Audi Q3 (2018-2023) Expert Review
Audi Q3 Review (2018-present)
The Q3 is a compact SUV from Audi that aims to give you a premium family car, with a prestige badge and maximum space from a footprint the size of a family car. There are two body styles to choose from, both of which have a fantastic interior and a range of engines to suit different needs. It offers a worthy adversary to similar-sized cars from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Land Rover.
- Five-door SUV
2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
What is the Audi Q3?
The Q3 has been a solid seller for Audi, and a popular small SUV around the world since it launched in 2011. This is the second-generation Q3, which went on sale in 2018, entering an increasingly busy market of small SUVs from virtually every major manufacturer. As well as premium competitors, such as the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Volvo XC40, the Audi now has to worry about cheaper but still-impressive cars like the Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen Tiguan.
As well as the regular Q3, there’s also the Q3 Sportback, a slightly racier-looking SUV with a more coupe-like profile, thanks to a lower roof and more bulging wheel arches. This serves as a foil for cars like the Mercedes GLC Coupe, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque or BMW X2.
How Practical is it?
The different versions of Q3 have different levels of practicality. In the Q3 Sportback, rear headroom is tighter due to that rakish roof, and the boot is smaller too. That’s the price you pay for style.
But space in the regular Q3 is excellent, with a good amount of headroom even for taller rear-seat passengers. Legroom is good too, although not as good as in Volvo’s XC40. Boot space is better in the Audi though, and the rear seats slide back and forward to offer more space if need be. They also fold flat individually to house larger items.
What’s it Like to Drive?
To drive, the Q3 does everything you need it to do, but not much more. Its exact character will depend on which model you choose, as there are various combinations of suspension and engine that will have different effects. Entry-level models of the regular Q3 get suspension that rides pretty well, although not quite as wafty as a Range Rover Evoque, while S line models get stiffer sport suspension. This makes things more nippy through the corners but does mean lumps and bumps make themselves more known in the cabin, especially if you’ve got larger alloy wheels. If you opt for a top-end Vorsprung model you’ll get sophisticated adaptive suspension that you can stiffen or soften at the touch of a screen. It’s the pick of the bunch when it comes to comfort, but you’ll have to pay quite a bit for it.
The Q3 Sportback aims to have a bit more fizz to the driving experience as well as the styling, with sport or adaptive suspension depending on the model, and it succeeds, but it’s still not as involving as something like a Seat Ateca.
When it comes to engines, you get a range of petrol and diesel units. The badging is a bit confusing and relates to the power output rather than engine size, so the petrol range starts with the 35 TFSI, which has a 1.5-litre turbo engine with 150hp. It’s a great little unit with lots of low-down punch, and unless you’re set on diesel or extra power, it’ll suit a large chunk of potential Q3 customers. The next in the range is the 40 TFSI, which has 187bhp, while the 45 TFSI has 230hp. Both of these come only with all-wheel drive – which Audi calls quattro – which gives you extra traction in slippery conditions, but also adds to the weight and diminishes fuel economy.
On the diesel side, the 35 TDI has 150hp and the automatic 40 TDI 190hp. Both are impressive, with great pull at lower revs, and the improved fuel economy could make up for the extra cost if you’re doing lots of longer journeys. They’re a bit noisier than the petrol engines, but still perfectly acceptable.
Technology and Equipment
Audi has long excelled at making great quality interiors and the Q3 is no different. Well, almost; 95% of the cockpit feels premium and solid to the touch, but there are a couple of cheaper-feeling plastics that let the side down a bit. All models get a digital display in place of regular dials – called a Virtual Cockpit – which is bigger on higher-end cars. The touchscreen infotainment system includes Amazon Alexa and looks awesome, but isn’t quite as easy to use on the move as BMW’s offering, which uses a dial in the centre of the car.
Trim levels on non-RS models start with Sport, which comes well-equipped with LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels. Spend more and you move up through S line, Edition 1 and Vorsprung trims.
Three Things To Know
- If you want your family SUV to have serious performance, then the RS Q3 and RS Q3 Sportback could be your thing. These come loaded with equipment (as you’d expect for the lofty price) and are powered by a 2.5-litre turbo engine with 400hp. It’s pretty speedy and more than capable of putting a smile on your face, even if it’s not as capable as Porsche’s Macan.
- At first glance, the naming conventions of the Q3 range – 35 TFSI, 40 TDI etc – may seem baffling, but they’re based on power outputs and the type of engine, and are applied to all of Audi’s cars. The higher the number, the more power, so 30 is for models with between 107 and 129hp, 35 is for between 145 and 159hp, and so on. TFSI (which stands for Turbo Fuel Stratified Injection) is Audi’s name for its petrol engines, while TDI (turbocharged direct injection) is the name for diesel units. There’s no plug-in hybrid version of the Q3, something that the Volvo XC40, Range Rover Evoque and BMW X1 can all offer.
- Most of the Q3 range comes as standard with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which changes smoothly but can sometimes be a bit hesitant when you want it to change down quickly. Entry-level models, however, come with a six-speed manual gearbox. That’s the 35 TFSI and the 35 TDI on the ‘normal’ Q3, and just the 35 TFSI on the Q3 Sportback
Which One to Buy
- If fuel economy is a priority: The Q3 35 TDI is front-wheel drive, rather than all-wheel drive, which makes for less weight to haul around and so gives a better mpg figure. The Sport trim line will be slightly more efficient than the others, and you should be able to get an mpg in the low-40s without too much trouble.
- If you need all the space you can get: Nice as it looks, the Q3 Sportback isn’t as practical as the regular Q3, with reduced rear headroom and a smaller boot. If you have lots of stuff and/or adult passengers, then we’d recommend avoiding the Sportback.
- If you want performance: The RS Q3 (Sportback or otherwise) is the most powerful car in the Q3 range, with enough power to sprint to 62mph from standstill in less than five seconds. That’s fast in anyone’s book, and it’ll still easily house the kids and the shopping.
- If you want all the toys: The RS models are loaded with equipment, but if you don’t need that kind of power and performance, then look for one of the Vorsprung models. These are the top-level trim and come with all sorts of fancy features, including 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension and clever matrix LED headlights, which let you keep full beam on at night without dazzling oncoming traffic. You’ll also get an excellent Bang & Olufsen sound system with 15 speakers.
When it comes to the new purchase price, the Q3 is similarly priced to the BMW X1 and cheaper than the Range Rover Evoque, although the Land Rover and Volvo’s XC40 – also a similar price to the Q3 – are likely to have stronger resale values. This is bad news if you’re buying your Audi new, but could mean it makes a solid second-hand buy.
Sportback models are more expensive, but still cheaper than an Evoque. But the BMW X2 is cheaper still.
The RS Q3 models are a chunk more expensive again, putting them up against cars like the more expensive Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace SVR. But you can also get similar excitement levels – if not the premium badge – from the Volkswagen T-Roc R.
Fuel economy is predictably stronger in the diesel engines, so if you’re regularly doing longer distances then they’re worth considering, even with the extra purchase price and higher cost of fuel.
But the 35 TFSI engine is a good one, and officially should give you up to 42.2mpg, depending on the model. A manual version will give you slightly better mpg. We’d expect it to be able to hit mid-to-high 30s mpg in the real world. More powerful engines will dip the economy considerably, especially as they have all-wheel drive, which requires more grunt to power. In the 45 TFSI, you’ll be doing well to get an mpg in the high 20s, the RS Q3 models will be in the low 20s if you’re lucky.
Company car drivers will be disappointed at the lack of a plug-in hybrid model, which would be cheaper in Benefit in Kind tax. Several rivals can offer this. If you’re set on a Q3, then the 35 TFSI is the one to go for, as while fuel economy isn’t quite as good as the diesel 35 TDI, the CO2 emissions are lower, which means a lower BIK rating.
Audi offers either fixed or flexible servicing, depending on how much mileage you do. Fixed, aimed at lower-mileage drivers, means a service every 9,300 miles or one year, while flexible is up to every 18,600 miles or two years. The car will monitor itself and let the driver know when a service is due. Audi offers 0% finance servicing and repairs and a range of service plans to help you budget.
Audi might be a premium manufacturer, but its reputation for reliability perhaps isn't as good as you might expect. It’s regularly near the bottom of independent reliability surveys, including 23rd of 25 in the 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study. That said, BMW was 25th.
We don’t have a huge amount of information on the Q3 specifically, as it’s pretty new. But it came 64th of 75 in the Carbuyer/Auto Express 2020 Driver Power Survey, in which Audi as a brand was 21st of 30; the same position as in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey. All of this is less than promising, so be prepared to have a few issues that may need sorting.
At the time of writing, there were no recalls on this generation of Audi Q3.
Should anything go wrong, Audi offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty on a new Q3, which is the same as on the Volvo XC40, but isn’t particularly great when BMW and Mercedes’s three-year warranties cover unlimited mileage.
The CarGurus Verdict
The Q3 is a well-made, quietly stylish and practical small SUV that will have plenty of appeal thanks to its badge, feeling of quality and a selection of engines to suit different needs. However, it sits in a busy part of the market with some very good rivals, so we’d advise anyone considering the Audi to also look at its competitors.
All the engines in the range are strong, although the lack of a plug-in hybrid will deter some. There are also question marks over reliability, but in fairness those could be levelled at rivals like BMW, Land Rover and Mercedes too. Is it the Q3 the best car of its type? Perhaps not quite, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out.