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The new Audi Q3 and the facelifted BMW X1 are the latest new offerings in the premium compact crossover segment. Which one should you buy?

26 Feb 2020


If you're in the market for a compact crossover, 2020 brings you two new options - the brand new Audi Q3 and the facelifted BMW X1, two heavy stalwarts in the segment.

So, which one should you buy? 

Class pass

The Q3's cabin is sleek, high-tech and is premium in quality
Both aren't what you'd call pretty cars. They both have some nice angles (side view on the X1, rear view on the Q3), but both also have some less-than-pleasing angles (rear of the X1, front of the Q3).

Inside, the new Q3 is miles ahead. It feels thoroughly modern, well equipped and premium. There's a 10.1-inch Audi MMI infotainment display that's sleek and easy to operate, and includes connectivity features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's also a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Plus that's especially useful when you need to access navigation functions.

The sleek 10.1-inch Audi MMI infotainment system offers wireless Apple CarPlay
The X1, admittedly just a facelift, is still fitted with some older bits from the BMW parts bin. The 8.8-inch Touch Display has been updated to the sixth generation iDrive system, but models like the 3 Series are already running the newer Operating System 7.0. You also get an analogue instrument cluster, and the centre console still features buttons that are a tad tacky.

The Q3 is also slightly more spacious and practical than the X1. It's marginally bigger all around in terms of length, width and height. The 530-litre boot slightly triumphs the X1's 505-litre luggage capacity, and rear legroom is also slightly better in the Q3. 

Smooth truth

The X1's 2.0-litre engine offers much more in the way of performance
Here, the X1, especially in this sDrive20i guise, is notably better. There's more power, though admittedly it has got a bigger engine. The 2.0-litre engine kicks out a healthy 189bhp and 280Nm of torque, while the Q3 makes do with a 1.4-litre engine that produces 148bhp and 250Nm of torque. This means the X1 is 1.3 seconds quicker to 100km/h from a standstill.

The Q3 also feels more lethargic and heavy - on paper, it's actually 15kg lighter than the X1, but because the X1 has notably more grunt, it feels perkier and effortless to drive.

The seven-speed transmission in the X1 delivers smoother and more intelligently judged gear changes
But, importantly, the X1 has a much better gearbox. Its seven-speed dual clutch box is seamless and smooth. In contrast, the gearbox in the Q3 isn't anywhere as slick - gear shifts are a tad more choppy, and some of the gearing decisions can be questionable at times. It also only has six gears compared to the X1's seven, so at 90km/h the Q3 doesn't feel quite as relaxed.

The X1 is also much better to drive. It sits lower to the ground, the driving position is lower, the seats offer more lateral support and the steering is more connected and responsive - it certainly feels more hatchback than SUV.

Where the Q3 excels in cabin quality and premium feel, the X1 delights in driving performance and engagement
The only knock is that the ride is quite firm - the Q3 is more plush and comfortable riding. However, do without the M Sport suspension and this issue is easily resolved.

The Q3 isn't necessarily bad to drive. Judged in isolation, it's comfortable and refined enough. Basically, it delivers a fairly typical compact SUV experience. However, side by side with the X1, it's clear that the X1 is more engaging to drive. 

Sweet feat

These two cars are priced very comparably - the X1 sDrive20i M Sport is listed at $179,888, while the Q3 1.4 TFSI S tronic S Line is just a tad pricier at $182,800 (both as of 21 Febraury 2020).

Between the two, the Audi Q3 is the more well-rounded package that delivers more car for your money
The X1 retains the same mechanical package from the pre-facelift model, and five years on it still proves to be a highly accomplished one. As far as the drivetrain and chassis go, the X1 actually still triumphs the Q3.

However, we reckon that the Q3 is the better overall package, especially in this premium compact crossover segment where style is king. It may not look particularly beautiful or be particularly quick, but with its premium cabin, high equipment levels and overall refinement, the Q3 is the one to have.
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Car Information

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Audi Q3 1.4 TFSI S tronic S line (A)
Rate it

Price

: $182,800

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1395cc

Horsepower

:

110kW (148 bhp) / 6000 rpm

Torque

:

250 Nm / 3500 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A) S tronic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

8.9sec

Top Speed

:

207km/h

Fuel consumption

:

13.9 km/L

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Price

: $179,888

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve TwinPower Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1998cc

Horsepower

:

141kW (189 bhp) / 6000 rpm

Torque

:

280 Nm / 4600 rpm

Transmission

:

7-speed (A) Steptronic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

7.6sec

Top Speed

:

226km/h

Fuel consumption

:

unknown

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comparison  bmw  bmw x1  audi  audi q3  crossover  compact crossover  suv