What's the used Audi Q3 estate like?
The word ‘staid’ is used to describe someone who is of settled or sedate character, one who is not flighty or capricious. This could also be used to describe the 2011-2018 Audi Q3, because it appears on the surface to be rather strait-laced. But if this version of the Q3 is a touch on the boring side, that’s only because, like the later Q3 that replaced it, it’s so good at what it does.
There were three engines on offer, a 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre petrols and a 2.0-litre diesel. There were three transmissions too: a six-speed manual, the 1.4 TFSI is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, while seven-speed dual-clutch automatics make up the rest of the range.
Audi kept the trim line-up pretty simple with this generation of Q3, with three trims to choose from - Sport, S line Edition and Black Edition. The entry-level spec is fairly generous considering the size of SUV we are talking about, so expect to find 17in alloys, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, aluminium roof rails, cruise control and auto lights and wipers. The interior is adorned with dual-zone climate control, adjustable front seats, floor mats and Audi's MMI infotainment system complete with a pop-up 6.5in screen, sat-nav, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and voice recognition.
Upgrade to S line Edition and the additions include, 18in alloy wheels, LED head and rear lights, front parking sensors and an aggressively-styled bodykit, while the Black Edition models get 19in alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, sports suspension, a Bose sound system, a part leather and Alcantara upholstery and numerous gloss black exterior details.
On the road, the Q3 was always a competent if uninspiring performer. Let’s start with the handling, which is more akin to that of a hatchback than an SUV. The Q3 has a squat stance and plenty of grip, so it feels very surefooted, in both front and four-wheel-drive configurations. The Q3 generally has a comfortable ride, although this is spoiled by the rather firm suspension set-up in the S line versions.
Smoother still, no matter which version you choose, is the range of engines on offer, from a punchy 1.4-litre turbo petrol unit all the way up to a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo in the rapid RS Q3 Performance.
Inside the Q3, things are pretty standard for an Audi. It is built with high-quality materials and the switches all operate with a well-oiled slickness we’ve come to expect from Audi. The infotainment system is easy to use and the buttons to control it are in the centre of the dashboard. The standard system is fine, but it can be upgraded with a Technology Pack that includes a hard drive for music storage, a digital TV and a more advanced sat-nav. There is a cheaper sat-nav option on SE and S line variants that will be worth seeking out. Mind you, the Volkswagen Tiguan has similar or better equipment levels to the Q3.
The interior of the Q3 isn’t perfect, though; the pedals in manual cars are offset and can make longer drives uncomfortable for some drivers. Thankfully, the windscreen pillars are relatively narrow, so visibility out of junctions is good. Rear parking sensors are standard, which is fortunate, because the rear window is a little on the small side.
Boot space is a little on the small side, although overall volume is increased if the car is fitted with a tyre mobility kit instead of a proper spare wheel. The boot is at least accessed through quite a wide opening and there is only a small load lip, so sliding items in and out is quite straightforward.
Rear seat space is better than in the Mercedes GLA, but that isn’t really anything to crow about. Adults will find leg room limited, with the front seatbacks being in close proximity to their extremities. Head room is tight too. If you need decent rear seat space, the Volkswagen Tiguan and the 2015-on BMW X1 are both better bets. There are plenty of cubbies for water bottles and mobile phones in the doors and centre console up front.
Overall, the Audi Q3 is a premium small SUV that offers a decent drive and a nicely finished interior. It isn’t the best equipped or the most practical, and there isn’t an ultra-frugal version to match those of rivals, but the Q3 is a smart-looking car that’s also refined and comfortable.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Audi Q3 estate?
S line Audi Q3s have quite large alloy wheels and since this SUV is quite compact, and designed for in town use, kerb damage may have occurred. Putting this right can be an expensive process, so check all the wheels for scuffs.
If you are looking at a four-wheel-drive model, look at the tyres. Audi advises that they should all be the same make and model of tyre all the way around to maintain the car’s handling performance. Since this can lead to the expensive situation of replacing all four tyres at once, finding a car which doesn’t need this is beneficial to your bank balance.
If you need to put a pushchair in the boot, it’ll take it. Golf clubs? Not without folding down the rear seats. Those rear seats are only a 60/40 split, whereas rivals like the Volvo XC60 and BMW X1 can be a more flexible 40/20/40. So, on your test drive, take items like this with you to check that the Q3 is suitable for your needs.
What are the most common problems with a used Audi Q3 estate?
Apart from minor rattles, the Audi Q3 is largely fault free. However, on diesel models, check that the previous owner has taken the car on frequent motorway journeys to ensure that the diesel particulate filter (DPF) can regenerate, as this process is only triggered at high speed. A clogged-up DPF can be costly to replace.
Other potential problems with the DPF-equipped cars come if they have been shut off part way through a regeneration. The result is contamination of the oil system with fuel, which leads to the oil level rising gradually over time. This can cause damage to the engine, if it hasn’t already, so it’s worth getting the car checked out.
A recall was issued in July 2017 due to possible brake light failure when the parking brake is operated. This affects Q3s built between 02/10/2014 and 01/10/2016. If you are in any doubt, check with your local Audi dealer or use the DVSA website as this lists the range of vehicle identification numbers (VIN) affected.
Is a used Audi Q3 estate reliable?
This version of the Audi Q3 always finished mid to upper-mid table in our past reliability surveys. In the most recent one in which this generation appeared it came near the top in the family SUV class in petrol form, but near the bottom in diesel form.
Petrol Audi Q3s proved far sturdier than diesels; 12% went wrong compared with 25% of diesels, and their additional issues were with the engine itself and its electrics. No petrol engines encountered trouble; the only gremlins were the bodywork and non-engine electrics, with some infotainment systems failing. Every car remained drivable, but half spent more than a week in the garage. All work was done for free.
Audi as a brand did reasonably well in our most recent reliability survey, finishing in 20th place out of 31 manufacturers.
What used Audi Q3 estate will I get for my budget?
High mileage, early Audi Q3s begin around £7000. Diesel is the most popular engine choice for a Q3, and a good 2.0 TDI manual with an average mileage for the year is more likely to set you back in the region of £10-£12,000. S line cars hold their value best and because of that cost around £1000 more to buy than an SE. Expect to pay between £12,000 and £14,000 for good 2015 cars, £14,000 to £16,000 for 2016/2017 ones and around £18,000 for the final 2018 cars.
Petrols, as mentioned earlier, are not all that prevalent on the used market and command a premium over others in the range, with prices beginning around £9000 for the earlier 2.0 TFSI. The more efficient 1.4 TFSI made available from 2014 onwards is £10,000. If you want the top performing RS Q3, good luck finding one for less than £14,000.
How much does it cost to run a Audi Q3 estate?
MPG and car tax
It doesn’t have class-leading fuel efficiency, but it is still competitive. We’ll get the most obscene version out of the way first, which is the RS Q3 Performance with an official economy figure of 32.8mpg, according to the older NEDC tests, and an annual road tax of £305 per year.
The rest of the range is a bit more down to Earth, with the 138bhp 2.0 TDI in front-wheel drive form having an official figure of 54.3mpg under the NEDC tests and £135 road tax. Adding Quattro four-wheel drive drops the efficiency to 50.4mpg and raises costs to £150, with the top-of-the-line 174bhp automatic four-wheel drive costing you even more at 47.9mpg and £190 per year in tax.
Of the petrol engines, it is the 1.4-litre TFSI introduced in early 2014 that is the more efficient option. It’s only available with front-wheel drive, with figures of 47.6mpg NEDC and £135 in tax for the manual. At the end of 2014, the CoD version arrived. That doesn’t mean it comes with a side of chips; it refers to Cylinder on Demand, which is the engine’s ability to effectively switch off two of its four cylinders when it is under partial throttle loads, saving you money on fuel. With CoD, petrol consumption is reduced to 51.4mpg and road tax is £115 for the manual.
The 2.0 TFSI that has been available since the car was launched isn’t quite so efficient, but that is mostly due to this engine only coming with four-wheel drive. That being said, even the worst-performing automatic version returns a respectable average economy figure of 40.4mpg, although the road tax of £220 is a little hard to swallow.
Those few Q3s of this generation registered after the tax changes of April 2017 came into force will pay VED at the flat rate, currently £145 a year. Any costing over £40,000 new will pay a luxury car tax from years two to six at a flat rate, currently £320 a year.
Audi offers a servicing strategy which alternates between a minor and a major service to help reduce costs. If the previous owner has taken out a service plan, you should also check if there are any remaining services left on it. This can be done by contacting the service department of any Audi dealership.
Which used Audi Q3 estate should I buy?
Every Audi Q3 comes with rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and a retractable 6.5in touchscreen.
SE is our favourite trim level because it comes all the items you really need without spending a fortune. Standard kit includes sports front seats with electric lumbar support, 17in alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control.
S line cars add stiffer suspension, 18in alloy wheels, and xenon headlights. It was possible to order a Q3 S line with the softer SE-spec suspension, though, so check with your dealer to find out which variant you’re looking at.
S line Plus adds bigger alloy wheels, front parking sensors to compliment the rear and sat-nav.
Our pick of the range is the 2.0-litre TDI because it has plenty of pull when the car is loaded up and it can still return high mpg fuel economy figures. It is the most popular engine option so you will have no trouble finding one.
If diesel doesn’t appeal, the 2.0-litre TFSI has been on sale the longest and is the cheapest to buy, but we would recommend spending more to get the more efficient 1.4 TFSI engine, which offers much better running costs without sacrificing too much performance over the 2.0-litre.
Our favourite Audi Q3: 2.0-litre TDI 150 SE
What alternatives should I consider to a used Audi Q3 estate?
The BMW X1 is one of the very best small SUVs and it does have a greater range of economy diesels than the Audi. It also has a bigger boot and more rear seat space.
The Mercedes GLA can’t quite match the Audi for interior quality and it isn’t as well equipped in standard form.
The Volkswagen Tiguan doesn’t have the prestige badge to topple the Audi, but it offers more space and interior flexibility, along with just as much kit for less money.
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