2015 Audi Q3 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 17, 2015

The 2015 Audi Q3 stakes out its claim in compact-crossover territory, with Google Earth to map the way.

The 2015 Audi Q3 is the brand's smallest SUV--and it doesn't arrive a moment too soon, what with the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, and Buick Encore already swarming into the small end of the compact-crossover niche.

Audi's typical SUV silhouette scales down for the new 2015 Q3 (and it has an obvious admirer in the new Lincoln MKC). Of course, it's more stubby than the Q5 or Q7, but pleasingly predictable, with LED turn signals and a wraparound tailgate. The interior's a relative of the one installed in the new Audi A3, which is a distant cousin of the new crossover.

In American Q3s, a 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 powers the front or all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic. That all-wheel-drive system is an option, for $2,100. Drive Select is an option as well. With it, drivers can toggle into Sport mode to keen up the Q3's reflexes, its steering feel, its shift points, and its throttle modulation. In all, the Q3 has the tidy road manners you'd expect for its brand and its size--it has some of the better ride quality of the bigger Q5, compared to its direct German rival.

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Audi claims seating for five in the 2015 Q3, though we think it's best for two adults and two or three small, young passengers. Headroom is compromised by the standard sunroof, but Audi's swell (and optional) sport seats supply great comfort and bolstering. Rear-seat knee room and head room are in tight supply for larger passengers. The cargo area offers luggage capacity of 16.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat; folding down the split rear seatbacks increases this capacity to 48.2 cu ft, fine for a weekend's worth of luggage for two, or a mid-month run to the big-box store.

No crash-test scores are available. The Q3's safety tech includes available rear side airbags and a package that includes parking sensors and a rearview camera--it's not standard--as well as blind-spot monitors.

Among the standard features, Audi also includes a sunroof, 18-inch wheels, LED cockpit lighting, 12-way front seats with power adjustment and heating, and leather. The stock audio setup comes with HD and satellite radio as well as Bluetooth audio, but a USB port only comes with the optional nav system.

On the long list of options are the navigation system, Bose audio with 14 speakers, and a power tailgate. Audi Connect factors in AT&T data piped into the car, Google Earth mapping, local search, and in-car wireless connectivity.

The Q3 starts at about $33,500, though prices easily stretch into the $40,000 range for a well-equipped Prestige-trim vehicle with the rearview camera.

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2015 Audi Q3

Styling

The Audi Q3 splits the difference between the bigger Q5 and a Fiat 500 hatchback--it's a look that works.

Flattery is imitation, sincere or not. The Q3 flatters its bigger sibling, the Audi Q5--but at the same time, it should be flattered by the styling of vehicles like the Fiat 500X, which bears a striking resemblance. Or even the Lincoln MKC. Truth is, there's not much new under the crossover sun, and perhaps the best thing the Audi Q3 does in its styling is stay true to the current Audi idiom--effortlessly tidy and without too much extraneous detail.

That's less true at the front end, where the all-consuming Audi grille cuts to the ground, framed by narrow headlamps and offset by big air intakes. Gently sculpted at the door sills, the Q3's body finishes in a roofline that Audi suggests is a coupe-like shape. It's stubbier than a Q5, but the Q3 has a bit of that ute's timeless shape, what with its LED lighting and wraparound tailgate.

The Q3's cabin lacks the polish found in more expensive Audis, but its function is unimpeded. It's styled like the cabin in the A3 sedan, a cousin to the Q3, with its wide expanses of black trim and thin rings of metallic trim. The screen for navigation and multimedia stands up out of the dash--it doesn't tuck into the dash like some Audi screens. The infotainment system operates from a dash-mounted knob as it does in the R8 supercar, not via a console-mounted roller controller typical to most Audis. It's mostly due to the smaller dash and it doesn't dull the tech gloss, not with Google Earth maps shining brightly on the screen.

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2015 Audi Q3

Performance

Size has its advantage: the Q3 feels small and maneuverable and even quick, despite its chunky curb weight.

Audi keeps the Q3's performance profile simple. There's only one engine, a single transmission, and one drivetrain option--quattro all-wheel drive.

Simple pays off in the Q3. Good gearing in its six-speed automatic, not to mention the Q3's compact size, make the drivetrain feel more energetic than it does in the larger Q5. The long-lived turbo four doesn't take long to spin into a peak-torque range, twisting out almost all of its 207 pound-feet by the time it hits 2000 rpm, on the way to generating 200 horsepower.

Though the Q3 weighs in at 3,500 pounds (or more, with all-wheel drive), Audi says it can turn in 0-60 mph times of 7.8 seconds (or 8.2 sec) and a top speed of 130 mph. The terrifically quick Mercedes GLA45 AMG underscores the fact that the Q3 has lots of room for improvement.

We hold out hope for the ultimate rally-ready GLA fighter--Audi's 340-hp turbocharged five-cylinder? It's offered in the Euro-spec, high-performance RS Q3, but as of yet, there are no plans for U.S. sales.

It's well enough, because in the current iteration, the Q3 strains to handle the power it's given. The suspension is a strut and multi-link design, with electric power steering delivering reasonable feedback. The Q3 can't talk back through the wheel with the feel of BMW's X1 but it has a well-damped, tidy feel that doesn't have much steering lag, even with the 19-inch wheels available as an option. It's also better at smoothing down bad pavement, where the Benz GLA45 hammers over it.

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2015 Audi Q3

Comfort & Quality

Typical for urban-sized utes, the Aud Q3 doesn't have a lot of extra interior room, but the available sport seats are a must.

Premium space is at a premium in any of the new compact crossovers from luxury brands. In the Audi Q3, you're among the better-off, as long as you're riding up front.

The Q3 is about 10 inches shorter and has a roof that sits a couple of inches lower than Audi's Q5. The Q5 is geared for suburbia--while the Q3's tailored to be an urban runabout. It rides on a wheelbase of 102.5 inches (some four inches shorter than, say, a Honda Civic) and in all, it's 172.6 inches long, less than a foot more than a MINI Cooper.

The Q5 can comfortably carry four or even five adults. Two will fit fine in the Q3, though they shouldn't be outlier-tall. The standard sunroof shaves off headroom for anyone standing more than six feet tall. The driving position is excellent, the available sport seats are a must for the firm bolstering, and the center console doesn't trim too much knee room. The Q3 is squatty and wide, and that leaves ample shoulder room.

In the back seat, the lack of headroom takes on a little more urgency. A six-footer sitting behind a six-footer will touch knees on the back of the front seat and rub follicles on the admittedly nice headliner.

The small cargo space expands with the rear seats folded down, and we think that's how most Q3s will spend their time, effectively as two-seaters. In that mode, the 16.7 cubic feet of standard-issue cargo space blooms to 48.2 cubic feet, enough for a pet carrier or a weekend's worth of luggage. Vehicles such as the X1 and Acura RDX have a lot more room, but the Q3 is on pace with the GLA and the like.

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2015 Audi Q3

Safety

No crash-test scores have been published; the Q3 lacks a standard rearview camera.

Since it's brand-new, it's understandable that the Audi Q3 doesn't have much data to support its safety claims. As of yet, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have crash-tested the compact crossover SUV.

The Q3 shares some roots with the A3 family, though, and given that car's excellent safety performance so far, we're giving the Q3 a little bit of credit in our scoring. Available all-wheel drive counts, too, but it's no longer a unique Audi selling point in this class.

It also deserves some kudos, and a brickbat, for its standard safety gear. Airbags and stability control are complemented by available rear side airbags and standard Bluetooth--but a rearview camera is an option, and no surround-camera feature is available. To get the best view to the rear--where the Q3's thick pillars and small glass area net in low visibility--you'll have to buy a Driver Assistance package, which bundles the rearview camera along with blind-spot monitors.

We'll update this page when more safety data becomes available.

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2015 Audi Q3

Features

Wireless Internet and navigation are bundled in the upper Q3 model; it's priced like its German rivals, and well above a domestic challenger.

The Q3's price and features slot neatly between its two primary rivals, the Mercedes GLA and BMW X1. Base models--dubbed Premium Plus--start at $33,425, and come with standard power features; leather trim; heated and power-operated front seats; 60/40 split folding rear seats; pushbutton start; dual-zone climate control, and a 10-speaker AM/FM/HD/XM/CD sound system with Bluetooth audio streaming and Apple integration.

Base Q3 crossovers do not come with a USB port, and don't come with a rearview camera, glaring omissions in our opinion. But there's an SD card slot for music on the go.

All-wheel drive is a $2,100 option on the base model and on the Prestige model, which starts at $37,325 before adding more traction. It comes with Audi's Multi-Media Interface(MMI), a rearview camera, a better audio system, a navigation system, and blind-spot monitors--all of which can be added to the Premium Plus model.

The Prestige trim also bundles in Audi connect, which pipes in LTE data to the car, turning it into a wireless hotspot.

A $3,900 Sport package can be added to Prestige models, for those who want sport front seats, Audi's Drive Select system (it tailors steering, throttle, and shift patterns at the flick of a switch); and shift paddles.

Loaded, the Q3 hovers at around $40,000, right in the wheelhouse of the X1 and GLA. It's significantly more expensive than a Buick Encore, which carries a base price in the mid-$20,000s.

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2015 Audi Q3

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is decent, but it's not the Q3's killer app.

Gas mileage isn't as good in the Q3 as its size would imply. At 20 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, the front-drive Q3 isn't appreciably better at saving gas than the bigger Q5. It's far off the numbers set by other small premium SUVs, like the BMW X1.

Adding all-wheel drive to the mix lowers highway economy to 28 mpg highway, but the other numbers remain unchanged.

There's no hybrid nor any diesel in the works for the Q3, but Audi will swap in a new drivetrain for 2016--one with a dual-clutch transmission and 20 more horsepower. It could net significant fuel-economy gains, nearly matching those in the A3 compact sedan.

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November 27, 2015
For 2015 Audi Q3

Good car for daily use

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Good looking and handling crossover. Although the hp is on the average but easily add on to improve to 270 with Racechip.
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April 17, 2015
For 2015 Audi Q3

Wait for the 2016. The European 2015 isn't that great!

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Bad fuel economy. Poor transmission and performace.
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Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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