German luxury car maker Audi offer all sizes of SUV within their Q range, from the subcompact Q3 all the way to the midsize Q7. However, America’s favorite Audi is the Q5, a compact SUV which outsold all other Audi models last year.
But which SUV is the right one for you? Choosing between an Audi Q3 and Q5 can be tricky.
At first it might seem to be a simple question of smaller subcompact vs bigger compact SUV, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two 5-seater SUVs from Audi.
The base model Q5 costs $8250 more than the base model Q3.
The Q3 and Q5 are available in 3 trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.
Right off the bat the Q5 will cost at least $8250 more than the Audi Q3. This price gap can further increase when you choose a different trim or add option packages.
While you might expect the Q5 to have better standard features than the Q3, it is not always the case. For example, the base model Q3 has a panoramic sunroof, whereas you’ll need to option it for $1,450 on the base model Q5.
But whichever model you consider, Audi include a generous number of standard features compared to other luxury German manufacturers. A digital instrument cluster and sliding/reclining rear seats come as standard, features which either cost extra or are unavailable on the comparable BMW X1/X3 and Mercedes GLA/GLC.
The Q5 is longer, taller and wider than the Q3.
The main thing that separates these two SUVs is size. The Q3 belongs to the subcompact SUV segment whereas the Q5 belongs to the compact SUV segment.
Here’s how the two SUVs measure up:
|Audi Q3||Audi Q5|
As shown, the Q5 is bigger across the board. It’s 7 inches longer, 2 inches taller and almost two inches wider. It also has a higher ground clearance, although the Audi Q3 will still comfortably mount curbs without clipping its side skirts.
The Audi Q3 has a sportier design which shares similarities with the Audi e-tron.
While visually similar, the Audi Q3 has a few styling differences that make it look sportier and arguably better than the relatively conservative Q5.
Both SUVs have Audi’s trademark single frame front-grille, but the Audi Q3’s grille gets vertical striping (that’s also seen on the new Q7). Its LED headlights also have a more distinctive shape that borrows its design from the Audi e-tron. Overall, the whole package just looks a bit more fun and interesting.
In person, the Q5 has a bit more presence thanks to its larger dimensions. Also, its understated design might be preferable for some drivers.
The Q3’s interior was recently overhauled, giving it a more up-to-date and angular appearance compared to the Q5’s interior.
Many buyers would understandably assume the more expensive Q5 has an objectively superior interior, but that isn’t quite the case.
Thanks to receiving a more recent update, the Audi Q3’s interior is newer than that of the Audi Q5. Audi have mixed angles up to give the Q3’s interior a sharper look, and by comparison the Q5’s older interior looks rather boring and less modern.
The Q3’s 8.8” infotainment display is also nicely integrated into the dashboard, whereas in the Q5 it’s just been tacked on at the top.
While both SUVs feature Audi’s industry-leading digital instrument clusters, the Audi Q3 has a slightly higher definition screen that is noticeably clearer when using Google Maps. Optioning the 12.3″ Audi Virtual Cockpit will give you the same screen, however.
With all that said, the Audi Q5 does have its own strengths. It mixes more upscale materials, so overall you do get a more premium feel.
Passenger room is very similar in the front row, but the Q5 provides significantly more space for passengers in the back.
So does the Q5’s bigger dimensions translate into a roomier cabin for passengers? Yes, although differences are only significant in the back row.
At the front, the Q3 doesn’t feel much less spacious than the Q5. It offers 39.6 inches of head room, 40.0 inches of legroom and 56.7 inches of shoulder room. By comparison, the Q5 offers 40.2 inches of head room (with sunroof), 41.0 inches of legroom and 57.7 inches of shoulder room.
However, the back feels noticeably more roomy in the Audi Q5. Almost 2 inches of additional legroom and 1.5 additional inches of shoulder room makes things less cramped for passengers.
Although two adult passengers will fit comfortably in the Q3, it becomes a squeeze with a third passenger. Shoulders rub against one another and taller people’s knees will clash as they need to adopt a wider stance to compensate for the lesser legroom.
The Q5 has more cargo space, but only by a small margin.
As well as having more room for passengers, the Q5 also has a larger cargo value. However, the difference isn’t quite significant enough to make the Q5 a much more practical vehicle.
The Q3 has 23.7 cubic feet of cargo volume when the rear row of seats is up. In this configuration, the Audi Q5 has 25.1 cubic feet—an increase of 1.4 cubic feet. That extra space will allow you to load another small case, but not much more.
The Q5 has a 5 cubic feet advantage when rear row seats are folded down. This lets you load in more stuff and potentially another Medium/Large suitcase.
Families going on holiday won’t be able to take advantage of all the Q5’s extra cargo space if kids are occupying the back row. But 40/20/40 split folding seats mean you can at least recoup some of the extra room if there are fewer than 3 passengers at the back.
Both vehicles have a 2.0-liter turbo Inline-4 petrol engine with Quattro all-wheel drive as standard. The Q5 has DSG transmission whereas the Q3 has a tiptronic transmission.
Those across the Atlantic can choose between a diesel and petrol engine, but buyers in the US are limited to a 2.0-liter, turbo Inline-4 petrol engine in both the Q3 and Q5. This goes by the name of 45 TFSI®.
Small differences do, however, make the Q5 45 TFSI slightly higher spec. It produces 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The Q3 45 TFSI produces 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
This additional power doesn’t just account for the extra weight of the Q5, but makes it a higher performing SUV. The Q5 goes from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, around a second faster than the Q3. Both the Q3 and Q5 are speed limited to 130 mph.
Both models get Audi’s patented quattro all-wheel drive system as standard. However, the Audi Q5 has a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, whereas the Q3 gets an 8-speed tiptronic automatic transmission. Audi have recently been moving most of their vehicles towards the tiptronic gearboxes, but it is not necessarily a better gearbox.
The Q3 achieves 19/27/24 mpg (city/highway/combined). The Q5 has superior gas mileage—22/27/24 mpg (city/highway/combined).
Ride Quality and Drive Experience
Both vehicles offer comfortable rides, but the Q3 feels more agile.
Audi are renowned for delivering a refined ride that prioritizes luxury and comfort for passengers. Neither the Q3 or Q5 disappoint in this regard. The cabins are sealed tight from outside noise and their suspension makes sure you can’t feel the kinks in the road.
A slight shame is the lack of an adaptive air suspension option for either of these models in the US. For this luxury you’ll have to either consider the more expensive SQ5 or Q7.
Moving onto how things are behind the wheel, smaller dimensions and a lower center of gravity means the Q3 is slightly better at handling corners. On the other hand, the S tronic dual-clutch transmission in the Q5 means gear shifts feel snappier and more fun when driving in manual mode. Its superior acceleration also gives it more oomph.
The Q3 and Q5 performed well in crash tests and share the same standard safety features.
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t rated the Q3 yet, the Q5 received a 5-star overall safety rating.
To compare the two, we can instead refer to IIHS and Euro NCAP safety ratings. Both the Q3 and Q5 were given the highest possible ‘Good’ across the board in IIHS crash tests. They were also both given 5-star overall ratings in Euro NCAP crash testing.
Both cars have a good range of safety features as standard; 6 airbags, rear view camera and ABS. As standard you’ll also get Audi pre sense® basic with pedestrian detection, and Audi Side Assist is available in higher trims.
Hopefully this article has clarified the differences between the Audi Q3 and its bigger sibling, the Audi Q5.
While they’re both good SUVs, and some people will want the added space in the Q5, it does feel like right now is a better time to buy a Q3.
That’s because it was more recently updated with a modern interior and stylish exterior that few other subcompact SUVs can match.
By comparison, the Audi Q5 feels a little outdated, despite just entering its second generation a few years back in 2018. A few tweaks here and there could easily change that, but right now it might be worth holding off until the next update.
Let us know your thoughts on the Audi Q3 vs the Audi Q5 by leaving a comment below!