Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4

Living with a 2018 Audi Q3

Ah, the Audi Q3. One of those cars that previously failed to register on my radar. That’s not to say it was particularly terrible or offensive, but I just struggled to find anything appealing about it. I thought the ballooned-A1 styling was lazy, while the interior and driving experience were as bland as couscous.

The previous one also felt like it had been on sale for...well, forever, so its replacement in 2018 seemed well overdue.

Now in its second generation, this one feels like it’s found the mojo it never had. The old model’s sad-looking face has been replaced with something far more striking and, while the rest of the car looks similar in profile and design, it’s far less dumpy overall.

Audi Q3 2018 S line, grey, side

The front grille is large and dominates the face, but in a good way, and the angular vents and LED light signatures add a touch of aggression. I'm not sure the design would still feel fresh after another eight years though, should this generation remain on sale for the same length of time.

Which Audi Q3 do we have?

We've got ourselves the best-selling model: the 35 TFSI S line. The lower-emission two-wheel drive version should mean lower running costs over the four-wheel drive Quattro model and the petrol engine means it’s more refined than its diesel counterpart - if you keep it below 4,000rpm that is.

The 35 TFSI engine produces 150hp, but never feels sprightly. If anything it feels a little underpowered and perhaps a little strangled. You can't help but feel a little short-changed with this lacklustre performance when the price tag is more than £33,000; even more so when ours is optioned up to be over £37,500. The PCP finance costs are similarly high. The good news is that Q3s continue to be offered with low monthly prices on Personal leasing (PCH) contracts.

Audi Q3 2018 35 TFSI rear badge

It might be less thirsty than the 2.0-litre 45 TFSI petrol (that’s the 230hp version to us) on paper, but we’ll soon see if the larger engine is worth paying extra for. Otherwise, the 1.5-litre TFSI engine and myself have something in common: we’re not too happy about having to physically work hard. And that pretty much sums up the whole car really.

Drive the Q3 in a relaxed manner and you're right in this car’s sweet spot; it’s comfortable, quiet, refined and relaxing. Just like Tom Goodlad’s A5 long-termer, I don't care about driving fast in it at all - I'll just waft everywhere. Ask any more from it though, and it begins to falls apart (not literally, but dynamically).

Audi Q3 2018 35 TFSI automatic

We're running the smooth-shifting S tronic automatic gearbox and it’s largely impressive. The biggest reservation we have so far is that it needs heavy throttle inputs before it responds. It's fine on the move when it will downchange for you when you need to pick up the pace, but it's way behind our BMW M140i and its telepathic response. The hesitation when setting off at standstill at junctions is what kills it though, even if Audi is not the only manufacturer to suffer from it (Jaguar Land Rover I'm looking at you).

First impressions

We’ll delve into the options we’ve chosen in the next update but, for now, I’m looking forward to spending some time in something that could while away the miles. It’s not the most exciting car to drive, especially as it serves as the successor to the rapid and much-missed Peugeot 308 GTi, but that might be a good thing when all you want is a nice place to wind down after a hectic day.

Hopefully it’s not so effective to be sleep-inducing, but for now, it's far more memorable than a Volkswagen Tiguan – a car I only know I've driven due to pictorial evidence.

Update 2: what options have we got?

Audi Q3 2018 35 TFSI S line rear

Our Q3 is certainly one of the smarter looking cars on the Parkers long-term fleet, but even in S line trim, it’s not the most striking to look at. In the not-too-distant past, opting for an Audi S line model would come with a big bodykit, chunky alloy wheels and a detox of chrome detailing – all swapped out for gloss black highlights. In short, it would visually look like a high-end model, sitting just below the full-fat S and RS sports models.

Now though, our Q3 S line sits in the middle of the range and almost looks like a halfway house. We certainly like the bigger 19-inch wheels, rear privacy glass and sportier bumpers, but to get the de-chromed look, you’ll have to get the flagship Vorsprung model. At the time of writing, the cheapest one of those is a whole ten grand more than the cheapest S line model. Ouch.

I mean, how many cans of spray paint can you get for that?

Audi Q3 2018 chrome windowline

Once you get over that though, I still quite like how our long termer looks. I think the best way to view it is from the side at a height, as it brings out all the crease lines that lend it a more muscular look. Otherwise, without them in view, our small SUV can look a little slab-sided - especially in our darker Chronos grey colour.

Speaking of which, this shade of grey hasn’t been much of a hit with people. It’s certainly not an offensive colour, but the slightly yellow-ey basecoat almost makes this look like a Nardo Grey that’s gone stale.

Still, the brighter Turbo blue is available, as is Pulse orange for the same price. Or if you have to have grey, the deeper, pearlescent Daytona shade can be had.

Audi Q3 colour, Chronos grey and Turbo blue

Elsewhere, the fitted options on our Q3 comprise of:

  • Storage Pack
  • Multi coloured ambient lighting
  • Virtual cockpit Plus
  • Flat-bottom steering wheel
  • Electric front seats
  • Heated front seats
  • Electric folding door mirrors
  • Four-way lumbar support
  • Parking system plus
  • Audi Sound System

The multi-coloured ambient lighting option allows you to choose between 30 different colours, with added lighting strips on the front and rear doors and an illuminated Audi logo (or Quattro, if you chose that option), on the dash in front of the passenger. The light-up doors I definitely approve of, but that logo? Feels like overcompensation to me.

The Storage Pack includes nets on the back of the front seats, a storage compartment under the front passenger seat, owner’s manual holder under the driver’s seat, luggage net in the boot and two LED lights in the tailgate. The latter makes a big difference at night as they shine down when the tailgate is open.

Virtual cockpit Plus brings a larger 12.3-inch digital instrument screen, upgrading from the 10.25 version and helps the Q3 look more premium.

Audi Q3 2018 Virtual Cockpit Plus option

The Audi Sound System upgrade is also worthy, with a 180 watt output being fed through 10 speakers and a sub-woofer, rather than the standard six. It may not be the Bang & Olufsen system found on Vorsprung models, but feels like a worthy stepping stone to the full Volume 11 option.

Most of these options have been useful, adding to the Q3s comfort and convenience, although some of us would expect a few of these to come as standard, especially the seat functions.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel option is also not worth £250, especially when it looks so out of place in an SUV. The Q5 didn’t have one either and I never missed it in this kind of car, so if you are having to pick and choose between your options, this is easily one to forgo.

Any other options available?

The other options available on our S line model extend to a rear-view camera, adaptive suspension, rear side airbags, space saver spare wheel, a panoramic glass roof, high-beam assist, wireless phone charging and driver assistance technology including adaptive cruise control, park assist and traffic sign recognition.

Again, we’d expect a rear-view camera to be standard at this price point, but other than the spare wheel, these are the only two additions we’d make. We’ve yet to try a Q3 with adaptive suspension, but we’ll find out when we compare this with the 45 TFSI. More soon.

Update 3: Should I consider a VW Tiguan instead?

Audi Q3 or 2019 VW Tiguan?

Since the Q3 uses the same platform as the similarly-sized and cheaper Volkswagen Tiguan, SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq, is it worth the extra outlay to opt for our long termer?

That’s quite an important question to ask if you’re keeping an eye on your budget, so we’ve brought the Tiguan here to compare. The trouble is, whenever anyone mentions this medium-sized SUV from VW, I always find myself asking a more fundamental question instead: Have I even driven a Tiguan before?

That pretty much says how memorable this car is to me, which may sound a little harsh, but if I have to scroll through my phone for pictorial evidence of one to remind me of it, that’s quite telling.

This time, though, having spent a prolonged amount of time with a 1.5-litre Match, I’m more of a fan. So much so, I think it makes more sense than my Q3.

This particular Tiguan isn’t a direct comparison with my Q3 S line in terms of equipment, but this VW still comes with plenty of kit despite being approximately £6,000 cheaper. Sure enough, it doesn’t have drive modes, electric seats, virtual cockpit, or a powered tailgate, but the only thing I genuinely wished for was the last item when I had to manually open and close the boot lid. And that’s just because I’m lazy.

VW Tiguan 2019 driving position

Besides, it won’t cost £6,000 to option the Tiguan back up if you wanted a few choice options.

You can read a more in-depth comparison with these two in our twin test (linked below), but in short, I got on with the Tiguan far better than I expected.

They both drive like an SUV but the suspension on the Q3 feels unnecessarily firm with no real benefit and my long-termer’s gearbox is also more ponderous. The engine is a little bit sweeter in the Tiguan in that it’s willing to rev a bit higher if you ask more from it, and it’s a little more refined with the absence of steering wheel vibrations under acceleration.

The engine is less rough on a cold start, too.

We averaged a reasonable 38.9mpg during my time of testing in the Tiguan, and while that’s possible in the Q3, it felt more attainable in this VW on a regular basis. Perhaps because the engine doesn’t feel like it’s being worked so hard in this one.

VW Tiguan 2019 rear seats

Ergonomically, the cabin is better in the Tiguan with the larger rotary knobs for the climate control and shortcut keys for the touchscreen. Plus, the absence of black headlining means it’s a brighter place to spend time in, while those in the rear are treated to folding tables.

The biggest gripe with the Tiguan was the stubborn sat-nav, which was completely unwilling to reroute when I had to follow a diversion off the A1. We were halfway down the diverted route before the system finally stopped telling me to do a U-turn.

So, Tiguan or Q3? If you’re choosing the 1.5-litre engine, get the Tiguan. The posher Q3 makes much more sense with a bigger engine, distancing itself away from the Tiguan to feel like a genuine upgrade. Since you need to spend the extra cash for a Q3, you may as well get a better engine to suit anyway.

Audi Q3 vs 2019 VW Tiguan

Read the full twin test between these two SUVs

Update 4: long-distance comfort

Audi Q3 2018 driving position

It’s time to focus on my long termer’s comfort. Yes, I still miss how the Peugeot 308 GTi made the majority of my journeys fun, but if the Audi can be so comfortable to while away any long distance trips before I get bored, I’m all for it. Our previous long-term Q5 and A5 cabriolet were fantastic at this, but does having a lower number in its name automatically mean it’s a downgrade?

Not necessarily. The cabin might look more upmarket than most rivals, but it doesn’t take long to see where costs have been cut in the choice of materials used. That said, all the important features required to make long journeys tolerable for me are mainly here.

Granted, there are a few optional extras that help: heated front seats, four-way lumbar support and electric adjustment are all individual options added to our car, but the firm bolstering on the seats already go a long way for providing long-distance support. The adjustable seat base is also a bonus for those with longer legs.

Audi Q3 2018 front seats

The optional multicoloured ambient lighting may not be the most practical way of spending your money, but it does make a big difference. Jump into a rival, or even any car without it and you almost feel blind as you can’t see where parts of the cabin are outlined. It’s makes a huge difference in reducing tiredness, especially when driving on un-lit roads, and makes more of a difference on our darker S line model with its black headlining.

Besides, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff anyway, even if the light-up Audi badge on the dash is vile enough to make me wince – but thankfully it’s out of sight most of the time

The Audi Sound System upgrade is also worth having, with its 180 watt output being fed through 10 speakers and a sub-woofer, rather than the standard six. It may not be the Bang & Olufsen system found on Vorsprung models, but feels like a worthy stepping stone to the full Volume 11 option.

Audi Q3 2018 road comfort

Move away from the options list and you have a very refined and comfortable SUV. The ride quality is firmer on this S line model, but still isolates bumps from entering the cabin. Road noise is also well suppressed, while wind noise around the windows is only notably present at motorway speeds. The engine needs working hard to get up to speed and sounds like it’s in pain when doing so, but it will settle down blissfully into the background.

There are also little details which can make a weekend of driving slightly less stressful and the Q3’s range on a full tank of fuel is one of them. We normally see at least 475 miles indicated on the trip computer and we have seen this creep up to 500 miles on occasion, meaning we can just get on our way without searching for a fuel stop - the diesel model should be even better.

The standard-fit LED headlights are bright and have a fantastic range, while the sat-nav was also good at navigating into London, if a little less so out – this inconsistent choice of routing is the same with most manufacturer systems, but we were genuinely surprised with this one. It was certainly more successful at tackling the same route than my previous Peugeot 308 GTi or a Kia Niro PHEV, that’s for sure.

Audi Q3 2018 sat-nav

Any gripes?

The indicators are far too quiet, especially when other members of the team have had their vocal toddler in the back seat alerting them the presence of every other car on the road. In terms of keeping the cabin as quiet as possible, you could facetiously view this level of detail as something to be applauded, but in reality it’s just annoying.

So there it is, perhaps a slightly personal list tailored to my requirements when it comes to comfort, but it’s still one that the Q3 ticks off with ease. I was fearing the three and a half hour slog up to Newcastle to see some friends but the Q3 shrugged it off without hesitation.

Check back with our long termer as we include more updates

Long-term test: Audi Q3
Real-world economy
34.6mpg, 72% of official
Official economy / MPP 47.9mpg / 6.7 - 6.8
Joined Parkers
January 2019

By Lawrence Cheung

Read about the rest of our long-term fleet