2016 Audi Q3: Luxury CUV Goes Small

December 13, 2015 Updated: December 15, 2015
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Subcompact crossovers are all the rage these days in luxury and non-luxury guise, small enough to toss around on the road yet big enough to haul four adults with a modicum of cargo in a relatively fuel efficient package.

On the luxury side, the Audi Q3 entered the U.S. market for the 2015 model year after being sold in Europe and elsewhere since 2011 proving it’s never too late to jump into a growing segment. Audi has joined the fray with an appealing vehicle that comes with impeccable interior quality and the somewhat usual Audi exterior styling. In fact, unless parked side-by-side the small Q3 could be mistaken for its larger and extremely popular sibling, the compact Q5.

Unfortunately for Audi the competition in the subcompact ranks is growing, and entering the North American market with a slightly aging platform can put a company at a disadvantage. For that reason, Audi wasted no time updating the Q3 for the 2016 model year with freshened front-end styling and by adding such standard features as front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera making it as good as any we have seen in the small lux-crossover segment.

We were less impressed with the Q3’s only available drivetrain, the long-running turbocharged 2.0 L 4-cylinder making 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine provides adequate performance and should be up to the needs of most owners, but the fact is the Q3’s sister vehicle, the equally new A3 sedan, gets a revised 2.0 L that makes 220 hp and runs 0-to-60 times under six seconds.

That said, the Q3 offers adequate 0-to-60 time measured at 7.8 seconds. Our performance disappointment aside the Q3 is up to the competition in most areas including the use of weight-saving materials like aluminum and high-strength steel. That keeps the curb weight at about 3,600 pounds. EPA mileage numbers are average for the segment rated at 20 mpg city and 29-highway with front-wheel drive and 20/28 with all-wheel. Combined fuel economy is 23 mpg for both formats on premium gas.

An appealing vehicle that comes with impeccable interior quality.

The interior is extremely quiet at highway speeds and the appointments are elegant, yet simple. The center stack is canted toward the driver giving the Q3 a cockpit-like feel. The gauges are clear and easy to read, and if you opt for the navigation system the screen pops up out of the top of the dashboard, a design we find interesting and attractive in a small car.

Not all is on the plus side, however. We discovered early in our test a couple of problem areas. One major drawback is the absence of a USB port or even a basic auxiliary input jack. That’s a strange omission for any 2016 model, let alone a premium crossover from Audi. Also, one of our pet peeves over the years is the continued use of a cruise control stalk, especially when it is located immediately under the headlight stalk.

We urge Audi to move the cruise to the steering wheel where it now conveniently resides in most cars. And much to our dismay, we found the bass response in the standard 10-speaker audio system a bit muddy. We recommend the 14-speaker Bose system, but it comes only with the top Prestige trim.

We found passenger and cargo space adequate with 16.7 cubic feet of storage behind the seats and 48.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. For comparison, the BMW X1 has 25 cubic feet behind the seats and 56 cubic feet overall, while the Mercedes-Benz GLA has 17.2 cubic feet and 43.6 cubic feet overall.

The Q3 is offered in both front and all-wheel drive (known as Quattro) in two trim levell—Premium Plus and Prestige starting at $34,625 for the front-wheel-drive Premium Plus. The base Quattro model is $36,725.

Standard features are generous and include panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, roof rails, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, eight-way heated power front seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and the aforementioned 10-speaker audio system.

Safety includes the requisite stability and traction control, a full range of airbags, parking sensors and a rearview camera. Blind spot monitoring is available as an option and there are only a few available. One of them is the $2,600 Technology package that includes blind spot, navigation, Audi Connect telematics that includes a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a color trip computer.

Our test car came with Technology as well as a power liftgate for $400 bringing the bottom line to $40,300.