Audi Q3 2.0-TDI SE

July 2011

picture of car from the front

Familiar Audi styling may be a bit of a disappointment


Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 9Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


  • Usual highly desirable all-round package
  • Interior is classy and well made
  • Down-to-earth driving experience of front-wheel drive model really appeals
  • Impressive economy across the range


  • Q5 sibling is its biggest rival
  • Derivative styling is a little disappointing
  • Firm ride in S-line specification
  • Limited off-road ability

Audi's SUV offerings in the form of the Q7 then Q5 have become a huge success for the German firm, and despite being relatively new to their respective sectors both have rivaled established opposition effectively. A logical progression has been followed with the introduction of the Q3, the smallest model in the SUV range to serve increasing demand for these types of cars.

A cursory glance could mistake the Q3 for its bigger Q5 brother such is the similarity in exterior design. That's not necessarily a bad thing however as looks do play a big part in buying decisions in this sector. There are also clear elements of the A1 too, and this indicates the Q3's role in trying to tempt buyers who may have previously thought an SUV was too big or too intimidating to be a realistic purchase.

The mechanical make-up of the Q3 also follows on from the bigger Q5 and encompasses the best Audi technology available. The four-engine line up is all turbocharged with a choice of two petrol and two diesel offerings, all of which come with a stop/start system as standard and energy recuperation designed to achieve maximum efficiency. Crucially the Q3 is available in front-wheel drive with the lowest output diesel engine, and in this form is capable of remarkable economy and emissions performance.

Other than the high-economy version all Q3s come with the expected quattro four-wheel drive system, and transmission options are six-speed manual and a revised version of the seven-speed dual clutch S-tronic which will disengage the clutch when the driver lifts off the throttle to give a more efficient coasting mode. Choose the Drive Select system and an Efficiency mode is included designed to maximise fuel savings.

Inside the Q3 offers similar space to that of a conventional family hatchback, just with the added quality of a typical Audi cabin and the high seating position that is so desirable. It also can be specified with a huge range of high-tech kit usually reserved for models higher up the ladder; online connectivity to Google and in-vehicle WLAN hot spot are all available.

Our verdict on the Audi Q3 2.0-TDI SE

Destined to be as popular as its larger Q5 and Q7 cousins, the Q3 is another car from Audi plugging what the German firm thinks is another potentially lucrative niche. In real terms the Q3 straddles the line between conventional SUV and compact lifestyle hatchback. Audi's A3 is the firm's volume-selling hatchback but this is a conventional three and five-door model. The Q3's appeal lies in its ability to lead people up the ownership ladder to bigger and better SUVs.

Costs rating 9

The Q3's list price is on a par with its premium rivals but the real bonus is the impressively low running costs. Excellent economy and emissions performance will make it a cheap car to fuel and tax, while insurance costs will be average for a car at this price point.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

The Q3 makes the most of its relatively modes proportions. All cabin occupants have decent head and legroom, although taller drivers may want to do without the optional sunroof as it does reduce headroom a fraction. The boot is also a generous size with the option of folding the rear seats to create a large and long load area.

picture of car from the rear

Rear view very similar to bigger Q5

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

Unsurprisingly the Q3 uses a good deal of familiar switchgear and instrumentation from elsewhere in the Audi range, and this is certainly used to good effect. The dashboard layout is clear and attractive while the standard display screen and control system is easy to operate and understand.

Comfort Rating 8

SE specification brings with it the standard suspension set up and smaller alloys wheels, and to avoid the slightly firm ride of the S line model this is the specification of choice. Wind and road noise levels are well contained and all the engines options are refined.

Car security
Security Rating 8

All Q3 models come with an approved alarm and immobiliser system for a high level of security, and anyone seeking extra protection can raid the options list for a tracking device.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

Even in front-wheel drive form the Q3 is packed with safety equipment with eight airbags, ESP and automatic activation of headlights and wipers. Extra security is provided by Quattro four-wheel drive versions, and the options list contains features such as blind spot and lane departure warning systems.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

While the obvious choice may be one of the two higher-output models, in many ways the front-wheel drive 2.0 TDI is the pick of the range. Without the weight of four-wheel drive it feels lighter on its toes and it steers a little more keenly as a result. It is more than quick enough with strong torque and a slick six-speed gearbox to exploit it, and there is also the satisfaction of achieving excellent fuel consumption when driven with restraint.

picture of car interior

High quality of cabin is a typical Audi trait

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 9

Family buyers will make up a large slice of the Q3's target audience and it has all the right attributes to satisfy those needs. Good space for passengers and luggage, a good view out from all the seats and the option of high-quality audio should keep all ages happy.

First car appeal
First car Rating 6

The Q3 would be manageable for a new driver and even be relatively cheap to run, but the purchase price would put it beyond most newly-qualified drivers.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

A high level of quality is taken as read with any modern Audi and the Q3 does not disappoint, despite being one of the more modestly priced offerings. Fit and finish are excellent and the materials used are of a very high standard. Despite their ubiquity Audis still have a strong image and are considered a desirable car.

Accessibility Rating

The Q3 has a high ride height but is no leviathan, and so climbing aboard is problem-free. Front and rear seats will be at the right height for most people, while the boot floor is also at a comfortable height.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A multitude of audio options are available to a Q3 buyer but even the standard-issue radio/CD unit also offers an SD card reader, MP3 interface and Bluetooth connectivity as well as good audio reproduction. Upgrade to a full Bang & Olufsen system and it will accept a wide range of input formats and superb quality sounds.

picture of car in detail

Both TDI engines are powerful and flexible

Colours and trim

Although the standard issue sober metallics are well suited to many Audi designs the Q3 also looks very presentable in brighter hues. On the inside the trim is up to the usual high Audi standards, but in many ways the standard cloth trim is more appealing than the commonly-specified leather.


A high seating position and good visibility means straightforward parking, while rear parking sensors are standard across the range. The optional upgraded parking system can include front sensors or even a rear-view camera.

Spare wheel

Emergency tyre repair kit as standard with option of full size spare.


Range information

Petrol engine options - 2.0-litre (168bhp and 208bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.0-litre (138bhp and 175bhp). Transmission options: Six-speed manual fitted to lower output models, seven-speed dual clutch automatic fitted to higher output models. Trim levels: SE and S line.


Alternative cars

BMW X1 Odd looks, decent drive and strong engine range

Land Rover Freelander Kudos and off-road ability but not in most efficient two-wheel drive version

Volkswagen Tiguan In-house rival is just as competent

Mini Countryman More of a high-riding hatch but option of four-wheel drive

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July 2011