2017 Audi Q3 Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor, Green Vehicles
May 31, 2017

The 2017 Audi Q3 isn't the most space-efficient or fuel-efficient in its class, but it gives compact luxury shoppers the ride comfort, easy maneuverability, and flexible cabin they seek.

The 2017 Audi Q3 is the German luxury brand's smallest utility vehicle, and one of a new breed of compact crossover SUV that keeps to mere subcompact-car parking space. As U.S. drivers trade in their sedans for crossovers, it's a niche that's rapidly expanding—now including the recently redesigned BMW X1 and slightly larger Mercedes GLA, as well as mainstream-brand alternatives like the Mazda CX-3.

The Q3's 6.5 overall score reflects our opinion that it's better than average, although there's some room for improvement in features and safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Styling and performance

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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. It's stubbier 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.

The interior of the Q3 builds on the cabin design of the Audi A3 sedan; it's tasteful and well-detailed, albeit a bit stark in its color-and-trim choices. 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.

A 200-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 produces 207 pound-feet of torque, and it's well-matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Some models have front-wheel drive, but most will probably opt up for Audi's quattro all-wheel drive here. The Q3 is perky and it handles well, although it's clearly tuned more 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.

Gas mileage for the Q3 is unremarkable, with front-wheel-drive versions at 20 mpg city, 29 highway, 23 combined and AWD models at 20/28/23 mpg.

Quality, safety, and features

The Q3 officially offers seating for five, although we think it's best for two adults and two or three small, young passengers. Head room is compromised by the standard sunroof, but the optional front sport seats are great for support 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; but owners will likely have the split rear seatbacks folded forward most of the time, increasing capacity to 48.2 cubic feet—more than enough for most stock-up Costco runs.

In safety, the 2017 Audi Q3 has some great crash-test results—all top-tier "good" scores from the IIHS last year—but it's failed to earn the Top Safety Pick+ accolade because it lacks available front crash prevention features. Blind spot monitors and automatic park assist are on the options list, as are rear side airbags, and a rearview camera and parking sensors are standard.

Audi introduced several new standard features on the Q3 last year, making it a better value than before. And now, for 2017, the automaker has rejiggered the trim levels in the lineup.

For 2017, Audi has rejiggered the lineup, offering a new base Premium entry-level trim that comes with 12-way power front seats, a panoramic sunroof and LED taillights and daytime running lights. Mid-level Premium Plus models include heated, power-folding side mirrors, a power liftgate, while Prestige models get an improved audio system, navigation, blind-spot monitors, in-car 4G LTE data services with Audi Connect, and Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI).

Fully optioned, at the Prestige level, the Q3 easily tops $40,000, which puts it pretty much in lockstep with the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

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2017 Audi Q3

Styling

The Audi Q3 is functionally attractive, but not as beautiful as some of the brand's larger models.

The 2017 Audi Q3 doesn't go in any new directions; instead, think of it as finding some middle ground between the A3 Sportback and the Q5. It's brawnier in its stance than the A3 lineup, but not quite settled into its proportions as the Q5.

We gave the Q3 a 6 out of 10 for a good, cohesive interior design, but not much beyond that excited us. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Styling a crossover is somewhat confining, given limits of length and roof height, and the need to fit in all the usual corporate cues. To all of this, the Q3 admirably heels those constraints, and we think its tidy shape will look good for years.

The Q3 is already entering its third model year and last year, actually, received a few minor tweaks to its front-end appearance, to better coordinate with the 2017 Audi A4 and the updated A6 model line. 

From the front, the Q3's corporate Audi grille dips low and is framed by narrow headlamps and balanced out by fairly large air intakes. Gentle sculpting at the sill gradually climbs toward what Audi calls a coupe-like roofline. Compared to the Q5, the glass is definitely slimmer and the overall look stubbier, though the wraparound tailgate and LED taillights give it a neat look from the rear.

Inside, there isn't as much evidence of design compromise compared with bigger Audis; fit and finish are right up to par with other models from the brand, at least around the dash and doors, although materials and trims aren't quiet to the same level. The dash is a wide expanse of muted black plastics—mostly soft-touch—highlighted by thin metallic trim rings.

Unlike in the A3 and S3, the screen doesn't allow for stowing away. And actually there are some key differences in how drivers operate Audi's infotainment system, dubbed "MMI." Here, likely due to the tight space, it's run by a knob on the dash rather than a roller-controller embedded in the center console. 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; but some might not find the controller as quick and effective.

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2017 Audi Q3

Performance

The 2017 Q3 is heavier than it should be, but it's remarkably maneuverable and nimble.

The 2017 Audi Q3 doesn't leave you with a lot of performance choices; there's a single engine and transmission, with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

We narrowly gave it a 7 out of 10 on our scale for a solid engine and good handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

In this simplified lineup, luckily, you'll find performance to be exceptionally well-tuned, with a responsive turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, a 6-speed automatic with well-spaced gears and confident shifts, and in general very good road manners and ride quality.

Laden with a little less weight and plunked into a lower body, the 200-horsepower output of this engine—the same one that's installed in the larger Q5—feels plenty energetic. It's also one of the quickest-reacting engines in this class, with a robust 207 pound-feet of torque available by the time the engine hits 2,000 rpm.

That said, the Q3 isn't a lightweight. At 3,500 pounds (or more, with all-wheel drive), it's on the portly side, although 0-60 mph takes a respectable 7.8 seconds (or 8.2 sec, with all-wheel drive) and top speed is set at 130 mph. You won't find any higher-performance model here; that's where you need to head over to the Mercedes GLA45 AMG.

With struts up front, and a four-link setup at the rear end, plus reasonably quick electric power steering, the Q3 isn't quite the communication expert the X1 is, but it has a tidy, well-damped feel and responsive steering. It's definitely less harsh than the Mercedes-Benz GLA on cratered city streets, yet firmer and sportier than the new BMW X1.

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2017 Audi Q3

Comfort & Quality

A smooth ride and good seats (especially the optional sport seats) help forgive the otherwise very tight, somewhat stark interior.

The 2017 Audi Q3 is one of a new crop of even smaller luxury crossovers (it's just 172.6 inches long, which is just a foot longer than a Mini Cooper hatchback), so there's no abundance of space in the Q3's cabin. Yet commuters and space-conscious urban parents probably aren't going to be disappointed.

We gave the Q3 a 7 out of 10 on our ratings scale for good front seats and for cargo capacity, but not much else. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Q3 is about 10 inches shorter than the Audi Q5; it sits lower, too, by a couple of inches. Considering that 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. In front, taller adults might find the Q3's packaging to be a little frustrating, though, as the standard panoramic sunroof cuts into head room for anyone tall in the torso, or more than 6 feet tall.

If you fit well, the driving position is excellent, and the center console doesn't trim too much knee room. There's more shoulder room than in some other vehicles in this class, and the Q3 feels squatty and wide; the available sport seats are a must-have. 

The lack of head room is a more critical matter in back, where a 6-footer will both touch their knees on the back of the front seat and be making contact with the headliner.

Truth be told, that back seat will be flipped forward for the vast majority of the time, for weekend pantry restocking and outdoor gear; and here the Q3 stands out for its 16.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat plus 48.2 cubic feet (enough for a couple of roll-aboards and a couple of soft-sided bags) with the seatbacks flipped forward.

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2017 Audi Q3

Safety

The 2017 Audi Q3 earns great crash-test ratings from the IIHS, but it's lacking front crash prevention.

The 2017 Audi Q3 has some impressive crash-test ratings, as well as a generally sound list of safety features. Its ratings aren't entirely complete and it's missing some top-tier accident-avoidance features that would otherwise bring it a higher score than 6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The IIHS called last year's Q3 a Top Safety Pick, thanks to "Good" performance on the new small-overlap front crash test, as well as all other dynamic occupant-protection tests. The federal government hasn't yet crash-tested the compact crossover SUV.

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.

A rearview camera system is standard on the Q3, as are parking sensors, although frontal crash prevention is unavailable—and that prevents the Q3 from being an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ candidate.

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2017 Audi Q3

Features

Take it easy on the options; we think the Q3 is the best value in base all-wheel-drive form.

Audi introduced several new standard features on the Q3 last year, making it a better value than before. And now, for 2017, the automaker has rejiggered the trim levels in the lineup.

We gave the Q3 a 7 out of 10 for good base content, good optional equipment, and a solid infotainment system, but took away a point for a hugely missed USB port. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2017, Audi has rejiggered the lineup, offering a new base Premium entry-level trim that comes with 12-way power front seats, a panoramic sunroof and LED taillights and daytime running lights.

Mid-level Premium Plus models include heated, power-folding side mirrors, a power liftgate; and available 19-inch wheels.

With these changes, we see no mention that base models address one niggle we've noticed: the lack of a USB port.

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 (MMI), but those features can also be added to the Q3 Premium.

A Sport Plus package brings sport seats, Audi drive select (a multi-mode system), steering-wheel shift paddles, 10-spoke 19-inch wheels, and a Black Optic exterior trim package.

Fully optioned, at the Prestige level, the Q3 easily tops $40,000, which puts it pretty much in lockstep with the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

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2017 Audi Q3

Fuel Economy

With highway ratings that don't reach 30 mpg on the highway, the Audi Q3 has unremarkable fuel economy.

Despite the tidy size of the 2017 Audi Q3, its gas mileage isn't especially good.

The Q3 doesn't quite reach 30 mpg on the highway; the EPA rates the front- or all-wheel-drive versions of the Q3 at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined.

Those figures help it score a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

There's no hybrid nor any diesel in the works for the Q3. The larger Q5 sports the same powertrain and doesn't actually get ratings much lower. And it's worth pointing out that these ratings are lower than those of competing models from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

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6.5
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 6
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
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