With a range of frugal diesels on offer, topped off by the fiery five-cylinder RS, it would be easy to overlook the entry-level petrol engine in the fresh Audi Q3 range. But if you do that, you’ll be walking straight past what could be the gem in the line-up. 

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Until now, this 1.4-litre turbo had only appeared in the posh A1 supermini and classy A3 hatchback, but now it’s migrated to Audi’s SUV range. There had been a 1.4-litre petrol available in the previous Q3, yet this new engine comes with the VW Group’s clever Cylinder on Demand technology – or CoD as the manufacturer likes to call it. It means that under low throttle loads – such as when you’re cruising on the motorway – two of the four cylinders shut down to help conserve fuel.

Despite its small size, the engine packs a pretty decent punch. There’s 148bhp on offer, with CO2 emissions of 128g/km and the promise of 50.4mpg. On the move the throttle responds with little hesitation, and its free-revving character means it’s genuinely good fun to zip along in, and also feels more sprightly than 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds suggests. Find yourself on a straight and maintain a constant throttle, and two of the four cylinders shut off and fire up again with such little fuss, you’d hardly know they were doing it.

The Q3 handles corners gracefully – there’s a little body roll, yet it remains calm and composed. But there’s precious little communication between the tyres and steering wheel. In essence, it’s a comfortable cruiser – and a roomy one at that, especially with its good space in the back and 420/1,320-litre boot with the seats up or down.

The engine can be hooked up to a six-speed box or Audi’s dual-clutch seven-speed S tronic automatic, but when it comes to which wheels the power is fed to, there’s only one choice. The Q3 1.4 is solely front-wheel drive – an indication of the type of buyer this entry-level SUV is aimed at. The new engine also marks a mid-life facelift for the Q3, which is mostly limited to a new grille, headlights and rear bumper.

All in all, for those who don’t need the extra punch and long-term fuel savings of a diesel, the 1.4 petrol is certainly worth looking at.

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