From £32,2258
Plug-in hybrid version of compact SUV undercuts many rivals despite a decent spec and the usual Audi qualities

Value for money is an extraordinarily evasive concept at the moment, but a plug-in hybrid Audi SUV that can be bought for less than £40,000 in 2023 might be surprisingly close to the mark. 

The Audi Q3 45 TFSIe, in entry-level Tecknik trim at least, offers exactly that prospect. It’s a PHEV, of course, and PHEVs generally aren’t so competitively priced. But this one is the sort of car you might just bid a dealer down to a monthly personal finance rate of under £500, after a pretty typical deposit, if you work at it.

This Q3’s rivals from Alfa Romeo, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo all have starting prices several thousand pounds higher, and even the brand-new BMW X1 xDrive25e can’t quite match its value.

It sits at the better-value end of the premium-brand PHEV SUV pricing scale for some obvious reasons. It has been on the UK market since the summer of 2021 and even when brand new wasn’t likely to be sought out by company-car drivers looking for ultra-low BIK tax (all trims but the very cheapest now get a 14% rating, when the very latest executive PHEVs are offering 8% or better). It also only offers front-wheel drive; develops 'only' 241bhp when rivals go plenty further. And it isn't the biggest or most practical family car in its class, rising lower off the ground than some of its opponents and with a sense of compactness about its outward size.

For equipment, Technik models come with the 17in wheels that help deliver slightly better running efficiency than at other trim levels, but they aren’t meanly equipped otherwise (sliding back seats, a powered tailgate, MMI Navigation Plus infotainment, digital instruments and a wide array of driver-assistance technology are all standard).

Our range-topping Black Edition test car (Vorsprung models no longer being part of the UK range) added 19in wheels, sporty S Line styling and various material cabin upgrades.

This is the sort of car with the confidence to put the ‘compact’ in 'compact SUV', then. It’s easy to make a bigger car than the next guy, after all, and doing that risks discouraging buyers who want that combination of added space, versatility and ease of use in a car that remains easy to park and doesn’t loom over hatchbacks and saloons in traffic. 

Audi q3 45 tfsie rear seats

But there’s more than a hint of the crossover about the Q3. You can buy more spacious cars for the money, without doubt. Yet it retains a cabin that will swallow adults of average height in both rows comfortably enough and it has a boot that yields a useful amount of extra space over a hatchback or saloon and whose practically isn’t curtailed because the car is a PHEV. With the battery carried under the back seats, there’s no annoying lump in the boot floor here to slide loads up and over.

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The driving environment is smart-looking and clean-cut, characterised by crisp geometric lines, satin chrome trims and plenty of digital technology. Outright material quality is good but not great; it takes one of Ingolstadt’s bigger models to conjure that sense of distinguishing solidity and expensive feel we expect of the brand. But the digital instrumentation looks clear and crisp; and although Audi’s MMI Touch infotainment system lacks the separate tactile input device of rival systems and so can wear out an outstretched arm a little bit with all the reaching, jabbing and swiping needed to operate it, it’s adequately usable.

The seats are broadly adjustable and supportive, delivering a comfortable driving position; and on the road, ‘comfortable’ is broadly how the Q3 45 TFSIe proceeds.

Combustion engine running or not, it’s quiet, pleasant and easy to drive. Audi’s integration of the 114bhp electric motor and its 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol four-pot is very good. And with both combining smoothly and in harmony to drive the front axle, you certainly don’t get that telltale sensation that some PHEVs can create that you’re in slightly sketchy command of two power sources that can seem a little at odds with one another. The ICE starts and stops smoothly; it doesn’t seem raucous when it has to work hard; and when the drive battery is depleted, it will still return an MPG figure in the low-to-mid 40s, which is pretty respectable.

Audi q3 45 tfsie rear corner

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Real-world electric-only range varied between 20 and 25 miles on test, depending on type of journey and ambient temperature. That's not much to get excited about in a PHEV in 2023, but it would still be enough to allow an owner who does plenty of short-range motoring and can charge regularly and cost-effectively meaningful running-costs savings.

The Q3 45 TFSIe’s performance level isn’t what you might call exciting. It’s a car that takes to a quicker stride a little reluctantly, and it handles accurately and securely enough, with respectable grip and body control and little obvious evidence of punitive weight at speed but with unremarkable natural agility or balance and no particular sort of driver engagement. Still, it remains pleasant, assured, stable and broadly refined even when driven hard, rather than letting its drivability or refinement slip significantly - and that makes it one of the better-executed efforts in a class in which many competitors can feel like one-speed cars.

Would you believe that all of that could come for a lower price than an equivalent Cupra Formentor or Peugeot 3008? Nope, I didn’t either. And in 2023, a canny purchase deserves to be saluted wherever we find one.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

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Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Overdrive 16 January 2023

We live in baffling times when a compact SUV costing £48k is considered 'value for money'!

xxxx 16 January 2023

In which case buy the sub 40k version which isn't over spec'd and is detailed in the opening sentence and makes reference to the VFM quote. 

Overdrive 16 January 2023

You're right, sub-£40k, dead cheap!