Audi Q3 vs Volkswagen Tiguan vs SEAT Ateca vs Skoda Karoq
With an all-new Audi Q3 arriving for 2019, we compare it to some key rivals
The Audi Q3 was the baby of the German carmaker's SUV range until the stylish Audi Q2 was launched in 2017 – and that state-of-the-art model served to highlight just how far things had come. Today, with SUVs all the rage, it isn't only premium brands that have captured the public's imagination.
So, with tough competition from rivals like the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Peugeot 3008 and Renault Kadjar, why should you plump for one of the VW Group's offerings? And, should you save for a bit longer and set your sights on the premium Audi Q3? You may find that it works out less expensive than you think.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but image and reputation are very definitely defined by the masses, and there's no arguing the prestige that comes with the Audi badge. Its desirable aura means the Q3 has always been a sought-after secondhand buy, and that means used prices tend to be firm. That's good news for those who plan to buy new, though, as strong residual values make PCP financing surprisingly affordable.
So, you may find that stepping up to the Audi Q3 is less of a leap than you expected, but is it worth the extra outlay? Read on to see how the latest Audi Q3 compares to the Volkswagen Tiguan, SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq in a number of key areas.
Audi Q3 performance and economy vs rivals
All four of our Volkswagen Group SUVs are enjoyable to drive, but each strikes a different balance between sportiness and comfort. The Karoq proves the smoothest, effortlessly soaking up bumps on a variety of road surfaces. The steering is sharp and precise, too, and it only leans gently into corners. While fun and safe to drive, though, it could never be termed 'sporty'.
The Volkswagen Tiguan feels very similar, but its extra size brings a noticeable increase in weight that can be sensed through the controls. The R-Line version, with its stiffened suspension, makes the ride very firm but doesn't really contribute a more agile feel. The SEAT Ateca has a firmer ride than the Skoda, but doesn't punish passengers like the Tiguan R-Line, and feels eager to respond in corners. But the Audi strikes the best balance of smoothness and sportiness, cosseting passengers while eliciting a smile from the driver.
There's no doubt that the Audi's engines are more geared towards sportiness than those of the other SUVs, either – the least powerful 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel it offers is the biggest you can choose for the Karoq. Audi hasn't yet published fuel-economy figures for this engine, but it should come close to matching the 60.1mpg achieved by the Tiguan when equipped with the same engine.
The smallest petrol engine offered by the Q3 is a 148bhp 1.5-litre, which SEAT Ateca buyers can also choose. It's a great all-rounder, and should return over 50mpg in the Audi and SEAT. If you expect to make a lot of short, urban journeys, you may find the smaller 1.0-litre petrol engine offered by the SEAT Ateca will better fit the bill, with claimed economy well above 50mpg.
Audi Q3 practicality vs rivals
The Audi Q3 is virtually the same overall size as the Volkswagen Tiguan, and about 10cm longer than the SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq. All four cars are strict five-seaters, although there is a longer Volkswagen Tiguan that offers two extra occasional seats for children at the expense of boot space.
While the original Q3 was never especially generous for rear seat space, the latest model is much improved. Longer than before, some of its extra length went into increasing rear seat legroom, while there's also a sliding mechanism that allow you to choose a balance between rear seat space and luggage capacity. With passengers taking priority, there's 530 litres of load space. Sliding the rear bench fully forwards frees up a huge 675 litres, but leaves the rear seats best suited to children. If you don't need to carry rear passengers at all, folding the rearmost seats flat produces a massive 1,525 litre load bay.
A sliding rear seat is also standard in the VW Tiguan, and optional with the Skoda Karoq's VarioFlex system. Where fitted, the latter allows from 479-588 litres of luggage, compared to the bigger Tiguan's 520-615 litres. The SEAT Ateca's rear seats are fixed, and there's a 510-litre boot without compromising on rear seat space – it's in the same league as the Audi for legroom and headroom.
Audi Q3 technology vs rivals
From behind the wheel, the Audi appears the most hi-tech of the four SUVs, but the truth is that many of its clever features can be added to the Volkswagen Tiguan at extra cost. The Audi's standard 'virtual cockpit' digital dashboard is very similar to VW's optional 'active info display' and SEAT's 'digital cockpit', and is by no means an essential feature. The analogue dials of the Tiguan, Ateca and Karoq are clear and easily legible, and can all display navigation info when sat nav is fitted.
None of our four SUVs have sat nav as standard, but the optional systems are actually all very similar in operation. By no means are they essential, though, and Mirrorlink (fitted as standard on some trim levels and optional on others) allows you to control your smartphone's navigation through the car's infotainment system.
All four of these SUVs were designed quite recently, which puts them right on the cutting edge as regards safety equipment. You'll find autonomous emergency braking standard, along with lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance. The Q3, though, is the only model that offers a semi-autonomous driving mode.
Named 'adaptive cruise assist', it combines active cruise control, which can match the speed of the car in front even in stop-start traffic, with lane-keeping assistance, and will automatically steer the car to remain in your chosen lane. It's claimed to markedly reduce driver workload on long motorway journeys.
Audi Q3 trim levels vs rivals
The Audi Q3's starting price is considerably higher than that of the smaller Skoda Karoq, but the SEAT Ateca SE 1.0-litre TSI has the lowest entry-level price tag of all four. In part, that's thanks to the smaller engine it can be chosen with. The Ateca SE is actually relatively well equipped for an entry-level model – there's Mirrorlink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels and cruise control. Opting for a higher trim level, such as the SE Technology or FR Sport, mainly brings additional trim upgrades and convenience features such as heated seats, which many motorists will willingly live without.
The entry-level Tiguan S looks a little meanly equipped compared to the SE, which adds Mirrorlink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and we reckon SE is the value sweet-spot in the Tiguan range. As with the SEAT Ateca, most will be happy with the standard kit offered by the entry-level Skoda Karoq SE, although the pricier SE L, with its Alcantara suede upholstery, heated front seats, reversing camera sat nav still looks attractively priced against the Audi Q3.
It's unlikely that anybody will be disappointed by the amount of standard equipment the Q3 has to offer. In fact, the 'standard' model really only differs from the 'Advanced' and S line cosmetically. You can mix and match three interior and exterior schemes, and then dip into the options list to add sat nav and niceties such as adaptive suspension dampers. However, tick too many boxes and the price can easily soar way beyond where you started.