Audi Q3 SUV review
"The Audi Q3 is a family SUV that’s classy and hi-tech inside, spacious and comfortable"
- Smart exterior
- Hi-tech dashboard
- Generous boot space
- Steep price curve
- Unproven economy
- Sluggish gearboxes
The Audi Q3 is no longer the smallest SUV the brand makes; that’s the Audi Q2. The Q3 still remains one of the most popular models in Audi’s lineup, as it’s big enough for a family but is more affordable than the larger Q5, which is much more of a luxury car.
The Q3 sits in a crowded market, as buyers love this particular size and shape of car: there’s the Mercedes GLA, Volvo XC40 and BMW X1 and even the more mainstream Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Kuga and Peugeot 3008 to consider.
The Q3 uses a similar set of parts to the Skoda Kodiaq, Volkswagen Tiguan and SEAT Ateca, including many of the same engines, which means those models can also be considered as rivals. The Q3 sets itself apart with a smart interior, classy design and a focus on tech and comfort.
This is the second-generation Q3 and, while it’s not radically different from the model that came before, it now has a look that’s closer to more expensive Audi models and features a much more impressive interior than the first version.
There’s a focus on build quality and classy design inside and out, so the Q3 offers an upmarket interior with lots of tech. It’s comfortable inside and although the Q3 is among the more expensive cars of its type, it still justifies the extra.
One of the key bits of tech is the 'Virtual Cockpit' 10.1-inch digital dial panel (or 12.3 inches on higher-spec models), which is joined by a neat 10.1-inch touchscreen on the dash. Together, these screens house loads of clever features and make the Q3 feel every bit as hi-tech as rivals from BMW and Mercedes. The design of the cabin is smart, as it incorporates the screens and there’s no ‘stuck-on’ look like in some other cars.
Audi offers a familiar range of petrol and diesel engine options. Petrols kick off with a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbo, which is badged as the 35 TFSI and is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed S tronic automatic, and front-wheel-drive. Both 2.0-litre petrol engines come with automatic gearboxes and four-wheel drive – there's the 187bhp 40 TFSI and 242bhp 45 TFSI to choose from. A high-performance RS Q3 is also available with 395bhp from a 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, which we’ve reviewed separately.
A plug-in hybrid Q3 badged the ‘45 TFSI e’ joined the range during 2021. It combines a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor to produce 242bhp, managing 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. According to Audi, the Q3 PHEV manages up to 31 miles running on battery power. Low company-car tax and fuel economy up to 176.6mpg are the big benefits of this powertrain, though the exact running costs depend on how you use it, and how often you charge the battery.
Diesel buyers have the choice of 148 or 197bhp versions of a 2.0-litre engine, badged 35 TDI or 40 TDI respectively, with a standard S tronic automatic 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
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 23rd out of 30 in our 2021 Driver Power satisfaction survey.
How about a used Audi Q3 Mk1?
With its chic looks and stylish, well-built cabin, the Audi Q3 Mk1 is a very popular choice on the used car market. Its range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines are strong performers and the diesels are also very fuel efficient. Available in front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive quattro forms, the Q3 Mk1 also offers a choice between manual and automatic gearboxes. Even the base trim grades are generously equipped, while two high performance RS models look after the needs of the speed-obsessed.
What’s its history?
Launched in the UK in November 2011, the Q3 Mk1 was Audi’s first compact SUV. Initially the range was very simple, comprising two turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engines and a pair of 2.0-litre turbodiesel. There were just two trim levels and buyers could choose between front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, manual and automatic, depending on the model. The engine line-up evolved during the Q3 Mk1’s lifetime and early in 2015 the range was revamped with fresh styling and equipment upgrades. There was a further rejig of trim grades in October 2016, together with another tickle of the styling, before the Q3 Mk2 made its UK debut in November 2018.
Read the full Q3 Mk1 review...
Which Is Best?
- Name35 TFSI Sport 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual
- Name45 TFSI e S Line 5dr S Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- Name45 TFSI 245 Quattro S Line 5dr S Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto