Audi Q3 vs Volkswagen Tiguan

  • Two popular family SUVs head-to-head
  • Both use similar mechanical components
  • Should you pay the extra for the Audi badge?

Audi has long been seen as the more expensive, flashier version of Volkswagen, but now they’re competing with each other in several areas of the car market with rebodied and redesigned versions of (largely) the same vehicle.

That’s the case for the Audi Q3 and Volkswagen Tiguan, a pair of medium-sized crossover SUVs aimed to appeal to families. But with the Audi costing £5,000 more than the VW at the entry point to the range, is it worth paying the extra for that badge?

These aren’t the only options – far from it. Some of the best SUVs out there consist of the Skoda Karoq and Kodiaq, the larger Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 as well as the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40.

What are the model ranges like?

Incredibly comprehensive. Go for the Audi and there’s a choice of Sport, S Line and Vorsprung specifications, the S Line (pictured here) being the most popular with UK buyers with a slightly sportier look inside and out.

In terms of engines, there’s a 35 TFSI with 150hp, 40 TFSI with 190hp and 45 TFSI with 230hp, as well as a range of diesels – a 35 TDI with 150hp and 40 TDI with 190hp. Manual and S Tronic gearboxes are available on the 35 engines, while all others come exclusively with the auto transmission. Quattro is also available on much of the range, but most buyers won’t really need it.

Unsurprisingly, you can add plenty of kit from the options list, significantly bumping up the price of the car – both in terms of cash and monthly finance payments.

The Tiguan comes with more options – S, Match, SEL and R-Line Tech trim levels with a selection of engines. The line-up consists of the same petrol engines as the Audi – a 1.5 TSI and a pair of 2.0-litre TSIs, as well as the same 150hp and 190hp diesels, bookended with a 1.6-litre TDI with 115hp (only available on the S) and a BiTDI with 240hp. As with the Audi, all-wheel drive 4Motion is available on higher-output engines, as well as a DSG transmission across the majority of the range.  

What are they like inside?

This is where you notice the biggest difference between the two cars – the Q3’s interior design feels far more modern and interesting than the VW’s.

2019 Audi Q3 S Line interior

The dashboard design of the Audi is much more angular with some neat details such as the climate controls, Virtual Cockpit and pieces of silver trim detailing. Audi’s MMI Touch infotainment is also easier to use and looks better integrated into the dash than the Tiguan’s touchscreen, plus is closer to hand for the driver.

However, the quality isn’t really superior to the VW’s, which feels solid and well-built with pleasant materials used throughout – it’s just that it has a simpler design which will appeal to those who think the Q3’s cabin is a little fussy. The VW’s dash is also very easy to navigate with excellent ergonomics and a clean, simple layout – it’s the one to pick for ease of use and simplicity, if not outright premium look and feel. The single row of climate control buttons are easier to locate visually when on the move, compared with the small, square ones on the Q3.

2019 VW Tiguan Match interior

The Q3 claws one back by having its drive mode controls just ahead of the gearlever on a raised platform, rather than having them surround the gearlever in the Tiguan, where they can be difficult to view – a by-product perhaps, of the conversion from left to right-hand drive.

Are they practical?

Both cars pack an impressively spacious cabin into a relatively compact body, but it’s the Tiguan that edges it with a greater sense of space and airier cabin compared with the Audi.

That’s not to say the Q3 isn’t practical. In the front there’s plenty of space with a good amount of adjustment, while sliding rear seats let you expand legroom in the back or extra length in the boot. The backrests also tip to recline. However, the Q3 does feel a bit more compact in the back due to smaller windows and a slightly lower roofline. The Tiguan’s boxy shape really benefits it here and feels the more spacious option – three will fit across the rear bench easily.

2019 VW Tiguan boot

It also offers more storage inside the car with a large, flexible area between the front seats for odds and ends, large door bins and tray tables in the back, while the boot measures in at 615 litres. With the Q3’s seats as far back as possible, the boot offers 530 litres of space. But if you slide the seats forwards, up to 675 litres of space is freed up so you can pick and choose what your priorities are.

Both cars are available with useful touches such as a double-height boot floor and electric tailgates, the latter of which you’ll have to pay extra for, while the Audi can be specified with an optional storage pack which throws in load bay nets and hooks to keep loose items in check.

What are they like to drive?

It won’t be surprising to learn the two cars feel fairly similar on the move, especially as they come with the same powertrains. However, some differences can be drawn, especially as the two in this test feature the same 150hp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol and automatic transmission, but with quite a different feel from each.

2019 Audi Q3 S Line rear

They both drive like an SUV but the suspension feels more polished in the Tiguan. There’s less pitch, it’s firm enough to feel composed, but it’s not bouncy like the Q3 – which doesn’t benefit from having this at all. The gearbox is ever-so-slightly less ponderous in the VW and the engine is willing to rev a bit higher if you ask more from it. It doesn’t feel as rough and there’s a reduced amount of steering vibration under acceleration. It’s also smoother in the VW when running from cold.

We’ve found the 1.5-litre engine to be a very different experience in many cars across the VW Group – it doesn’t feel the same in any two cars so it’s worth trying it out if it suits your needs. However, the 2.0-litre petrol units are far smoother and quieter so it could be worth it for the extra refinement.

2019 VW Tiguan Match rear

Similarly, the torque offered by the diesels could be more suitably to family life, especially if you regularly undertake long journeys.

The Tiguan offers greater comfort than the Q3, and is very easy to drive. Again, the Audi feels similar, but the sportier suspension setup of popular S Line models makes it a little more fidgety compared with the composed VW.

What about finance?

It’s slightly more difficult to compare the two in terms of PCP finance costs, as there aren’t any clear like-for-like trim levels.

However, the Q3 in entry-level Sport trim comes packed with a long list of standard kit, which is most closely matched by the Tiguan in SEL spec with LED lights front and rear, digital dials and ambient lighting.   

The following quotes are based on a £3,000 customer deposit, 10,000-mile-per-year limit and 48-month contract:

Q3 Sport 35 TFSI S Tronic – £397 per month (with £1,900 Audi deposit contribution)

Tiguan SEL 1.5 TSI DSG - £372 per month (with £2,000 VW deposit contribution)

You get the same basic equipment in the two cars, however the VW in SEL spec adds luxuries like panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist and reversing camera that you have to pay extra for on the Audi.

The Parkers Verdict

VW Tiguan vs Audi Q3 rear shot

With a logical head on, the Tiguan wins this test. You get more equipment spec-for-spec, there’s a wider selection of engines to choose from and it’s a more practical family option. In isolation it’s also very appealing thanks to VW’s classy and refined image and classless reputation.

It’s very easy to drive with good visibility and standard-fit driver aids such as front and rear parking sensors that just makes life a little easier.

By no means should you ignore the Q3 though, especially as there’s a more premium look and feel inside and out compared with the VW, and undeniable appeal in that Audi badge. However, it doesn’t really do anything the Tiguan can’t, plus it’s more appealing in more expensive S Line trim, but without offering the extra kit. We’ve also found its appeal can vary depending on the engine fitted, and is sadly a much better car with more expensive engine and trim combinations.

Fancy something smaller? Read about our selection of the best small SUVs to buy, or see the alternatives to the Audi and VW in our best SUVs list.

Read more: What's the Audi Q3 like to live with? Read our report here