2016 Audi Q3 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 9, 2016

The 2016 Audi Q3 gives compact luxury SUVs a good name with cozy ride quality and accommodations—but it's not the most space- or fuel-efficient vehicle of its kind.

The 2016 Audi Q3 is a compact crossover SUV, new last year to a niche that's quickly expanding.

As the German automaker's smallest crossover SUV, the Q3 is a rival for vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, Buick Encore and the BMW X1.

The Q3 sports a tidy, typically Audi shape that's appealing because it resembles the larger Q5 so strongly. It's an obvious lineage--and it has some lookalikes in the form of the Fiat 500X and Lincoln MKC. It's also more stubby than the Q7 and the Q5, Audi's larger utility vehicles. The size and shape look perfectly suited to cities, a bit teensy on the highway. It's a sensitivity to scale that's much more pronounced on its rivals. New this year on the Q3, on higher trim levels, are LED headlamps; all versions get a lightly restyled grille and rear end.

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Inside, the Q3's cockpit resembles the one in the related A3 four-door sedan. It's swathed in low-gloss black plastic and metallic trim, all subdued and integrated in the way Audi seems to do better than most of its rivals. On some versions, the Q3's big gauges team up with a 7-inch infotainment screen that flips and folds out of the dash. It's a gymnastic feat that's necessary, since infotainment screens are mostly an American demand in small cars.

In U.S. spec, the Audi Q3 is outfitted with just one powertrain. A 200-horsepower, turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter inline-4 twists out 207 lb-ft of torque, and the power's channeled through a 6-speed automatic . Front-wheel drive is the base configuration, but Audi's ubiquitous all-wheel drive is a $2,100 option. Audi says the Q3 can scoot to 60 mph in under 8.0 seconds in front-drive form, and quotes a top speed of 130 mph.

Handling is predictable. Ride quality takes priority over sharp handling, but that doesn't make the Q3 clumsy. It has the tidy, buttoned-down feel Audi delivers across the board. Audi makes its Drive Select an option: it allows drivers to tweak steering, transmission, and throttle settings for more gentle or more vigorous driving feel. It lets the pricier Q3s come a little closer to the sharp, quick responses of the Mercedes GLA and, more so, the outgoing, rear-drive-based BMW X1.

Audi claims the Q3 is big enough to seat five people, but we think two adults will be happier if they only try to convince two smaller adults or kids to sit in back. Head room is sacrificed to a sunroof that's standard equipment. Audi's swell (and optional) sport seats have great bolsters and lots of supple comfort. Knee room in back is not very abundant. Audi says 16.2 cubic feet of luggage will fit behind the rear seat; that number rises to 48.2 cubic feet when the rear seat folds down.

The IIHS has deemed the Q3 to be a Top Safety Pick thanks to across-the-board "Good" scores. The Q3's safety features include standard Bluetooth and this year, a standard rearview camera and parking sensors. On the options list, the Q3 offers rear side airbags and a Driver Assistance package with blind-spot monitors and automatic park assist.

Other standard features include 18-inch wheels (19-inch wheels are offered), a sunroof, xenon headlights, LED interior lighting, 12-way power-adjustable front seats with heating, and leather trim. The basic sound system has satellite and HD radio and Bluetooth streaming, but you'll immediately miss the missing USB port, only offered on Q3s with navigation. Prestige-trim vehicles get LED headlights and S-line exterior trim, along with 19-inch wheels, for the 2016 model year.

There's a long list of options with the new Q3. Some highlights are Audi's MMI navigation plus system with a 7.0-inch display, a powered tailgate, and a Bose sound system with 14 speakers. Audi Connect adds in-car data services (now powered by AT&T as a Mobile Share device on your plan), wireless hotspot functionality, Google Earth mapping, and Google Local Search by voice.

Pricing for the Q3 starts at $34,625 not including $925 in destination charges. Prices reach $40,000 range for a well-equipped Prestige-trim vehicle.

The EPA rates the front-wheel-drive Q3 at 20 mpg city, 29 highway and 23 combined. With all-wheel drive, the Q3's highway economy falls to 28 mpg highway, but the other numbers remain unchanged.

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2016 Audi Q3

Styling

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

The Audi Q3's styling is nothing dramatic or avant-garde, but it works very well. It's a flattering imitation of the bigger Q5--so flattering the look's also been mimicked by the Lincoln MKC--and we find some similarity with the new Fiat 500X, too.

Styling a crossover is somewhat confining, given the length and roof height and the usual corporate cues that have to blend into the mix. The Q3 admirably heels all those constraints, and the tidy shape that results is something we think will look good for years--an Audi hallmark.

This year, the Q3 gets some mild updates to the front and rear end, to better coordinate with the also-updated A6 and the coming 2017 Audi A4. By now, Audi's all-consuming grille shouldn't be surprising, in its size. Here it dips the front end of the Q3 deeply toward the ground. It's framed by pretty, narrow headlamps counterbalanced by fairly large air intakes. Down the sides, the gentle sculpting at the sill gradually climbs toward what Audi says is a coupe-like roofline. The glass is slimmer and the overall look more stubby than the Q5, but the wraparound tailgate and LED taillights bring it all to a neat conclusion.

The cockpit of the Q3 doesn't suffer too much from some physiological differences with bigger Audis, and material fit and finish are as good as in any compact Audi sedan. The dash is a wide expanse of muted black plastics, highlighted by thin metallic trim rings. The screen for navigation and multimedia stands up out of the dash--it doesn't stow away, like the one on some Euro A3 and S3 sedans.

The key difference is in how drivers operate Audi's infotainment system, dubbed "MMI." In the crossover, MMI is run by a knob on the dash, not a roller-controller embedded in the center console. Chalk up the placement due to the tighter confines and available dash space. It doesn't dull the Q3's tech sheen, from its bright, high-resolution display to the Google Earth maps that beam onto the screen.

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2016 Audi Q3

Performance

Even with a chunky curb weight, the tidy little Audi Q3 feels maneuverable and nimble, and has a very smooth ride for its size.

Choosing a Q3 is a straightforward process. Audi offers just a single engine, one transmission, and a choice between front- and all-wheel drive.

The payoff is a deftly tuned crossover SUV with good road manners and very good ride quality, though one with less sport dialed into its basic setup than its German rivals.

It begins with the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 under the hood. Laden with a little less weight and plunked into a lower body, the engine's 200 horsepower simply feels more energetic than the same drivetrain in the bigger Q5. The 6-speed automatic has six well-spaced gears, so launches are brisk and it doesn't take long for the inline-4 to hit peak torque. Most of that 207 pound-feet of torque is available by the time the engine hits 2,000 rpm.

The Q3 weighs less than a Q5, but it's not a lightweight. At 3,500 pounds (or more, with all-wheel drive), the Q3 is a little thick for its size, though that doesn't keep it from 0-60 mph runs in 7.8 seconds (or 8.2 sec, with all-wheel drive). Top speed is set at 130 mph. That's good, but there's room for improvement, especially given the somewhat terrifying presence of the Mercedes GLA45 AMG.

At current power levels, the Q3 isn't close to maxing out the potential in its suspension--struts up front, and a four-link setup at the rear end--and its reasonably quick electric power steering. It's not quite the communication expert the X1 is, but the Q3 has a tidy, well-damped feel, with little to no lag in steering despite the big 19-inch all-season tires on our test vehicle (18-inchers are standard). It's firm, sure, but it's also more able than the Mercedes GLA to round off cratered city streets, big wheels or no.

7

2016 Audi Q3

Comfort & Quality

The optional sport seats are a must—you'll want to make the most of the Q3's cozy interior confines.

There's not an abundance of space inside the Audi Q3. It's a compact crossover SUV, after all, and that makes it more suitable for commuters and parents of a growing family, more than it does for a Brady Bunch of all ages and sizes.

By the numbers, the Q3 is roughly 10 inches shorter than the Audi Q5, and it sits lower, too, by a couple of inches. The Q3 has a wheelbase of 102.5 inches (which is about four inches shorter than the span between the wheels on a Honda Civic). Overall, it sits 172.6 inches long, or just a foot longer than the Mini Cooper hatchback.

Four adults will fit in the Q3, but you're better off calling driver or shotgun, since the rear-seat space is cozy, borderline snug. Even taller adults might find something to quibble with in the Q3's front seats, since the standard panoramic sunroof cuts into headroom for anyone more than 6 feet tall, or long of torso.

Once you're tucked in, though, the Q3's driving position is excellent, and the center console doesn't trim too much knee room. The Q3 is squatty and wide, and that leaves ample shoulder room. We think the available sport seats are a must for the firm bolstering.

In the back seat, the lack of head room takes on a little more urgency. A 6-footer sitting behind a 6-footer will touch knees on the back of the front seat and rub their scalp on the admittedly nice headliner.

More often, that back seat will be flipped forward for Costco runs and weekend getaways--and here the Q3 stands out. It starts off with 16.7 cubic feet of space available behind the rear seat--that's more space than the trunk in an average mid-size sedan. With the rear seat folded nearly but not totally flat, the Q3 offers up 48.2 cubic feet of space--enough for a couple of roll-aboards and a couple of soft-sided bags.

Sure, a Q5 has almost twice the space behind the rear bench--and rivals like the Acura RDX and BMW X1 have slightly more--but the Q3 is on par with the Benz GLA, and offers a power tailgate for $400.

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2016 Audi Q3

Safety

Safety is improved in the 2016 Q3, with a Top Safety Pick award and a standard rearview camera and parking sensors.

The Q3 has gotten better at safety, or at least in expressing how safe it is, for the 2016 model year.

Part of that comes in the form of crash-test data. After its maiden testing on the Q3, the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick, thanks to "Good" performance on the new small-overlap front crash test.

The NHTSA has not yet crash-tested the compact crossover SUV.

Along with its usual standard safety gear, the Q3 offers all-wheel drive as an option, though it's also available on rivals. Audi's also made a rearview camera and parking sensors standard this year, while Bluetooth was already part of the Q3 package.

Visibility isn't terrible in the Q3, but it's not great. The Q3 has thick pillars and small glass area to the rear. You'll have to buy a Driver Assistance package for the safest Q3 on the road: that's where blind-spot monitors become a part of the package.

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

9

2016 Audi Q3

Features

The Q3's size/value equation is better in base trim; with all-wheel drive, we think it's the better deal.

With a host of new standard features, the 2016 Audi Q3 is a better value than last year's model. Its price has been boosted a few hundred dollars, but the base Q3 in Premium Plus trim starts at $34,625 plus a $925 destination charge, and now comes with standard parking sensors and a rearview camera.

Also standard are power windows, locks, and mirrors; leather seating; heated and 12-way power front seats; 60/40-split folding rear seats; keyless ignition; 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, a glaring omission, but they do get 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 has been priced $1,275 more than last year, at $39,525 plus destination. The Prestige trim gets an improved audio system, navigation, blind-spot monitors, in-car 4G LTE data services with Audi Connect, and Audi's Multi-Media Interface, but those features can also be added to the Q3 Premium.

Prestige models also offer a Sport option package, which bundles sport seats, Audi's Drive Select system (it tailors steering, throttle, and shift patterns at the flick of a switch); and shift paddles.

At about $40,000, a loaded Q3 is priced in lockstep with 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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2016 Audi Q3

Fuel Economy

The Q3's fuel economy isn't quite as good as its rivals.

The Q3 is a bite-sized SUV—or hatchback, if we're really getting down to brass tacks. Still, despite its size, gas mileage isn't the Q3's forte.

The EPA rates the front-wheel-drive Q3 at 20 mpg city, 29 highway and 23 combined. Those figures aren't much better than in the larger Q5, which sports the same powertrain. It's also considerably lower than vehicles like the BMW X1, which has been replaced by a new design for the 2016 model year.

With all-wheel drive, the Q3's highway economy falls 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 may switch the Q3's transmission out for a dual-clutch gearbox in the near future. That change could wring a few more miles per gallon out of the turbo-4, as it's done in the related A3 sedan.

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August 5, 2015
2016 Audi Q3 quattro 4-Door Prestige

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Just traded in my 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland for a much downsized Audi Q3 (loaded) At first it seemed small (due to what I had been driving before) but after a few days... I LOVE it. Its got all the... + More »
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