What is it?
This is the cheapest way into an Audi Q3. Until recently, that role was filled by a 138bhp, front-wheel-drive 2.0 TDI SE manual costing £25,595. Now, if you can't stretch to that, or if you're averse to or have no need for diesel power, there's this 1.4 TFSI-engined option, which undercuts the once entry-level TDI by a full £1725.
Just to cloud the issue slightly, here the 1.4 TFSI is tested in more expensive S-line trim, although the price difference between it, at £26,620, and an S-line-spec front-drive 2.0 TDI is the same £1725.
The 148bhp 1.4 TFSI beats the diesel on power but predictably falls short on torque, making 184lb ft to the TDI's 236lb ft. It also lags behind on claimed economy – 47.9mpg combined to a front-drive diesel's 54.3mpg, but consider that £1725 difference in initial outlay and the lower cost of petrol – although CO2 emissions match at 137g/km.
Note that the 1.4 TFSI unit used here isn't the Volkswagen Group's latest version featuring what Audi dubs Cylinder on Demand (CoD) technology, which runs the four-pot engine on just two cylinders under light throttle loads. That engine is already available in the A3 range.
What's it like?
As it is, this 1.4 TFSI suits Audi’s compact SUV quite nicely. It's 55kg lighter in the nose than the diesel for starters, so the car feels a tad more agile.
You notice the torque deficit, though, however for the most part it's no hardship to rev the quietly refined but enthusiastic petrol lump harder to compensate.
Of course the trade-off for this extra throttle use is reduced real-world fuel economy. Drive with a modicum of restraint and you'll see figures in the low 40s, but mid-30s are only a twitch of the right foot away.
One caveat, however. The engine’s deficiencies are most apparent when pulling away from a standstill. In order to make prompt getaways it’s necessary to work the engine quite hard or risk having to play catch-up after changing to second gear. The problem would largely be solved if you bought your Q3 with a rapid-shifting S-tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox, but the £1495 premium required for it would offset much of the 1.4 TFSI’s cost advantage over a diesel.
Elsewhere, as we've recently noticed, the Q3's sometimes crashy ride has gained some welcome suppleness – and more than can be attributed to the difference in kerb weight over a diesel – while the steering is alarmingly lifeless around town and only slightly better as speeds increase.
The interior is another Audi masterclass in cabin execution. Allied to the raised driving position, toned if not muscular SUV aesthetic and all-round feeling of robust, premium gloss, it makes up a significant chunk of the Q3's appeal in the first place.
Should I buy one?
You could make a strong case for it. This isn't a large car on the inside, despite its exterior proportions, but if you're sold on the four-ringed allure and want a place on the compact SUV bandwagon, then fill your boots.