In its mechanical layout, the Q3 has more in common with a regular five-door hatchback than a larger Audi SUV. There’s no six-cylinder longitudinal engine or Torsen-based quattro four-wheel drive system here. Instead, a four-cylinder engine is mounted transversely, with the gearbox in line with it and the latest Haldex front-biased four-wheel drive system attached. Entry-level front-drive models are also available.
Suspension is via MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Both are attached to the Q3’s body by subframes, rigidly mounted at the front and rubber bushed at the rear. The bonnet and tailgate are of aluminium.
A three-level crash structure at the front includes a lower tier of deformable metal designed to match the crumple zone of a lower vehicle and therefore prevent overriding in a head-on crash. The car also has the lowest coefficient of aerodynamic drag in its class, at just 0.32.
Although its off-road capabilities are limited (there’s 170mm of ground clearance, or just 150mm if you have S-line sports suspension), the Q3 seems optimised for everyday use on the road. It drives more like a conventional hatchback than a mud-plugging SUV. Excellent body control and rigidity ensure that the penalty for the car’s high-sided nature is minimal, and it responds with obliging agility to most demands made of it.
For customers coming to the Q3 from smaller, lighter cars – a significant proportion, according to Audi – the resemblance will likely be welcome. Anyone expecting a capability to venture far from the road will be less happy. However, the Haldex four-wheel drive should be sufficient to help you through any gentle winter flurries and over the occasional grassy slope.
Arguably more important than the ‘quattro’ badge are Audi’s optional Drive Select system and the adaptive dampers, which should be thought of as must-have items. Drive Select allows the driver to choose between Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Efficiency modes, which adjust the throttle response, transmission, steering and – provided you have additionally specified the adaptive dampers - suspension settings. In its default Auto mode, the Q3 will surf its sportiest set-up in reasonably contented fashion, but most UK buyers will want to invest in the system (and uprated dampers) to access Comfort, which further dulls the sharp edges of abrasive local roads.
Even so equipped, the car is not class-leading in its ride quality. While it refuses to crash over suspect surfacing, the Q3 can struggle to completely settle without gently relaying every foible its tyres find to the driver.
It’s a distraction the driver could do without as he or she is likely to be busy negotiating the fog of uncertainty that characterises the car’s steering. Misjudged inputs and unintelligible feedback are unwanted repercussions of the brisk progress that the Q3 is otherwise quite capable of.