axle.

Thanks to its strong grip and decent body control, the car-like Audi Q3 feels agile and composed. Better still, its combination of compact dimensions, excellent visibility and well weighted controls helps inspire confidence when threading it down twisty back roads and crowded city streets. In fact, the experience is more akin to hatchback than an SUV.

The standard Drive Select system allows the driver to adjust the steering weight and throttle response – it’s best left in its normal mode, as the Sport setting makes the steering feel artificially heavy.

There's no ignoring the Q3’s age, though, because it feels dated when compared to newer rivals. The ride isn’t as forgiving as a BMW X1’s or Volvo XC40’s, while the body rolls more in corners so the Audi doesn’t feel all that composed, even though it offers adequate grip.

The diesel engines are a little less refined than the petrol alternatives, particularly when idling or accelerating hard, although wind, tyre and engine noise aren’t intrusive in any version, which makes for very relaxed cruising. Plus, both gearboxes found in the Audi Q3, the twin-clutch S tronic automatic and the standard six-speed manual, are excellent. 

• Audi Q3 vs Range Rover Evoque

When you put your foot down in the Audi RS Q3, the turbo gives a loud whoosh and there’s a race-inspired exhaust note. With Audi’s quattro system delivering 335bhp across all four wheels, the flagship model can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds. Fortunately, the performance is matched by lowered and stiffened suspension that gives the RS Q3 impressive cornering grip and engaging handling.

Engines

Standard (non-RS) Audi Q3 models are available with either 1.4-litre or 2.0-litre engines, and both offer decent performance, refinement and economy.

Our choice of powerplant is the 182bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel (there is a less powerful 148bhp version). This serves up the best combination of performance and fuel efficiency in the Q3 range, with claimed economy of 51.4mpg and a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds (when fitted with the S tronic automatic box). CO2 emissions are also quite low, although not as low as they are for newer rivals.

The 1.4 TFSI engine with Cylinder on Demand technology is a really smooth and powerful unit. It also promises similar fuel economy and CO2 emissions to the diesel models, at 47.9mpg and 136g/km. Plus, because petrol cars are liable for lower company car tax, it's a good choice for business users.

Performance SUV fans get the chance to unleash the same 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine that Audi fits to the TT RS. It makes 335bhp in the RS Q3, coupled with 450Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm, and when combined with sharp throttle response it means the range-topping model feels very fast on the road.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    35 TFSI Sport 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £32,180

Most Economical

  • Name
    35 TDI Sport 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £33,780

Fastest

  • Name
    40 TDI 200 Quattro Sport 5dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £37,370

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