Audi Q3 SUV
Price: £23,870 - £43,000
- Premium badge
- Strong resale values
- Excellent interior
- Plain design
- Expensive options
- Higher spec models have a firm ride
"The Audi Q3 brings the firm's first-class build quality and efficient engines to the crossover sector."
The Audi Q3 is the German company's entry into the crossover SUV market. There are plenty of cars like this around as they’ve become increasingly popular in recent years. And it's easy to see why – crossovers offer the chunky, rugged looks of a big off-roader but are easy to drive and as cheap to run as a small family car. The trend was kick-started by the Nissan Qashqai but the Audi Q3 has plenty of premium-badged competitors, such as the Range Rover Evoque, BMW X1, MINI Countryman and Volkswagen Tiguan, so the Q3 has to be very good indeed to stand out. It's not the most interesting of models on the outside, as like most Audi models it has a very conservative design. But its build quality is superb and the interior is luxurious, stylish and spacious. There are three levels of specification: SE, S Line and S Line Plus, and there's also the powerful Audi RS Q3. All engines come equipped with start-stop to boost fuel efficiency, and quattro four-wheel drive is an option some models, too.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Q3 offers decent economy and emissions in front-wheel drive form
The engine options include three petrols and two diesels. The most efficient is the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine in a front-wheel drive model with a manual gearbox. That will do 54.3mpg and emit 137g/m CO2 (tax band E, which will cost you £125 a year). Go for quattro four-wheel drive and the economy figure drops to 49.6mpg while emissions increase to 149g/km CO2 – and it's slightly worse if you opt for the S tronic automatic gearbox. Our pick is the 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine, though. It offers superb performance and will still do 51.4mpg and emit just 144g/km CO2, and has the best balance of power and economy in the range. The petrol models are less efficient but are by no means terrible. The 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol will do 47.9mpg and emit 137g/km CO2 – so it's in the same tax band as the most efficient diesel. It also costs less and is a better option for drivers that do low mileages.
Interior & comfort
S line models have a firm ride but SE spec cars are very comfortable
The Audi Q3 in SE spec is a very comfortable car. The suspension set up is easily soft enough to glide over rough roads and doesn’t compromise the car's handling too much. It leans a little bit through corners if you’re driving at speed, but it's more than worth it for the comfortable ride. It's pretty spacious inside compared to rivals and there's plenty of adjustability in the driver's seat and steering wheel to allow you to get the set-up just right.
High spec S line and S line Plus models have lowered sports suspension available as an option to improve the car's handling but this does make the car less comfortable. You’ll feel a big jolt through the car when driving over bumps and potholes, which isn’t ideal in a luxury crossover. Opting for larger alloy wheels also compromises comfort levels. Go for Audi's Drive Select system if you want a bit more control over comfort settings. It lets you pick between four driving modes: Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Efficiency – and the Comfort mode is very smooth.
Practicality & boot space
For a compact car, the Q3 has a lot of interior and luggage space
Despite the rugged looks, the Q3 is not a big car. It's much closer in size to a family hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf than it is to a proper SUV. But it's noticeably more roomy inside than a family hatch. Five adults will fit in easily – although there's a big bump running through the floor in the middle of the car that compromises legroom in the middle seat. An adult probably wouldn’t want to sit there for longer journeys, but there's no shortage of head and legroom in the other four seats, and the boot is spacious. It has 460 litres of capacity (to give you some perspective, that's far larger than the 380 litres of space on offer in the Volkswagen Golf). Split-folding rear seats come as standard, and if you fold them down you free up an impressive 1,365 litres of space, though the seats don’t fold down completely flat, so you don’t get a flat load area. Still, the Q3 has the edge on the BMW X1 when it comes to interior and boot space. Quattro four-wheel drive will keep the car going during bad weather conditions, too, although the Q3 is by no means a proper off-roader.
Reliability & safety
The Q3’s build quality, reliability and safety are first class
The Audi Q3 scored the maximum five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. It comes with six airbags, electronic stability control, and ISOFIX points for securing child seats. There's a whole range of safety systems available as optional extras, too, such as a speed limit display and active lane assist – which stops the car from straying out of lane. Audi has a fantastic reputation for reliability and build quality and there's no reason why the Q3 wouldn’t live up to it. It certainly feels like a top quality product and there's been no reports of major problems. The range of engines on offer have all been used in other models in the VW Group range as well, so they’ve been thoroughly tried and tested. And the Q3 comes with a three year/60,000 mile warranty, which includes three years of RAC breakdown cover.
Not enough Q3 owners took part in the most recent Driver Power customer satisfaction survey for the car to figure in the Top 100 league table, but Audi as a brand did well. It came 10th out of 32 manufacturers, beating BMW but finishing behind Lexus, Jaguar and Mercedes.
Engines, drive & performance
The Q3 is agile, powerful and fun to drive
The Q3 comes with a choice of two diesel variants and three petrol variants. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine can be had with 138bhp or 175bhp. While your choice of petrol engines is a 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI and a 2.0-litre TFSI with either 168bhp or 208bhp. Even the smallest diesel engine will go from 0-62mph in under 10 seconds (while the 208bhp petrol will do it in 6.9 seconds) so all models have plenty of power – you’re not going to have any trouble getting up to speed to overtake on the motorway. Both the six-speed manual gearbox and the S tronic automatic are excellent – and quattro four-wheel drive models offer improved performance. Standard SE spec cars handle just fine - the steering is sharp and it feels agile – although there's a small amount of body roll in bends. The stiffer suspension in S line cars solves this at the compromise of comfort. All in all, the Q3 is a capable car, although not quite as fun to drive as a Ford Kuga.
Price, value for money & options
Competitively priced and well equipped, but optional extras are very pricey
Given the Q3's relatively compact dimensions, you may think the price tag is a little bit high but in the world of premium crossovers, it's fairly well priced. It's a lot cheaper than the Range Rover Evoque (although that's a more premium car), and prices are broadly similar to the BMW X1. Kit levels are generous - entry level models come with start-stop, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a 6.5-inch display screen and an MMI integrated entertainment system as standard. Higher spec S line models add to that list with 18-inch alloys, optional sports suspension, Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights. Be careful with the options list though, as extras are pricey! The good news for buyers is that Audis have some of the best resale values in the business and you can be sure that the Q3 will hold on to its value well.
What the others say
"Premium badge, classy interior and capable chassis, but conservative styling, pricey options and small model range."
"This Q3 brings top-quality mechanical refinement, laudable build quality, rich and impressive cabin materials and proper premium brand desirability to the market for small 4x4s."
"It's a more complete and appealing car than an X1, thoroughly pleasing to drive and calls into question the need for a larger Q5."
"There's the choice of two- or four-wheel drive as well as diesel engines directed at affordable running costs and performance focussed petrol versions. Like many models from the range it still loses out to the BMW when it comes to driver engagement."
Last updated: 3 Feb 2014