Audi Q3 SUV review
"The latest Audi Q3 is smart outside, clever inside and a pleasure to travel in"
- Smart exterior
- Hi-tech dashboard
- Generous boot space
- Steep price curve
- Unproven economy
- Sluggish gearboxes
The Audi Q3 was one of the first midsize SUVs from a ‘premium’ manufacturer and became one of Audi’s best-selling models as a result. The introduction of the slightly smaller, less expensive Audi Q2 means you can now buy an SUV with Audi badges for under £30k, but the Q3’s size, styling and established place in the market all mean it’s very likely to continue as one of Audi’s most popular cars.
The second-generation Q3, launched in 2018, competes for sales with the Mercedes GLA, Volvo XC40 and BMW X1 but it's also tasked with luring buyers away from non-premium offerings such as the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Ford Kuga and Peugeot 3008.
It may have been Audi's upmarket image more than anything else that kept the previous Q3 in the limelight. The VW Group released the Skoda Kodiaq, Volkswagen Tiguan and SEAT Ateca after the Q3, all of which made the first-generation model look rather dated. A new Q3 was long overdue and it's all change for the Mk2, which now has a sharper, sportier look, the latest technology, an updated interior and is more comfortable.
Audi has replaced the 'singleframe' grille for one which is octagonal and more angular in shape, while the headlamps have a sharp, complex appearance. The latest Q3 looks less hatchback-like than its predecessor, and there's a more flamboyant treatment to the car's flanks, with bulges and shoulders that match those of the Audi A5 and Audi A8.
The second-gen Q3 isn’t a huge departure from the first one, despite the styling changes, but Audi was hardly likely to abandon a successful formula. The Q3 side-steps the overtly trendy style of the Audi Q2 to look exactly like what it's intended to be – a stepping stone towards owning a bigger, more expensive Audi Q5 or Audi Q7. It's fitting, then, that Audi has taken a less evolutionary approach inside, where the latest Q3 has been brought into line with the brand's latest saloon cars by offering a really mature, sophisticated interior ambience.
This is achieved with a mixture of simple, geometric design, upmarket materials and cutting-edge technology, the first glimpse of which is given by the fully digital 'Virtual Cockpit' 10.1-inch instrument panel that's now standard across the range. The central infotainment screen, meanwhile, is virtually invisible until the start button is pressed, when it glows through its glossy black surround. Depending on options, the instrument display can grow to 12.3 inches, while the most sophisticated MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system boasts a 10.1-inch touchscreen and impressive Google Earth navigation.
Audi offers a familiar range of petrol and diesel engine options. Petrols kick off with a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbo, which carries 35 TFSI badging and is available with a six-speed gearbox, a seven-speed S Tronic automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive and Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system. Both 2.0-litre petrol engines come with automatic gearboxes and four-wheel drive – there's the 187bhp 40 TFSI and 227bhp 45 TFSI to choose from.
Diesel buyers have the choice of 148 or 187bhp versions of a 2.0-litre engine, badged 35 TDI or 45 TDI respectively, with only the former of which can be chosen with a manual gearbox and two-wheel-drive. None of the engines falls short on the performance front, and they're frugal if you choose the automatic option and forgo the Quattro four-wheel-drive.
As the Q3 proves economical and can match or beat the emissions scores of its rivals, it represents an extremely strong overall package. It falls short of the BMW X1 for driving fun, but makes up for that with comfort and interior style, and there's no denying its excellent build quality.
A five-star Euro NCAP rating and a long list of standard safety equipment is firmly in its favour, too. Where Audi could improve is reliability. It came 21st out of 30 in our 2020 Driver Power satisfaction survey, with 20% of owners reporting a fault with their cars in the first year of ownership.