German luxury car maker Audi offers all sizes of SUV within their Q range, from the subcompact Q3 all the way to the midsize Q7 and Q8. However, America’s favorite Audi is the Q5, a compact SUV which outsold all other Audi models last year.
But which Audi 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 crossover, 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 Audi Q5 is the Q3’s big brother, bigger in size and more performance to boot. There aren’t any must-know differences beyond that, other than the Q5 having a fuel efficient plug-in hybrid version.
The base model Q5 costs $9300 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 $9300 more than the Audi Q3. The base model Premium Q3 starts from $34,000 while the base model Q5 starts from 43,300.
Adding various luxuries doesn’t come cheap, and ideally you’ll want to opt for the Premium Plus trimlines to get a solid foundation of perks.
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.
Overall though, Audi provides 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 body size. The Q3 belongs to the subcompact SUV segment whereas the Q5 belongs to the compact SUV segment.
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 having its side skirts clipped.
Recent facelifts to both cars mean the 2021 Q3 and Q5 look very similar on the outside.
While visually similar, the Audi Q3 has a few styling differences that make it look sportier and arguably better than the relatively conservative Q5.
The 2021 Q5 gets a long-overdue facelift, and now features new bumpers and vertical striping down its single-frame front-grille, bringing it closer to the Q3 in appearance. The Q3 has a bit more flair thanks to the headlight design it borrows from the e-tron, but other than that, there are no major distinguishing features.
In person, the Q5 has a bit more presence and feels more like a typical SUV than the hatchback-on-steroids look of the Q3.
Both the Q3 and Q5 have high-tech and well equipped interiors. The Q5 receives a bigger infotainment touchscreen as standard.
Despite being the cheapest crossover offering from Audi, the Q3 interior doesn’t fall short. Fine materials, leather upholstery, lumbar support for the driver and a panoramic sunroof are just some of the features that come as standard.
There are plenty of more luxurious features available for some extra dough, be it ambient interior lighting or contrasting microsuede lining across the dashboard and doors. An 8.8-inch touchscreen MMI infotainment system comes as standard, with the option for a 10.1-inch screen upgrade.
The Q5 has everything you find on the Q3, and the cabin is equally stylish and accommodating. This time you get the 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen as standard, and jumping to the Premium Plus trim nets you an industry leading 12.3-inch ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’ digital gauge cluster.
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 convincingly 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. But the Q5’s is slightly more powerful, and there’s also the option to go for a plug-in hybrid version.
The Q5 gets the more powerful base engine. The 2.0-liter inline-four 45 TFSI produces up to 261 horsepower and up to 273 lb-ft of torque. Even when the Q3 is upgraded to use the beefier 45 TFSI, different tuning means it is slightly less powerful than its Q5 counterpart.
The Q3’s base engine 40 TFSI delivers the least power of all, missing the 200 horsepower mark and lacking the oomph you might expect from a luxury SUV.
Both crossover 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.
For 2021, the Q5 gets a hybrid engine option in the 55 TFSI e, though it will command a lofty premium over the default petrol engine.
The Q3 achieves 22/30/25 mpg (city/highway/combined) with its smallest engine. The petrol Q5 has comparable gas mileage–23/28/25 mpg, but the hybrid Q5 comfortably beats them all–43/64/50 mpg.
Ride Quality and Drive Experience
Both vehicles offer comfortable rides, but the Q3 feels more agile.
Audi is 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 eliminates any 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 more grounded and 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 crossovers, 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.
Both crossover SUVs are compelling options in their respective segments, and ultimately choosing between them will come down to the amount of space you need.
Do you need a bigger car that offers more room for rear passengers? Go with the Q5.
Do you want a more nimble city cruiser that otherwise offers everything you need? Go with the Q3.
Of course, if you’re in the market for a hybrid, then Audi has already made the decision for you. Only the Q5 is available as a plug-in hybrid – for now.