- Urban packaging
- Excellent turbocharged inline-4
- Audi Connect's maps and data win
- Handling is pert
- Ride quality is excellent for the class
- Rear seat is tight for adults
- Not much SUV in its hatchback-ness
- Only comes with an automatic
- Average gas mileage
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 utility vehicle, 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 bigger Audi SUVs, the Q5 and Q7, and the proportions fit in perfectly in urban environs, if not so much on the open 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.
Inside, the Q3's cockpit resembles the one in the related Audi A3 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. Clear, big gauges are paired on some versions with an infotainment system and a big 7.0-inch screen that folds out from the dash in a way that's technologically impressive, and a concession to the preferences of American drivers versus those around the globe.
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 pound-feet of torque, and the power's channeled through a 6-speed automatic transmission. 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, and tuned for ride comfort more than crisp handling. 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. 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 seating for five in the Q3, though we think it's best for two adults and two or three small, young passengers. Head room 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 bigger passengers. The cargo area offers luggage capacity of 16.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat; folding down the split rear seat backs increases this capacity to 48.2 cubic feet, fine for a weekend's worth of luggage for two, or a mid-month run to the big-box store.
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.