Those in the market for a premium compact crossover are literally spoilt for choice. There are options aplenty, ranging from Lexus to Mercedes-Benz to MINI.
For this Group Test, we’ve chosen to pit the facelifted BMW X1 against the all-new Audi Q3. These models are two of the most popular ones in the segment.
Which one should you really consider?
Let me just say this: Neither the BMW X1 nor the Audi Q3 can be described as “pretty”.
They do have some nice angles, though, such as the X1’s profile and the Q3’s rear end. But they both also have less-than-flattering ones, such as the X1’s backside and Q3’s face.
Inside, the all-new Audi Q3 is miles ahead of the BMW X1. It feels thoroughly modern, well-equipped and premium.
The 10.1-inch Audi MMI infotainment system is sleek and easy to operate. It includes connectivity features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
I also liked the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Plus, which is especially useful when you need to access navigation functions.
The facelifted BMW X1, on the other hand, is still fitted with some older bits from the carmaker’s parts bin.
For instance, although the 8.8-inch Touch Display has been updated to the sixth generation iDrive system, it still lags behind models like the 3 Series, which has the latest Operating System 7.0.
And while the Audi Q3 has a digital instrument panel, the BMW X1’s is still an analogue cluster. The centre console also still features buttons that are a tad tacky.
Overall, the larger Audi Q3 is also more spacious and practical than the X1. The Q3 offers backseat passengers more legroom, and its 530-litre boot also trumps the X1’s 505-litre capacity.
The BMW X1 claws back some points in this field. In sDrive20i guise, it is more powerful and nicer to drive than the smaller-engined Q3.
The X1’s turbocharged 2-litre kicks out a healthy 189hp (141kW) and 280Nm. Meanwhile, the turbocharged 1.4-litre in the Q3 produces 148hp and 250Nm.
Naturally, the BMW X1 completes its century sprint in 7.7 seconds, or 1.2 seconds quicker than the Audi Q3. And the Q3 feels lethargic, despite being 15kg lighter than the X1.
The BMW X1’s performance is aided by its gearbox, which is also better than the Audi Q3’s.
The X1’s 7-speed dual-clutch unit is seamless, whereas the Q3’s 6-speed dual-clutch sometimes feels choppy. Its gearing decisions can also be questionable at times.
The BMW X1 has the advantage in handling, too. It sits lower to the ground and the driving position is lower as well.
The seats offer more lateral support and the steering is more connected and responsive – it certainly feels more like a hatchback than an SUV.
My only bugbear is the X1’s firm ride. I much prefer the Audi Q3’s plush and pliant ride quality. The X1’s ride would probably improve if it didn’t have M Sport suspension and run-flat tyres.
All that said, the Audi Q3 isn’t necessarily bad to drive. Judged in isolation, it is comfortable and refined enough. It delivers a fairly typical compact SUV experience.
And if we’re honest, that’s exactly what most segment buyers are looking for anyway.
WHICH ONE TO CONSIDER?
The BMW X1 and Audi Q3 are priced very comparably. The X1 sDrive20i M Sport is listed at $174,888, while the Q3 S Line is just a tad pricier at $182,800 (prices correct at time of writing).
The X1 is five years old, but thanks to this extensive update, it still proves to be a highly accomplished package. Its chassis and drivetrain have a definitive edge over the Q3.
However, we reckon that overall, the Audi Q3 is actually the better proposition.
The Audi Q3 may not look particularly good or be particularly quick. But we cannot overlook its high equipment levels, overall refinement, and more spacious and practical cabin.
In the minds of many buyers, these traits make the Q3 the premium compact crossover to seriously consider.
BMW X1 sDrive20i M Sport 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1998cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 192hp at 5000-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 280Nm at 1350-4600rpm
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 7.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 226km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.4km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $174,888 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Performance Motors
Audi Q3 S Line 1.4 (A)
ENGINE 1395cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 148hp at 5000-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 250Nm at 1750-3000rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 207km/h
CONSUMPTION 13.9km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $182,800 (after $10k VES surcharge)
AGENT Premium Automobiles