There’s plenty of passenger space up front, where even the S line-spec sports seats are comfortable and allow you to choose between a medium-high, SUV-typical driving position or a lower, more straight-legged one. And in the back, there’s now enough space for a six-foot adults to travel behind someone of similar height.
In the boot, meanwhile, you’ll find a useful-looking 530 litres of cargo space behind the back seats; and, if you have an S line trim car, a sliding second-row split bench allows you to expand that to 675 litres if you want to without flopping seatbacks. There’s also a split-level boot floor allowing you a flat loadbay floor when you need one.
And so, having been well below par on practicality by compact SUV class standards, the Q3 is now comfortably above that level. It now seems like a pretty versatile, usable car for a young family. Trading up into it out of an A3 Sportback would seem like a useful upgrade on space and convenience; giving up a Mazda CX-5 or a Ford Kuga for it wouldn’t seem like a practicality compromise. That’s where this car needs to be – and where it fell down previously.
Our first drive in the Q3, undertaken abroad, was in a test car with the same 1.5-litre engine and seven-speed paddleshift gearbox as this, but in cheaper, comfier-riding Sport trim. That experience left us disappointed with the car’s entry-level powertrain, which seemed hesitant to kick down and quite mechanically unrefined.
But on UK roads, perhaps because Audi’s European launch cars weren’t in final production specification (although that’s entirely supposition), the Q3’s engine and gearbox would be harshly criticised on at least one of those scores. The 1.5-litre 35 TFSI engine is smooth and civilised at cruising revs, and while it becomes a little bit harsher and more intrusive above 4000rpm, the torque provided by the turbocharger means you only need to go there when occasion calls to accelerate hard.
Having said that, you certainly wouldn’t accept this car with any less potent an engine. Even with the extra intermediate ratio that the car’s twin-clutch gearbox gives you, there’s a limited amount of outright oomph here for overtaking, steeper climbing or for getting up to motorway speed; and, for the reasons we’ve already mentioned, there’s little pleasure to be taken in making the engine spin.
Just as it did abroad, the Q3’s twin-clutch automatic gearbox seems reluctant at times to kick down as you probe into the accelerator travel. But if you calm your hurry and simply move along with the traffic, the motor’s voice fades away to a very muted background presence, and the gearbox shifts up early and declutches often to produce better-than-40mpg quite easily through the daily grind. As an engine for a thrusting, sport-sprung, family-sized modern Audi, then, the Q3’s 35 TFSI certainly isn’t everything some will hope it might be; but as the entry point in a range of powerplants that should offer several variously more assertive performance levels, it’s drivable and rounded enough.
There’s a decently rounded and liveable feel, also, about the Q3’s ride and handling – even on UK roads, and even in this passively damped, sport-suspended form. Our test car had standard 19in alloy wheels and dealt with coarse and broken surfaces unobtrusively. Although it rides a little firmly and isn’t immune from the odd bout of fidgeting on an undulating surface, the Q3 settles to a fairly tranquil UK motorway and A-road stride and handles tougher, lumpier B-roads with competent composure. In this form, the Q3 certainly isn’t a car that makes you feel particularly isolated or removed from the road surface, and it doesn’t have the suppleness that some might expect from an SUV – but on both scores, it might have fared differently if differently equipped.