What Car? says...
What do the Audi Q3 family SUV and gummy bears have in common? Answer: both were created in Germany and have been hugely successful. In fact, gummy bears actually helped to launch Haribo as a sweet company.
With this second-generation Q3, Audi will be hoping for much the same success, continuing the model’s 'tangfastic' initial reception and remaining competitive in what is now one of the toughest, most overcrowded classes there is.
Indeed, the Q3 will have to prove itself against key rivals including the BMW X1, the Mercedes GLA, the Range Rover Evoque and a former What Car? Car of the Year, the Volvo XC40. It’s not just premium-badged rivals it needs to defeat either – the Kia Sportage makes a strong case for itself, too.
To give it the best possible chance, the Audi Q3 seems to have every box ticked. There's the swish-looking, feature-laden infotainment system, a generous amount of interior space and more muscular looks than the first-generation version.
What’s more, Audi gives you a wide range of engines to choose from, including three petrols, two diesels and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), plus plenty of well-equipped trim levels to suit pretty much anyone.
Like the sound of that but want something sleeker-looking and more stylish? Well, for a relatively small price premium, you can have the Audi Q3 Sportback coupé SUV, which we've reviewed separately.
Here, we’re focusing on the regular Audi Q3, and will tell you how well it stacks up against its competitors in key areas including performance, interior quality and running costs. We’ll also tell you which engine and trim combination makes the most sense.
When you're ready to take the plunge and buy a new car, don't forget we can help you cut thousands off the price if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals service. It can find you big savings on most makes and models of vehicles without any awkward haggling, and there are lots of good new family SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Audi Q3 engine range kicks off with the 35 TFSI's 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It has enough oomph, but is not particularly pleasant when you are in a hurry, sounding strained as it hauls the Q3 from 0-62mph in 9.5sec (9.4sec with the optional S tronic automatic gearbox).
Want more power? The 187bhp 40 TFSI and 242bhp 45 TFSI offer just that – the 45 TFSI is capable of hitting 62mph from a standstill in 5.8sec. Both are available exclusively with quattro four-wheel drive and the S tronic gearbox, making them expensive choices. There's also an even quicker sports SUV version – see our Audi RS Q3 review to read about that.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) TFSI e has a 1.4-litre petrol engine plus an electric motor for a combined 242bhp (0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds). You can drive on electric power alone for an official range of 31 miles. And if you're after a diesel, there's the 148bhp 35 TDI or the 197bhp 40 TDI. The 35 TDI offers similar performance to the 35 TFSI petrol but with extra pull at low revs, while the 40 TDI is effortlessly brisk (0-62mph in 7.3sec).
Suspension and ride comfort
There are three distinct suspension set-ups available on the Q3, and the one you get depends on the trim level you choose. If you plan to get the PHEV (TFSI e), note that its ride is firmer than the equivalent petrol, so it’s worth taking a longer test drive to make sure the spec you choose suits you.
Entry-level Technik and mid-level Sport models ride on 'standard' suspension, which does a pretty good job of ironing out bumps and potholes. The Range Rover Evoque and Volvo XC40 are softer, but for overall comfort, there's not much in it.
Meanwhile, if you go for S line or Black Edition, you'll get sports suspension, which is stiffer and designed to keep the Q3 more upright through corners. It doesn't do ride comfort any favours, but you won't exactly be shaken to pieces.
The Q3 conceals its tall stature better than most family SUVs through the corners. Body lean is well controlled, even in entry-level Technik models, although more so in sport-suspension-equipped S line and Black Edition versions.
There’s plenty of grip, especially if you’re driving a version that has quattro four-wheel drive, which spreads that grip evenly between the front and rear axles to give you loads of confidence when cornering. All in all, the Q3 feels more composed than the XC40, if not quite as responsive as the BMW X1 or Cupra Formentor.
Audi has given all Q3s progressive steering, which gets faster the more you turn the wheel. It happens gradually, so placing the car accurately on the road is easy and it makes for less arm-twirling in tight, low-speed turns.
Noise and vibration
The Q3's entry-level 35 TFSI petrol sounds a little coarse but not unduly so, while the more powerful 40 TFSI and 45 TFSI engines are noticeably smoother. The diesel engines are, unsurprisingly, noisier than any of the petrols, but are still pretty subdued compared with the equivalents in the X1 and XC40.
Most engines come with a seven-speed automatic (S tronic) gearbox as standard, and while it can be a little jerky at slow speeds, it's smooth when changing up through the gears. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on the entry-level 35 TFSI and has a reasonably slick shift action.
Regardless of version, road noise is well suppressed if you avoid the optional 20in alloy wheels and wind noise is limited to minor buffeting around the door mirrors. The Evoque provides a calmer travelling environment at motorway speeds.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
You don’t sit quite as far from the road in the Audi Q3 as you do in the Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40 but you’re still unlikely to have a problem getting comfortable thanks to the steering wheel having a great range of adjustment (up and down as well as in and out).
The driver's seat has plenty of adjustment too, and holds you in position well through corners. It’s just a shame that you can’t have adjustable lumbar support with any trim level or as an option, because that would go a long way to making the Q3 comfortable on long journeys.
All trims come with an Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display on a large 10.25in screen. It’s excellent, replacing conventional analogue dials with a highly configurable full colour display that can show lots of useful information just below your sightline.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The Q3 gives you a good view of the road ahead, aided by reasonably slim windscreen pillars. The view behind isn’t quite so good, but rear parking sensors come as standard on all trims to help mitigate this.
If you need a little more help, you can add the Comfort & Sound Pack to get sensors at the front of the car as well as a rear-view camera.
All versions of the Q3 have powerful LED headlights to light up the road at night, so you’ll have no issues seeing where you’re going. if you avoid the entry-level 35 TFSI or 35 TDI engines, and you can also add automatic high-beam assist by adding the optional Driver Assistance pack.
Sat nav and infotainment
The Q3's 10.1in touchscreen infotainment system looks slick, but it’s actually a bit distracting to use on the move. We much prefer the rotary controller interface in the Mazda CX-5 because it requires less of your concentration when driving.
The audiophiles out there might like to know that there’s an optional 15-speaker Sonos premium sound system (part of the Comfort & Sound pack). It's punchier than the standard sound system, so it's worth considering.
Audi interiors are often the best in the business, but the Q3's is far from the most plush among family SUVs.
It doesn't feel cheap and there are soft-touch materials on the dashboard, but the grey plastic below the air conditioning controls and around the gearlever doesn't feel at all premium.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Whatever your size and shape, you're unlikely to feel cramped in the front of the Audi Q3. Head room is generous, the seats slide back a long way to maximise leg room and the interior feels surprisingly wide and spacious.
Indeed, you’ll never have to worry about rubbing shoulders with your front-seat passenger, even if you both have broad shoulders.
Both front doors have useful pockets that are long enough to fit a one-litre bottle of water, and there’s also a handy non-slip cubby directly beneath the air-con controls, which is useful for throwing keys or a wallet into.
Unlike the smaller Audi Q2 – which is no roomier inside than a regular family hatchback – the Q3 feels like a proper SUV in the back. There’s loads of head room thanks to its high roof, and even if you’re more than six feet tall, you're highly unlikely to feel your knees pressing against the back of the seat in front.
Each rear passenger gets a door bin big enough to swallow a small bottle of water, while a central armrest with two cupholders is optional with Technik and Sport trim and standard across the rest of the range.
Seat folding and flexibility
The Q3's rear seats split and fold in a handy 40/20/40 arrangement, which gives more flexibility than you get with the more common 60/40 split many rivals offer.
The rear seatbases can be slid back and forth (this time in a 60/40 split) to prioritise rear leg room or boot space depending on your needs. You can even recline the seatbacks for an impromptu snooze.
The Q3 has more space for luggage than an X1 or XC40, while the VW Tiguan offers even more. If you slide the seats as far forward as they'll go, the Q3 has a whopping 675 litres of luggage space – more than you get in most large SUVs.
If you fold down the rear seats, you should be able to slot your bike in without having to remove its front wheel. A couple of buggies or sets of golf clubs will be no problem.
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) TFSI e has a higher boot floor than other versions, so it has a slightly reduced capacity. Even so, in our tests we managed to fit six carry-on suitcases into its boot, one more than in hybrid versions of the DS 4 and Cupra Formentor.
Accessibility & Motability
Usability for people with disability or their carers
Motability - Access
The Audi Q3’s doors open to 62 degrees, which is not a particularly wide angle and could mean they get in the way as you get in and out. For comparison, the figure for the Toyota C-HR is 61 degrees while the Mazda CX-30 and Seat Ateca both open to a more accessible 66 degrees.
The height-adjustable driver’s seat sits a minimum of 650mm from the ground, and 720mm when it’s fully raised, so there’s a good range of adjustment to help you find a suitable position. You can slide the seat back a long way to help with access.
The step up from the ground to the door sill is 430mm then there’s a 98mm step down from the sill to the car floor. With an Ateca, the figures are 415mm and 127mm, which suggests the Q3 will be trickier to get into but easier to get out of.
Motability - Storage
The Q3 has one of the biggest boots in its class and the rear seats split 40/20/40, which vastly increases their flexibility. The seats can be slid back and forth so you can increase boot space or rear leg room when needed.
You can fit a folded-up wheelchair in the boot without lowering the back seats, and if you do drop them down, you can fit one in fully assembled.
The boot lip is 750mm from the ground, which is quite a bit higher than the Ateca’s (694mm) and can make loading up more difficult. On the plus side, you can adjust the Q3’s boot floor so it sits flush with the boot lip, making unloading easier.
Motability - Ease of use and options
An automatic gearbox is available as an option or comes as standard across the Q3 engine range. We reckon the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol or 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel should have more than enough pace for most people (in both cases you need to specify an auto ’box if you want one).
Even entry-level cars have dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors, plus a version of the Audi Virtual Cockpit display. We’d recommend considering the Comfort and Sound Pack, which adds front parking sensors.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
If you’re buying outright, the Audi Q3 will cost you a bit less than the BMW X1, the Range Rover Evoque and the Volvo XC40 but slightly more than the Cupra Formentor and Kia Sportage. The Q3 is predicted to hold its value over three years about as well as the X1 but will lose its value quicker than the Evoque and XC40.
PCP car finance deals and leasing rates are competitive compared with other premium-badged alternatives and so are CO2 emissions and fuel economy. As you might expect, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) TFSIe is the best for keeping CO2 emissions down, so it’ll be the one to have if you’re a company car driver trying to keep benefit-in-kind payments down.
The 35 TFSI is a great all-rounder when it comes to balancing performance with fuel economy, delivering around 40mpg. As is often the case, the diesels will be the best bet for high mileage users, delivering around 56mpg. The TFSI e is best suited to those who can make full use of driving in full electric mode by doing short journeys and charging up regularly. We were disappointed by the low to mid 30mpg figures we achieved when the battery was depleted.
Equipment, options and extras
Despite being the entry-level trim, Technik is our chosen version because it gives you all the standard kit you could ever need, including 17in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, a power-operated tailgate, LED headlights and a touchscreen infotainment system.
Sport trim is worth a look too, because it gets all of the Technik’s goodies but adds lots of additional styling tweaks and larger 18in alloy wheels. S Line is a good choice if you want your Q3 to handle well because it gets 19in alloy wheels and sports suspension. On top of that, it also comes with privacy glass, ambient interior lighting and sports seats.
Range-topping Black Edition trim is largely an exercise in aesthetic changes, which makes it look rather expensive compared to the rest of the range. It comes with the same equipment as the S Line, but with a flat-bottomed sport steering wheel and bespoke Black Edition styling.
The Q3 didn’t do too well in the family SUV section of our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. It finished near the bottom of the table, way below rivals including the Sportage and XC40, although it did beat the Evoque.
Audi as a brand did slightly better, placing 21st out of the 32 included manufacturers. That places it above Mercedes (23rd) and Land Rover (31st) but below Kia (7th), BMW (16th) and Volvo (17th).
To give you some peace of mind, the Q3 comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty but that’s pretty par for the course in the class. It certainly can’t match the seven-year warranty that you’ll get with the Sportage.
Safety and security
The Q3 comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition as standard. That's an impressive roster of safety kit.
When it was tested by the experts at Euro NCAP for safety, the Q3 was awarded the full five stars, proving good at protecting adult occupants. The XC40 scored even higher marks for protecting adult and child occupants.
The Q3 and the XC40 were tested in 2018, so it’s hard to compare them to the Evoque because that was tested more recently, under stricter test conditions.
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If you’re after an alternative to the Q3, the closest rival from BMW is the similarly sized and priced BMW X1.
No. The only way to get four-wheel drive with the Q3 is to opt for one of the engines with the quattro system. That feeds power to all four wheels, instead of two, and gives you more traction and confidence through corners.
|RRP price range||£33,750 - £50,930|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||12|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, petrol, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||148.7 - 55.4|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£963 / £3,617|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,926 / £7,234|