BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 video group test

February 20, 2017 by

Premium SUVs are quickly becoming the family car of choice for discerning buyers. carwow’s Mat Watson puts the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 to the test to see which one comes out on top.

Head over to our new car deals page to see how much carwow will help you save on any of these small SUVs. To see more videos from Mat Watson, check out carwow’s YouTube channel.

BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 prices

The BMW is the priciest of the three, costing from just more than £27,000. The Audi comes in around £1,000 cheaper and the Mercedes is cheaper still, priced at £25,000 for the base spec.

BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 styling

In terms of exterior design, the X1 looks the most SUV-like, with a real presence on the road and imposing looks. The Q3 design has gone through a mild facelift, but still features Audi’s handsome geometric styling.

The GLA has the sportiest and sharpest looks, although its comparatively low height means it looks more like a tall hatchback than an SUV.

BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 interior

The X1 has a brilliant interior with high quality materials, attractive looks and great usability. The infotainment system is great too, whether you get the standard 6.5-inch screen or go for the 8.8-inch display with the extra navigation package.

The Audi’s cabin looks solid and feels good, but the design is a little old and the pop-up infotainment system isn’t quiet as easy to use as the BMW’s. The Mercedes’ interior looks sportier than the other two, but the quality can’t match the other two and the infotainment system is poor among this company.

BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 practicality

Once again, the X1 emerges as the car to beat in the practicality stakes. It has the biggest boot, with no load lip and lots of underfloor storage. Plus, there’s a variety of cubbies and storage bins. It’s comfy in the back for passengers, with lots of room and the option to slide or recline the seats. The wide bench seat means seating three shouldn’t be a problem.

The Q3’s boot is the smallest of the three but it’s still big enough for a family holiday. There’s a decent amount of passenger space in the rear with good knee and headroom, although the narrower body may make it a bit tight for three people. There are lots of storage spaces and big windows make it feel nice and light.

The GLA’s boot is second best but there are handy storage nets and tethering points in the boot and lots of cubbies dotted around the cabin. The boot opening is bigger than the Q3’s but the capacity is smallest with the seats folded. There’s enough room for adults in the back but it does feel a bit dark. Its narrower body and bulky front seats do impact knee and shoulder room, however.

BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 engines

The engine tested in the X1 was the nippy 231hp 2.0-litre 25d model with two-wheel drive. It covers 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds but is probably too fast and expensive for most buyers and only returned 39mpg. Most will be better off going for a lower-powered diesel model and we’d recommend the eight-speed automatic gearbox that makes the car a joy to drive.

Audi’s small SUV comes with a great range of engines, with the 2.0-litre diesel on test feeling suitably speedy and relaxed at speed. Claimed fuel economy figures of 50mpg weren’t reached, with the car returning 40.1mpg in the test. Buyers who don’t cover very high mileages will probably be better served by the 1.4-litre turbo petrol with two-wheel drive.

Most will opt for diesel models in the GLA for better fuel economy but they can be a bit noisy. The 2.0-litre petrol engine on test felt good with lots of performance, although it failed to reach the claimed 43mpg, instead returning just 29.1mpg. Four-wheel drive is optional but most are better off going for two-wheel drive models to save money. The manual gearboxes aren’t great, but the automatics makes up for that.

BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 driving

On the road, the X1 is the most fun to drive. It has sharp steering, good grip and strong levels of comfort too – especially with the adaptive dampers. There’s a bit of tyre roar at speed but, overall, it’s good fun to drive.

The Q3 isn’t quite as exciting to drive. Handling is easy to get used to and good visibility makes it easy to drive around town. It’s refined and, provided you avoid larger alloy wheels and sports suspension, glides over all but the most jagged bumps.

The GLA isn’t as sporty as it looks, but it is a comfortable car to be in and drive. The steering doesn’t feel as sharp or responsive and it can be a bit noisy, especially if you go for a diesel model. The automatic gearbox changes gear without complaint but can be a bit lazy until pushed – at which point it can jerk forward a little alarmingly if you’re not ready for it.


The BMW X1 wins this test for its impressive mix of practicality, style and driving quality. The Audi isn’t as exciting to drive but is a strong, well-made all rounder, while the GLA has style but is the most compromised of the three.

Save money on your next premium small SUV

Head over to our car deals page to see how much you can save on a new premium small SUV or, if you’re not sure what to buy, head over to our car chooser tool for help making a decision.