Which would you recommend among Mazda CX5, Audi Q3 and BMW X3?


What you need to know:

  • Like most other German cars, Audis are good when new or bought unbelievably cheap.
  • The first generation CX5 looks like a puffed up Demio, so figure out what that implies according to your tastes.
  • Avoid a diesel Q3 because the DPF is a thing and is known to induce headaches especially if not properly maintained.

Hello JM
Your knowledge of matters motoring is impressive. Kudos. Kindly share your views on Audi vehicles. Although they appear solidly put together, they are not popular with Kenyan motorists. While at it, help me make a choice between a Mazda CX5, Audi Q3 and BMW X3: all 2L petrol engines.
Thanks in advance Muliba

Hi Muliba,

Your observation is correct, Audis are solidly put together. In fact, they may be the most solidly put-together of the Volkswagen Group's stable of brands save for Bugatti and Bentley, which means they are among the most solidly put-together brands on earth.

That solidity is what Lamborghini needed to stay above water and their acquisition by Audi* gave them a lifeline that has brought them to where they are now, otherwise they were about to walk the plank following a chain of ownership transfers among people who don't rank fastidiousness as highly as Audi does.

I have once or twice mentioned in this column that Audis have the best interiors of all cars, except Bentleys, and I was dead serious when I said it. When it comes to an inside job, Audi AG is indefatigable.


However, Teutons will be Saxons will be Rhinelanders will be Germans. The Swabian way of doing things is to make them as insanely complex as they can, then engineer the living daylights out of that complication such that the end result is a highly convoluted house of cards that is as magnificent to behold as it will be troublesome to reassemble when it inevitably falls apart.

Sundry repairs on an Audi are a potential nightmare, more so the higher end vehicles. We have simple operations like timing chain adjustment being an engine-out operation (since the timing chain is hidden all the way at the back of the engine near the firewall), and to remove this engine, one has to disassemble the entire front end of the car including removal of the front cross-member.

A 4.2-litre V8 timing chain from reddt.com

The timing chain itself? Take a look at the one on the 4.2-liter Audi V8 and tell me you can understand what the hell is going on here: (see image on the right)

Parts are not that cheap either. Yes, some will tell you Audis are basically Volkswagens carved up into boxier silhouettes and painted black or silver, but it is not as simple as that.

What they share are elementary platforms and probably engine blocks once you dive into the accessories and peripherals, that's where we separate the Golf boys from the A3 men - and these accessories and peripherals are what will nail you financially once they attain retirement age or give up altogether.


Like most other German cars, Audis are good when new or bought unbelievably cheap. They also cost a tidy sum because all that boffinry they pack under the skin has to be paid for.

Once they rack up the miles, you are sitting on an economic time bomb. This may be what is keeping people away from the perpetrators of Vorsprung Durch Technik.

(*Audi owns Lamborghini, while Volkswagen AG in turn owns Audi. Last week there was talk of Volkswagen considering shedding Lamborghini from its vast and highly diversified portfolio)

That said, the choice among the CX5, the Q3 and the X3 will depend on vintage. If we are talking of first-gen cars all round, the BMW drops out.

It's... it's just not that good. The Q3 has the aforementioned awesome interior and a sloping hatch if you are into that sort of thing.

Some people (those who think the BMX X6 is a fine car) like that. I disagree with them because it makes the car look awkward. The Audi looks like it's hunched over from the back.

Audi Q3.

The first generation CX5 looks like a puffed up Demio, so figure out what that implies according to your tastes. At this stage, the newest CX5 you can get is a 2016 car, the newest BMW will be from 2010 and the newest Audi from 2018. This makes the Audi the most modern of them all, which in turn translates to the most advanced.

Second generation: these will be brand new cars as far as the Audi and the Mazda are concerned, but for the BMW, this is still one step behind current affairs, but it is also the point at which you can now start looking at it. It's still not desperately pretty but it is a lot more practical because it grows bigger at this stage.

Supersizing has a tendency to conceal ugliness, just ask the Nissan Patrol how true this is. The interior is infinitely improved but still plays second fiddle to the Audi.

The Mazda barely hangs in there as for the first time it gets outclassed by both Germans inside: outside, the X3 lags behind the rest of the pack.

Third generation: this only applies to the BMW, and the new X3 is... well, it's the business. This is what I'd go for. The looks have finally been resolved, the interior is right up there where the badge demands it to be and it is the exact size as the first generation X5, which means it is quite big, which again means it is what you want. You get more car.

If bread rations are of no significance to you, try and pony up for the X3 xDrive40i which is not a 2.0 litre but is a car you may want to drive. It ticks so many boxes. If not, the sDrive30i should do nicely.


1. Mazda CX5: direct injection means clogged injectors and carbon deposits if you don't run soap infusions (V Power and Excellium) every now and then to cleanse your engine of soot.

There was a recall for a tailgate strut failure in all cars manufactured up to 2015. There seems to a bit of a structural rigidity problem which causes stress fractures on the windscreen, a very common occurrence.

This means you may want to keep your CX5 out of rough roads and/or try not to hit them potholes too hard. Also, as has been observed in a few other cars, Bluetooth is a b***h. Lastly (but not "leastly") 2016 cars have problematic LEDs in their daytime running lights.

2. Audi Q3: well, one thing Audi did to try and water down the oddness of its looks was festoon it with large tyres, so look out for scuffed rims since more likely than not the vehicle underwent city use and kerb rash is real.

Avoid a diesel Q3 because the DPF is a thing and is known to induce headaches especially if not properly maintained. The car seems largely fault-free (phew!) save for a brake light issue in 2014-2016 cars.

Mazda CX5.

Despite my sentiments above, replacing a brake light is not as life-changing as other procedures seem to be. However, fault-free is not niggle-free, so get ready for a life of jumpy sensors telling you about problems that don't exist. This tendency to cry wolf gets tiresome after a while.

The vehicle is compact, which good for inner-city use, but it may be a little too compact, which makes it cramped inside. The fuel economy is also a bit shameful for something with this much engineering in it.

3. BMW X3: well, the biggest problem with the X3 is that if you want the best of it, you have to skip the first generation (ordure) and the second one (bland) and propel yourself (see what I did there?) right up to the third, which means you have to buy it new or very close to new.

While you get warranties and freshness out of the box, it does come at a rather hefty asking price. A used X3 means a second generation car so let's look at what's wrong with it besides what I've already listed.

Watch out for timing chains. They may not be hidden at the back of the engine like in Audi's V8, but they are still timing chains on a BMW which is German which means goodbye Christmas bonus.

The run-flat tyres equipped are a dog's breakfast as well: hard, bouncy, noisy and when driven on imperfect roads, the steering runs wild.

There is a tendency for the car to develop rattles and squeaks early in its life, so watch out for these when shopping for one.

Then there is this whole other list I found featuring the transmission (the computer needs reprogramming), steering (replace the rack at great cost), turbo (carbonation of oil in the pipes requires a replacement of both the turbo and its oil feed network), suspension (replacement of shocks and bushes - in pairs), airbags (faulty switch means passenger airbag light is permanently on), sunroofs (creaking or tapping noises when opening means an expensive repair job is on the cards) and... and I think I'm done here lest this write up be mistaken for another falsely identified hatchet job that isn't.