Audi Q3 (2015-2017) review
The Audi Q3 is a well-built SUV that’s reasonably spacious, has low running costs and is easy to drive, but has a dated interior and infotainment system
What's not so good
Audi Q3 (2015-2017): what would you like to read next?
The Audi Q3 is a practical SUV that combines fantastic build quality with a good range of efficient engines, affordable running costs and decent performance. It can even out-accelerate most sports cars if you buy the performance RS Q3 model, which is reviewed separately.
Launched in 2011, the Q3 was updated in 2014 with a redesigned front grille as well as new bumpers and tail lights. S line Edition models also got indicators that pulse in the direction the car is turning. As a result, the Q3’s exterior wears its years well – it doesn’t look like an old car unless you park it next to the similarly sized Audi Q2.
You’re unlikely to say the same about the interior, though. Although the dashboard is covered in quality soft-touch plastic and the switches and buttons feel lovely to use, everything looks a bit out of date. The dated-looking infotainment system is controlled via a swivel wheel on the dashboard, rather than getting the easier-to-use MMI system of newer Audi models. You can’t get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s display either, even as an option.
The Audi Q3 is a bit of dinosaur but it still looks good and feels well put together
Where the Q3 excels over a traditional hatchback such as the Audi A3 is in terms of practicality. It has a decent sized boot, the raised body makes it easy to get in and out of, and its added height means you don’t have to bend your back to fit a child seat.
The extra height doesn’t affect the way the Q3 drives, although if you’re looking for fun you’re better off with a BMW X1. It does grip well, however, and the light controls and raised driving position make it easy to drive in town. The Q3 was awarded five stars for crash safety by Euro NCAP in 2011, but it would unlikely fare so well under 2017’s tougher testing regime.
You can get the Q3 with a choice of four engines, and they’re all pretty good. If you do most of your driving around town then you should get the nippy 150hp 1.4-litre petrol, and the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel is the model to choose if you’ll be racking up miles on the motorway.
So the Q3 is quite old now, but at its heart it remains a well-built, practical SUV that is cheap to run and easy to drive. Watch our SUV group test video to see how it compares to the Mercedes GLA and BMW X1, and for more detailed and in-depth analysis read our following interior, driving and specifications review sections.
The Audi’s cabin is fairly roomy and you get some nicely supportive sports seats in the front as standard but other SUVs are better if you need to carry three adults in the back at once
The Q3 is fairly practical, but it doesn’t offer the tardis levels of space you in the latest SUVs and the relatively small boot means you’ll have to be selective with your holiday packing.
You shouldn’t have a problem getting comfortable in the front of the Q3. All models get sports seats that are very supportive and come with height adjustment as standard, an extendable thigh rest and angle adjustment for the seat base. Four-way electrically adjustable lumbar support is also standard to avoid backache on long drives. The steering wheel adjusts for height and reach too.
Adults will also fit happily enough on the Q3’s back seat – there’s plenty of knee room and a decent amount of headroom unless you’re more than six-feet tall. Things start to unravel when you try to put three people in the back, when the Audi’s small middle seat feels quite tight. If you regularly carry three people in the back you’re better off buying a roomier BMW X1.
You won’t ever feel short of cubby spaces in the Q3. The front door bins are simply huge – big enough to hold a 1.5-litre, 0.75-litre and 0.5-litre bottle of water at the same time. The glovebox is big enough for a 1.5-litre bottle of water and although the rear door pockets are smaller than the ones in the front, they’re still large enough to take a couple of bottles of water.
The only downside is that the Q3’s age means you’ll have to do without fancy kit such as a wireless charging tray for your mobile phone – or even a USB socket.
If you’re looking for more space than you’ll get in a regular family hatchback then the Q3 delivers. Its 420-litre boot is bigger than you’ll get in a comparable family hatchback such as the VW Golf (380 litres), so there’s room for a baby stroller, or one large and one small suitcase. However, the boots in other small SUVs such as the Mercedes GLA (481 litres) and BMW X1 (505 litres) are noticeably bigger.
You’ll also miss the clever features fitted to more modern alternatives, such as a 12v power socket and a false floor. As it is, you’ll find loading heavy items into the back of the Q3 is tricky because of the big boot lip you need to heave things over.
The rear seats fold down 60:40 – so you can carry larger items and still have space for passengers – but they don’t fold flat into the floor, which makes fitting a bicycle in tricky, although you can get one in with both its wheels attached after a bit of jiggling. With the seats down the Q3’s boot can hold 1,325 litres of stuff.
The Q3’s light controls and raised driving position mean it’s easy to drive and has plenty of grip in corners, but fun isn’t really on the menu
The Q3 drives well but doesn’t do anything to set your world alight
The Q3 has a simple engine range that includes a 150hp 1.4-litre petrol, a 180hp 2.0-litre petrol, and a 2.0-litre diesel with either 150hp or 184hp.
The 1.4 petrol is the best all-rounder. It’s smooth and quiet compared to the diesels and its 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds means it feels pretty nippy. It’s a clever engine that can turn off two of its four cylinders to save fuel when the extra power isn’t needed. It gets claimed fuel economy of 51.4mpg, but in the real world expect to get more like 40mpg – that’s still pretty impressive for a petrol SUV.
You’ll be better served by the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel if you have a high annual mileage, which will give you a chance to recoup its cost through fuel savings. In two-wheel-drive form it’s claimed to get 61.4mpg and its extra low-down grunt makes it better than the petrol engines if you’ll often carry a full load of passengers and luggage.
If you want more performance go for the 184hp diesel. You’ll find it is just as quick as the 2.0-litre petrol and cheaper to run – but nowhere near as fast as the expensive, thirsty, but gorgeous-sounding RS Q3 performance model.
Four-wheel drive is available on all models except the 1.4-litre petrol. It makes sense if you drive on slippery roads or tow a trailer but it’s not really necessary and just hurts fuel economy.
In terms of gearboxes you can choose from a six-speed manual, a six-speed auto or a seven-speed auto. The manual’s easy to slot through the gears, but the autos are worth considering if you do a lot of town driving and want to give your clutch foot a rest – and they change gears quickly and smoothly.
The Q3’s light controls mean you’ll find it no harder to drive than a normal family hatchback and its raised driving position helps you plot a course through busy city streets. There aren’t many major blind spots and even basic Sport models come with rear parking sensors to take the stress out of shopping trips. S line Edition versions add front parking sensors and a rear parking camera. There’s also an automatic parking system for hands-free parallel and bay parking, but it’s a £175-500 option depending on the Q3 you pick.
Clear the city and you’ll find the Q3 to be quiet and comfortable. It goes over bumps well – so long as you don’t choose the sports suspension and big alloy wheels – and the cabin is quiet – you’ll only notice a little road noise at cruising speeds. You can make it safer on the motorway by specifying lane assist and a blind spot monitoring system for £900, but the Q3’s too old to come equipped with autonomous driving aids – you can’t even get active cruise control.
Sometimes you’ll wish it could drive itself simply because there’s not much fun to be derived from driving it yourself. The Q3 has lots of grip in corners and you can corner quickly without getting lots of body lean, but you feel a little detached from the process – a BMW X1 is more enjoyable.
Although the Q3 is available with quattro four-wheel drive for extra grip on slippery roads it’s nowhere near as capable as a Land Rover Discovery Sport off-road.
The Audi Q3’s interior feels high quality and has an easy to use layout but its small infotainment screen and button-heavy design looks dated compared to newer alternatives