The Audi Q3 and Audi Q5 are two of the most popular SUVs around, blending brand desirability with chunky looks, four-wheel-drive utility, high driving position and a classy, practical cabin.
So, which one's best? Here we'll take you through everything you need to know if you're trying to decide between the compact Audi Q3 and its bigger Audi Q5 sibling.
What are the Q3 and Q5 like to drive?
Both are among the best of the breed to drive, offering hatchback-like handling despite a high ride height, along with decent body control and sharp steering response.
However, if comfort is a priority then the Q3 is the better bet. While it falls a little short of the Q5's precise steering, it counters with more pliant suspension that delivers a ride any family would be happy with around town, even if it does get a little chattery at higher speeds.
The Q3 is also available with front-wheel drive, while the Q5 is four-wheel-drive only. Given the plentiful grip on offer in the front drive Q3, it's only worth going for four-wheel-drive transmission if you suffer from poor road conditions throughout winter or will make regular use of the Q3's fairly pedestrian off-road potential.
While the Q5 is marginally the better handling of the two Audis, it's simply too firm for a car that should put comfort first. Some will consider it an acceptable compromise given the spirited responses, but for those wanting serene family transport, the jittery, thumping ride is likely to be an irritation. Avoiding the optional S line suspension and bigger wheels improves this, but even in this guise, the Q5 is still one of the least comfortable options in the class.
Most Q3 and Q5 buyers will want a diesel engine. The Q3 is available only with a 2.0 TDI, in either 138bhp or 175bhp form. We'd opt for the lower-powered motor, which is smooth and punchy enough for most requirements. The Q5 has a new148bhp 2.0 TDI engine which we're yet to drive that is likely to be the most recommendable option given our experience of this engine in other models, and the balance of performance and affordability it offers in the Q5.
The Q5 also has the 174bhp 2.0 TDI diesel, which has been our pick of the range until now. It's appropriately torquey, and will be both enjoyable and cheap enough to run for most buyers.
The Q5 is also available with a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, which is fun but fairly unjustifiable unless performance is a priority and you're willing to pay a hefty premium for its hot hatch-like pace.
If the latter scenario does sound like you, you may also be interested in the petrol options. Again, both cars have 2.0-litre units (the Q5 slightly more powerful than those in the Q3), which make the car refined and fast enough even when in the lower-powered output. While they're great to drive, they're also harder to justify due to the substantially higher running costs than you'll experience with the diesel.
Can I get an automatic Q3 or Q5?
Yes. The Q3 is available with a twin-clutch auto on all engines (but only on four-wheel-drive models), while the Q5 has the same gearbox on its diesels. Petrol Q5s come with a new eight-speed Tiptronic torque converter, and all variations are smooth, fast-shifting gearboxes that will satisfy those looking for a refined, modern-feeling auto.
What are the Q3 and Q5 like inside?
This is where the Q3 starts to look less appealing than the more spacious Q5. Buyers looking for an SUV that's compact enough to offer easy parking maneuverability will love the Q3, but the compromise is in the cabin space, which is no better than you'll find in a small family hatchback; a Ford Focus will offer similar flexibility.
That's not to say that the Q3 is hopeless as a family car. There's room for two older children to be comfortable even on longer journeys, and even tall drivers and front passengers will have plenty of room. Equally, the boot is good enough for a big weekly shop and the seats fold almost flat when required, although the annual holiday will probably require a roof box or expert packing.
The Q5 is bigger in every respect. There's noticeably more elbow-room up front, while rear-seat passengers get reclining backrests and usefully more space all round. The boot is longer and wider, and will swallow huge amounts of paraphernalia easily, particularly if you fold the rear seats.
However, things aren't perfect in the Q5; manual cars suffer from offset pedals (much more so than manual Q3s) that can make it awkward for the driver to get comfortable.
Both models benefit from a classy-feeling dashboard that has well-damped switchgear, a user-friendly layout and tactile, premium-feeling materials in all the key areas. Visibility is also good in both cars.
Which one should I buy?
Avoid the petrols unless you value refinement enough to pay many thousands for it; they'll lose value rapidly and consume fuel much faster than the diesels.
Of the diesels available, the lower-powered 2.0 TDI is the one to go for in both cars (meaning 138bhp in the Q3 and 148bhp in the Q5). The more powerful 2.0 TDI engines are tempting given the flattering on-paper figures, but in reality the on-road performance boost will be fairly marginal.
As to which of the models suits your needs best, it really comes down to space. The Q3 is the more rounded model overall, and our pick of the two. It's more comfortable, better value and nearly as fun to drive as the Q5, so if you can live without heavyweight luggage capacity, it's a more sensible buy.
Opt for SE trim, which includes a colour screen, USB-input, Bluetooth, climate control, DAB radio, auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors and 17-inch alloys. Sat-nav and rear side airbags are worthwhile extras. Avoid the Audi Drive Select it makes little difference.
However, if it is a priority that you can throw vast amounts of garden rubbish in the car at weekends, or carry four to the south of France occasionally, the Q5 will do the job much better than the Q3. Again, go for SE spec, which gets the same kit as the Q3 plus leather and alcantara seats, and 18-inch alloys as standard. Just be prepared to live with a slightly awkward driving position and a firm ride.
By Vicky Parrott