Audi Q3 Review (2011-2018)
The Audi Q3 is a premium SUV that’s compact and good value for money yet also comfortable and family-friendly.
Published: 2 February 2023
If you’re looking for a mid-size SUV with enough space for the kids and a high-quality interior, the Audi Q3 could be the car for you. It’ll cost you more than some rivals, but it feels like a premium product and is packed with features as standard.
We’re looking here at the first-generation Q3 model, which was sold new in the UK from 2011 to 2018. It’s available with a broad range of petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic gearboxes, and front- and four-wheel drive.
- High-quality interior
- Comfortable ride
- Fuel-efficient engines
- Back seats cramped for adults
- Not a lot of fun to drive
- Costs more than many rivals
Dashboard & tech
The Q3’s interior is very similar to that of other Audi cars of the same era. The dashboard is clearly laid out, so you should be able to quickly work out what all the buttons and knobs do. The infotainment screen rises out of the top of the dashboard when you turn on the ignition. It’s not a touchscreen – instead, you access the features you want using the buttons on the dashboard, and navigate through the menus using the knob in the middle of the dashboard. Sounds a bit complicated, but it’s actually pretty easy to use.
Audi added more tech to the Q3 during its time on sale new, so later ones sold from around 2016 tend to have more features than earlier models. Having said that, all Q3s come with features including dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth, and many also have sat nav and cruise control.
The Q3 is as comfortable as you’d expect a premium-brand car to be. You don’t exactly sink into the seats, but you’re unlikely to experience any aches or pains even if you spend an entire day driving it. There’s also good sideways support when rounding corners and if you like a touch of luxury, there are lots of Q3s with leather upholstery and heated front seats. Models with a panoramic glass sunroof have a lighter interior, too.
With its taller SUV stance, the Q3 is really easy to get into. Most people will find that the seats are positioned just below their hips, which means you can just slide into the car without climbing up or dropping down.
Although its design looks a bit dated next to Audi’s latest models, the interior of the first-generation Q3 is hard to fault for quality. Have a good look around and you’ll find that most surfaces have a satisfyingly solid feel. It feels every inch a premium SUV and you get a sense that you’re paying a bit more than you would for a more mainstream rival for a reason.
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Practicality & boot space
Space in the front of the Q3 is very generous, with enough head, leg and shoulder room to accommodate people well over six feet tall. Space in the back is a bit tighter, especially if there’s anyone particularly tall sitting in the front. There’s plenty of space for younger children – indeed the Q3 works fine as a family car if you have little ones. But older children and adults might not feel like they have enough room to stretch out. While you do get a raised seating position, you don’t really get much more space than you do in an equivalent Audi A3 hatchback.
For storage, there are door bins big enough to hold a phone and a wallet; cupholders; a compartment between the front seats; and a glovebox big enough for a family’s road trip snacks.
The Q3’s boot is an average size for a mid-size SUV, with a capacity of 460 litres. That’s plenty big enough for most family’s day-to-day needs – carrying pushchairs, school bags, food shopping, dogs and so on. Packing for a week away shouldn’t present any issues, either. The boot floor is level with the back bumper, though the back bumper itself is some way off the ground.
Models with a spare wheel under the boot floor have slightly reduced space, down to 420 litres. That’s a couple of shoe boxes smaller.
If you need more room to load items into your Q3, the back seats fold down in a two-piece 60/40 split. That frees up a usefully large 1,325 litres of space for heavy-duty shopping trips and runs to the tip. Be aware that the back end of the car slopes down quite steeply, which could be an issue if you need to load in anything really big.
If you’ve got a large caravan or trailer to tow, look for the most powerful diesel, four-wheel-drive models, which can tow up to 2,000kg.
What you’ll notice most from behind the Q3’s steering wheel is how safe it feels. The suspension generally gives a smooth ride over bumps and holes in the road so the car doesn’t get bounced around. It grips well through corners, giving you confidence that the car will go exactly where you point the steering wheel. Its compact size means the Q3 is easy to park, yet it feels solid when cruising along the motorway.
Overall, it’s a very pleasant car to drive and to travel in, if not especially fun. If you really enjoy driving, there are other mid-size SUVs that give you a more exciting driving experience.
Whichever of the available engines it has, the Q3 provides a good level of performance. Even the least powerful ones have enough get-up-and-go to quickly overtake slow-moving traffic on a country road or to cruise comfortably along the motorway at 70mph. Some of the more powerful models can accelerate as quickly as a high-performance hot hatchback, which can be quite amusing if you’re in the mood. But those engines are less fuel-efficient.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
The Q3 is pretty fuel-efficient for an SUV. According to official figures, models with a petrol engine can give you an average 36mpg to 51mpg, depending on the model. The diesel versions give you at least 50mpg and some can do more than 60mpg.
With good fuel economy comes low carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Petrol Q3 models emit CO2 at a rate of 127g/km to 179g/km, diesels are rated at 117g/km to 144g/km. So your annual car tax charges are fairly low.
Value for money
Being a premium-brand car, the Audi Q3 costs a bit more to buy than an equivalent SUV from Ford or Nissan, for example. You really can tell where the extra money goes in a Q3, though, especially in the interior. It feels like a much higher-quality product. And you may feel that’s worth spending a bit more for.
Reliability & Warranty
Audi has a strong reputation for building high-quality, reliable cars, although it doesn’t always score highly in independent customer satisfaction surveys.
All Q3s of this generation came with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty but, since the most recent ones were sold new in 2018, that protection will have expired by now.
Safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded a full five-star safety to this Q3 model in 2011, saying it should provide excellent protection in a crash and it’s fitted with five airbags. Being an older design of car, this generation of Q3 doesn’t have some of the more advanced driver-safety features fitted to more recent cars, but some models do have blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist.
Trims & Engines
The Q3 is available with three ‘core’ trim levels – SE, Sport and S Line. On top of that, there’s S LIne Edition, S Line Plus and Black Edition, which get packages of extra features and styling details.
SE is the entry-point; Sport has a bit of a sportier look with body-colour exterior trim and a different wheel design; S Line models are sportier again, having deeper bumpers, bigger wheels, lower suspension, sports seats and a sports steering wheel.
Audi added to the Q3’s standard features several times while it was on sale, so models sold later on were better equipped than earlier ones. Even so, all Q3s are pretty well equipped with features including dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, radio/CD player and parking sensors. Many models also have cruise control and sat nav.
There are two petrol engines and one diesel available in the Q3, though the choice is actually a little more complicated than that because some of the engines are available with different amounts of bhp.
The most popular petrol engine is called the 1.4 TFSI CoD. It’s a 1.4-litre petrol engine with 147bhp and ‘cylinder on demand’ technology. That shuts down two of the engine’s four cylinders when you’re cruising at a steady speed to improve efficiency.
The larger 2.0 TFSI petrol engine is available with three different amounts of bhp – 167, 177 and 208. The more bhp, the faster the car, but there is a penalty to pay in lower fuel economy.
The 2.0 TDI diesel engine is also available with different amounts of bhp – 138, 147, 174 or 181bhp. The first two are most popular because they’re the most efficient.
Pick any of these engines and you have the choice of a manual or automatic gearbox. The 2.0 TFSI and 2.0 TDI engines in all their versions are also available with four-wheel drive, which Audi calls quattro.
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