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Audi Q3 vs BMW X1 vs Mercedes GLA vs Volvo XC40

An all-new version of the desirable Audi Q3 has arrived. How does it compare to its biggest rivals?

When the original Audi Q3 arrived, it helped usher in a new class of small but upmarket SUVs. In the years since, the segment has exploded with models like the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and a complete newcomer in the shape of the Volvo XC40. Owners love the style, safety and security offered by high-riding crossovers like the Q3, and they're ideal for families, too.

As new models like the XC40 have launched, though, the Q3 got left behind. That all changes now, because the latest version boasts a new design and enough technology to satisfy even the most ardent gadget lover. In many respects it has gone straight to the top of the class for connectivity and interior design – two areas very important to SUV owners.

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Read on to find out how the Audi Q3 will compete in key areas...

Audi Q3 practicality vs rivals

Unlike larger models such as the Skoda Kodiaq and Land Rover Discovery Sport, the Audi Q3 and its direct rivals are strict five-seaters. With no design concessions to squeeze in a third row, there's plenty of room in both the front and back seats for tall adults. The raised roofline that gives SUVs their rugged looks pays dividends for headroom, and also boosts visibility when driving through town and parking. There's more rear legroom in the new Q3 and this can be boosted further thanks to sliding rear seats that can rejig passenger and boot space. The middle rear seat is rather firm, and a transmission tunnel robs foot space, but this is the same in most rivals.

Boot space measures up to 675 litres with the seats slid forwards, reducing to 530 litres if they're pushed as far back as they'll go. The Volvo XC40 makes do with just 432 litres, making it the smallest in our quartet by some margin. The GLA has 481 litres for luggage, while the X1 just pips it with 505, but can't match the handy Audi. Fold down the back seats in the Q3 altogether and there's 1,525 litres for bulky items. All four cars can come with a powered tailgate and the Q3's can be opened by waving your foot under the bumper – ideal for loading the weekly shop.

Audi Q3 safety vs rivals

No matter which of these four you choose, you'll be buying a very safe SUV. It's no coincidence, though, that the newer design of the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40 gives them a slight edge. Active safety systems are evolving so quickly, that having the latest technology is reassuring and the Q3 gets Audi's 'pre-sense' safety systems, bringing autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance as standard. The headlights and wipers also activate automatically, a trait shared with its rivals.

The XC40 offers even more comprehensive kit; because its collision-mitigation system can even detect pedestrians cyclists and large animals, help the XC40 avoid going off the road or steering towards oncoming traffic. The Q3 hasn't been evaluated by independent crash-test body Euro NCAP yet, but if it manages to match or beat the five-star and 97% adult occupant protection score of the Volvo, it'll be doing very well indeed.

Audi Q3 connectivity and technology vs rivals

Audi has been a leading force for in-car technology and the Q3 benefits from its latest know-how. MMI Navigation Plus is a powerful infotainment system that offers compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with Google Earth satellite images and up-to-date traffic information. Sport and S line trims get a three-year internet connection as standard, enabling access to online features across Europe.

There are two USB ports (including a type-C port) for charging smartphones and portable devices in the front and a further two USBs and a 12-volt socket for the back seats. Audiophiles have the option of upgrading the stereo to a Bang & Olufsen system with 15 speakers. Another big selling point of the Q3 is its standard 10.25-inch 'Virtual Cockpit' instrument display, allowing more information to be displayed to the driver. This can be upgraded to a 12.3-inch display for an even more impressive effect.

The BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA feel slightly dated in comparison; neither being available with digital instruments, but in truth they still have most of the functions of the Audi. Both have a 'floating' infotainment display above the centre console with accurate sat nav and connected features. The XC40 feels very contemporary, with digital gauges boasting clear graphics and a large portrait-orientated central touchscreen. It's slick and attractive, but the control-wheel interface of the others is easier to use on the move than prodding a screen.

Trim levels and equipment vs rivals

The Q3 arrives in the UK in Sport and S line trim levels, with an entry-level version likely at a later date. It's well equipped from the off, with 18-inch alloy wheels, the aforementioned Virtual Cockpit, smartphone connectivity and active safety kit fitted as standard. S line adds 19-inch wheels, a sporty bodykit and upholstery with a mixture of cloth and leather, LED headlights and dynamic rear indicators.

BMW's X1 offers a similar line-up, with SE, xLine and M Sport models and LED headlights included from the middle grade. M Sport adds sporting looks too, along with more advanced technology. It's a theme repeated by SE, Sport and AMG line in the Mercedes, but even the SE trim gets Artico leather seats and a reversing camera. Surprisingly, though, Mercedes charges a cheeky £420 for DAB digital radio.

Audi Q3BMW X1Mercedes GLAVolvo XC40
SESEMomentum
TBC£27,185£27,610
SportxLineSportR-Design
TBC£28,110£29,460
S lineM SportAMG LineInscription
TBC£29,475£30,110

Volvo bucks the trend slightly, because its sporty R-Design model is sandwiched between Momentum and the range-topping Inscription trim. Volvo customers clearly rank luxury above racy looks, but R-Design with standard leather seats and gloss-black trim is sure to be popular. Momentum is hardly stingy, with digital instruments, 18-inch wheels, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control. A First Edition trim (available for a limited period after launch) has heated everything for those arctic blasts, including the steering wheel.

Engines, gearboxes and suspension

It's a sign of the times that the latest Q3 is offered with just one diesel and three petrol engines at launch. The range kicks off with a front-wheel-drive 1.5-litre TFSI petrol with 148bhp, badged 35 TFSI under Audi's latest naming scheme, and getting from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds. This compares with the 154bhp XC40 T3 and 138bhp X1 sDrive18i, covering the performance benchmark in 9.4 and 9.6 seconds respectively. The GLA isn't offered with a small petrol.

Larger 2.0-litre petrol 40 TFSI (187bhp) and 45 TFSI (227bhp) petrol engines will also be available with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard. These will compete with the X1 xDrive20i and GLA 250, which return just over 40mpg if you drive carefully.

Those looking for a diesel are served by a 2.0-litre TDI 35 TDI (148bhp) that comes with a manual gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive. Soon after launch, this will be joined by an automatic and a fuel-saving front-wheel-drive-only version. Full economy figures haven't been released yet, but we'd expect it to manage around 60mpg. It'll go head-to-head with the X1 xDrive18d that can return 56mpg, the GLA 200d that offers up to 67mpg and the XC40 D3 with 59mpg economy.

Of the four models, the X1 offers the most fun driving experience. It's based on the same underpinnings as the MINI Countryman and feels almost as agile, with sharp steering and very little body lean. Despite its boxy looks, the XC40 is also more entertaining than it might appear. Its steering is well weighted and the suspension does a very good job of keeping its composure and soaking up bumps – important traits on our battle-scarred roads. The Q3 is just as fast as the others, but majors on feeling safe and unflappable. It's comfortable, too, with the brittle ride of its predecessor seemingly banished, even on larger wheels.

Audi Q3BMW X1Mercedes GLAVolvo XC40
1.5 TFSI (148bhp)1.5 (136bhp)1.6 (156bhp)1.5 (156bhp)
2.0 TFSI (187 and 227bhp)2.0 (189bhp)2.0 (211bhp)2.0 (190 and 247bhp)
2.0 TDI (148bhp)2.0 (148 and 188bhp)2.1 (136bhp)2.0 (150 and 190bhp)

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