Audi Q3 review
The Audi Q3 is the smallest off-roader in the Q family, and its rivals include the Mercedes GLA and Range Rover Evoque
A smaller version of the Audi Q5, the Q3 uses the previous-generation Audi A3 as its base and now comes complete with a fresh-looking facelift which focuses on a restyled nose, cleaned-up rear end and added equipment.
Three trim levels feature – SE, S line and S line Plus – and all are well-equipped. Audi offers a plethora of optional kit and customers’ Q3s can be further personalised through Audi’s Exclusive programme – both can prove rather costly, however.
All engines have been improved for greater fuel efficiency (of up to 13.5 per cent) and to be kinder to the environment. There are two petrols: a two-wheel drive 148bhp 1.4-litre with cylinder-on-demand technology and an all-wheel drive 178bhp 2.0-litre. Meanwhile, forming the diesel line-up is a 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI with either two- or four-wheel drive and a high-powered 182bhp version.
All engines come with the choice of a six-speed manual or Audi’s seven-speed S tronic gearbox (the 1.4-petrol has a six-speed S tronic ’box, though) - apart from the high-performance RS Q3 model, which only comes with the auto option. Speaking of which, the hot RS has a 28bhp upgrade and now packs 335bhp.
With the latest facelift, Audi hopes to continue you the Q3’s current success – the firm has sold 400,000 units globally since its launch in 2011.
Our choice: Q3 SE 2.0 TDI (177) quattro S tronic
Audi is the master of the corporate look, and the updated Q3 has been given just enough of a revision to keep it in line with the brand’s latest design direction. The overall profile is unchanged, and the biggest update is reserved for the nose. There’s a more angular design for the large grille, and it’s finished with satin silver trim that merges with the headlights, giving the Q3 a look that’s similar to the forthcoming Q7. However, if you go for white or silver bodywork, the new trim doesn’t stand out.
The slender light housings feature full LED lamps on S line models, while SE features xenons. Elsewhere, SE cars get 17-inch wheels, and S line adds 18-inch rims. There’s a variety of optional designs, too, and our car featured chunky 19-inch wheels (£595) which add interest to the Q3’s overall look.
At the back, S line cars feature strobing indicators – borrowed from Audi’s premium models – but apart from that, you’d be hard pressed to distinguish the updated Q3 from its predecessor.
It’s the same story inside, as the layout is largely unchanged. All cars feature a screen that pops up manually from the top of the dash. Yet while the build quality can’t be faulted, the layout isn’t as easy to get along with as in some of Audi’s newer models.
The Q3 uses the more compact MMI cabin control system that’s also found in the A1 supermini. The small rotary controller and shortcut buttons are mounted just under the air vents, but they’re a bit of a reach for the driver, and the system isn’t as intuitive to use as the full-size MMI control found in other Audis. The air-con controls are also a bit fiddly, as they’re mounted low behind the gearlever.
Audi’s MMI integrated entertainment system is also very easy to use and generally speaking, the Audi Q3 is very well equipped. ‘Entry’ SE trim cars come with start/stop technology, 17-inch alloys, climate control, automatic wipers and lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and a 6.5-inch display screen as standard.
If you opt for the more sport orientated Audi Q3 S line model, you also get 18-inch alloys, suspension that’s 20mm lower, front sports seats embossed with Audi’s S line logo, aluminum interior inlays, power tailgate, scrolling indicators, xenon headlights and sports front and rear bumpers. The S line Plus trim Audi Q3 gets 19-inch wheels, Alcantara S line embossed seats, privacy glass and cruise control.
There are some quirks with the interior of the Audi Q3, though. The high-set driving position gives you a good view of the road and the sports seats are comfortable. The bus-like angle of the steering wheel also feels odd and the cabin’s design is showing its age – it’s in stark contrast to the minimalist Audi A3’s dashboard for instance.
The RS Q3 gets the ubiquitous honeycomb grille found on all Audi RS models, and other trimmings to let everyone else know you’re driving the most powerful model in the Q3 range.
Standard (non-RS) Audi Q3 models are available with either 1.4-litre or 2.0-litre engines. Our choice of powerplant is either the 182bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel unit (there is a less powerful 148bhp version) as it offers the best combination of performance and fuel efficiency in the Q3 range thanks to its 51.4mpg combined economy and 7.9s 0-62mph time (when the S tronic automatic ’box is fitted). CO2 emissions are also quite low at 143g/km.
The 1.4 TFSI engine with cylinder-on-demand technology is a new addition to the line-up and it's a really smooth and powerful unit. It also boasts fuel economy and CO2 emissions that are really similar to the diesel variants (47.9mpg, 136g/km). Plus, because petrol cars are liable for less company car tax, it's a good choice for company car buyers.
Thanks to its strong grip and decent body control, the car-like Audi Q3 feels agile and composed. Better still, its combination of compact size, excellent visibility and well-weighted controls helps inspire confidence when threading it down twisty back roads and crowded city streets.
The standard Drive Select system allows the driver to adjust the steering weight and throttle response - it’s best left in its normal mode, as it makes the steering feel artificially heavy in Sport.
However, this sharp handling comes at a price: like other compact SUVs, the Audi Q3 suffers from a firm and fidgety low-speed ride. We’d recommend forking out for the adaptive dampers, which deliver a more supple ride.
Both gearboxes found in the Audi Q3, the twin-clutch S tronic automatic and the standard six-speed manual, are excellent.
When you put your foot down in the Audi RS Q3, the turbo gives a loud whoosh and the exhaust a race inspired exhaust note. With 335bhp shared across all four wheels thanks to Audi’s quattro system, the RS Q3 can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds.
As this is a mild makeover, you can expect the Q3 to be reliable. It was the highest placed Audi in our Driver Power 2015 survey, finishing 14th overall, and the third placed SUV in our poll. Owners praised its build quality and ease of use, with the only criticisms being about its practicality and running costs.
The Q3 uses plenty of solid materials and feels like it is built to last. It also comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and three years' RAC breakdown cover, which should help keep bills to a minimum.
Despite its age, the Audi A3 was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, as well as 94 and 85 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, the Audi Q3 should prove to be very safe as well. Six airbags and electronic stability control come as standard and there's lots of safety equipment on the options list such as blind spot monitoring, as well as Speed Limit Display and Active Lane Assist, which helps to maintain the vehicle’s position in its lane. Further up the range, S line models feature Xenon headlamps as standard.
Thanks to its more upright body, the Audi Q3 is a more practical choice than the Range Rover Evoque. The boot isn’t the biggest in the crossover class, at 460 litres, but Audi has replaced the fixed parcel shelf with a rolling load cover to boost access. You also get a powered tailgate on higher-spec models, which opens wide and leaves a flat load lip.
One criticism leveled at the Audi Q3 could be that while the boot space expands to 1,325 litres, the back seats don’t fold fully flat so sliding things in-and-out is unnecessarily difficult. However, if you do need to carry longer items, Audi offers a folding front passenger seat as an option on the Q3.
In terms of passenger comfort, adults should still be comfortable, while the high roofline and large side windows help the Q3’s cabin feel brighter and airy. It also features lots of practical storage space, including large cup-holders and wide door bins.
The most economically viable Audi Q3 is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp. When mated with a manual gearbox and front-wheel-drive, this Q3 will return a combined cycle of 61.4mpg and 119g/km of CO2.
If you opt for the quattro four-wheel-drive system with this engine, this increases emissions to 131g/km and the combined cycle mpg figure comes to 56.5. Apart from the RS Q3, the 2.0 TFSI with quattro four-wheel is the most powerful Q3 in the range, but it has a comparatively poorer combined economy of 42.8mpg and 152g/km. Predictably, the quick RS Q3 has worse fuel economy with a combined cycle of 32.8mpg and 203g/km of CO2.
The 1.4 TFSI COD (cylinder-on-demand) is a good compromise, boasting 47.9mpg and 136g/km.
Fortunately, Audis tend to hold their value well, so expect the Q3 to have good residuals and not depreciate as much as some of its rivals.