Audi Q3 review
There might be something increasingly ubiquitous about the Audi line-up, but its popularity reflects qualities that are hard to dispute. Crisp upmarket styling, a premium image, advanced technology and secure handling are all Audi brand qualities that the Q3 SUV/crossover delivers in spades.
The latest model looks similar to its predecessor, but the big change is inside where Audi’s exemplary Virtual Cockpit is now featured. With a decent range of engines all offering punchy performance, the image and road presence of that broad Audi grille and a high quality cabin offering luxury and practicality, it’s hard to pick holes in the Q3 concept. It’s not quite as much fun to drive as a BMW X1, and there’s been no attempt to make the Q3 competitive off-road, but neither will be much of an issue to Audi’s legion of fans. The clunky manual gearbox may be slightly more aggravating.
4 Feb, 2019
It’s instantly recognisable as an Audi Q3, but you don’t need to be too much of an Audi geek to spot the differences between this model and the last. This time around the car looks a little tougher with a taller profile, less rakish bonnet and more upright windscreen. Coupled with the more angular grille and boxy flared wheelarches, it definitely makes for a stronger presence on the road.
The interior will be far more interesting to owners of the old model though, as the formerly dated cabin has been replaced with a set-up that’s easily as good as anything else in the class. The core of the upgrade is Audi’s fantastic Virtual Cockpit display which replaces the traditional instrument pack with a colourful and feature packed TFT screen that’s a full 12.25 inches or 12.3 inches wide, depending on model. You can configure the dash display with a range of driving and navigation info and graphics, while a second similarly large display in the middle of the dash deals with all the other infotainment and vehicle functions.
The car is built with Audi’s thorough attention to detail, and there’s a genuinely high quality precision feel to the way it’s put together, inside and out.
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While the look and feel of the materials is faultless, the new cabin design can also be lifted with some interesting new trim options including Alcantara sections on the dashboard and door armrests. You can specify beige, gray or a vibrant orange which is an unusually playful touch for Audi.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The TFT screen-based dash looks pretty spectacular in the Audi Q3, and in top spec with MMI Navigation Plus you get the added benefit of an even wider display and full-colour Google Maps.
The central touchscreen is impressive too, but does show up fingerprints quite badly.
The standard audio set-up is a six-speaker system with DAB, Bluetooth, Audi Smartphone Interface, and Audi Connect services subject to subscription. Opt for the range-topping Vorsprung and you’ll get a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 15 speakers and 680 watts of music, as well as wireless phone charging.
The previous generation Audi Q3 was definitely compromised when it came to ride comfort, but this latest version is much improved. Even if you choose the big alloy wheels and lower suspension of the S Line, the car cushions bumps really well and in fact, offers one of the most comfortable rides in its class. Choose the adaptive damping that’s standard on the Vorsprung and it’s better still.
The Q3 feels as stable on the road as you’d expect from an Audi, and body roll is well controlled during cornering. But while it has good turn-in response to steering inputs and terrific grip, it’s ultimately not as engaging to drive as a BMW X1. There’s a certain numbness about the Audi’s steering feel, which leaves you feeling less connected to the road.
Refinement is very impressive, and the Q3 is a great cruising machine, but the transmissions are a little bit of a let-down. The manual gearbox has a slightly clunky feel, while the seven-speed dual clutch S tronic auto is disappointingly slow to respond at times.
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Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
With demand so flat for diesels these days, unsurprisingly Audi offers more petrol choices in the Q3 SUV. The entry-level car is the 35 TFSI which uses a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbo, and comes with front-wheel drive and Quattro 4x4, and the choice of S tronic seven-speed auto or six-speed manual gearboxes. The 0-62mph time is between 9.2 and 9.6 seconds depending on spec. There’s also a 2.0-litre petrol engine available in 187bhp or 227bhp guise, known as the 40 TFSI and 45 TFSI respectively. They share quattro 4x4 running gear and dual clutch auto transmission and will reach 62mph from rest in 7.4 and 6.3 seconds respectively.
The 35 TDI and 40 TDI models share a 2.0-litre engine in 148bhp and 187bhp configurations, and acceleration figures are on a par with similarly rated petrols.
The Audi brand may have a positive premium image, but that may be counter-productive when it comes to setting high expectations for owners. In our 2018 Driver Power satisfaction survey, Audi came 18th overall out of 26 manufacturers. That was ahead of Mercedes and BMW, but still no great shakes. 18.6 per cent of Audi owners had to report faults in the first year of ownership, although owners were generally positive about build quality. It appears the German manufacturers still haven’t tackled the issue of reliability with anything like the determination and discipline of Lexus which routinely tops the satisfaction tables.
The Q3 has passed the independent Euro NCAP crash testing programme with flying colours though, being awarded a full five-star rating. The Q3 has an extensive roster of safety kit that includes autonomous emergency brakes, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, as well as an optional intelligent adaptive cruise control system that not only keeps you a set distance from the car in front, but steers for you as well.
Audi’s warranty offer lags behind its direct rivals BMW and Mercedes, because although you get three-year cover there’s a 60,000-mile cap on warranty claims. BMW and Merc offer unlimited mileage cover over the same three-year term, and of course some non-premium manufacturers are offering much longer warranties – up to seven years. You can extend the Audi cover, but that’s at extra cost.
If you do a lot of miles your Q3 will tell you when it needs servicing, with intervals that shift depending on how you drive the car. Service intervals could be as far apart as 24,000 miles as the car’s onboard sensors check oil quality and notify the driver when it’s time for a pit-stop. Lower mileage drivers – less than 12,000 miles a year – will have annual checks.
The new Audi Q3 is extremely comfortable over long journeys, thanks to its combination of spacious cabin, hushed refinement and compliant suspension, as well as the luxurious feel to the interior trim and comfortable seating – for all except the middle seat rear passenger who has to make do with a hard, high-set seat cushion. Passengers are well catered for with good sized door bins and oddment storage too, and there are a pair of cup-holders between the seats.
The latest Q3 is 18mm wider and 97mm longer than its predecessor, which may not sound much but is enough to make an appreciable difference to cabin space, especially for rear seat passengers. Overall the Q3 measures 4,484mm nose-to-tail and is 1,856mm wide and 1,616mm tall. The BMX X1 measures up at 4,438mm long, 1,821mm wide and 1,598mm tall.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
As it’s a little longer and wider than its predecessor, there’s a noticeable improvement to the Q3’s interior accommodation, and the seating arrangements are very practical too. There’s a typically impressive range of adjustment for front seat occupants so every driver should be able to find a comfortable posture. Rear seat occupants also benefit from a bench that slides backwards and forwards depending on luggage space requirements, while the backrest angle can be adjusted too.
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You don’t sit quite as high in the Q3 as in some rival SUVs, and indeed the seating position is slightly lower than in the old car. This means the view out isn’t quite as commanding either.
The sliding rear bench adds an extra dimension to the Q3’s practicality. When it’s pushed all the way forward there’s 675 litres of luggage volume available which reduces to 530 litres if you want to slide it right back to maximise legroom. That still beats the Volvo XC40 and BMW X1, which offer 432 litres and 505 litres maximum boot spaces respectively.
Fold the rear seats out of the way and luggage volume leaps up to 1,525 litres, again beating many rivals. Nice touches include LED spotlights in the tailgate, a parcel shelf you can stash under the floor, and the option of hands-free boot opening.
The fuel economy figures for the Audi Q3 are currently estimates, but there’s no reason to assume there’ll be any horror stories. That said, if you pick one of the hotter models and drive it hard, you can expect a penalty at the pumps.
The diesel engines should be most frugal, and the combined figure for the lower power 148bhp diesel will likely be around the 55mpg mark based on figures from VW Group sister model the SEAT Ateca. Even the punchiest 187bhp diesel engine should be capable of returning comfortably over 50mpg in spite of the 4x4 penalty.
CO2 ratings are lowest for the 148bhp 35 TDI engine at 123g/km of CO2, although the seven-speed S tronic-equipped 35 TFSI petrol isn’t far behind at 131g/km in the Q3 Sport entry model. The same engine with manual gears emits 140g/km.
The highest ratings are unsurprisingly for the 40 TFSI and 45 TFSI which emit 172 and 173g/km respectively in top Vorsprung spec.
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With performance roughly on a par with outgoing models, we don’t expect the official insurance figures for the new Audi Q3 to vary much from the previous line-up. The slowest derivative is the 148bhp diesel which we expect to come in around group 20.
Petrol engine ratings are likely to start around the same level, but opt for the 227bhp 45 TSFI and you’ll be hit with a group 30 insurance rating or higher.
The last generation Audi Q3 was definitely in demand on the used market, and even towards the end of its life commanded expected residual values of over 50 per cent after three years and 30,000 miles. The new version is likely to do at least as well, and while it’s still the new kid on the block should do a lot better. The old model had predicted residuals of almost 70 percent when it was not long out of its launch phase.