The Audi Q3 enters 2017 with only minor changes. Makes sense, because the Q3 appears to have already hit on its winning formula.
What is it?
The Q3 is Audi’s entry in the hot luxury subcompact crossover market. Sales in September 2016 are up almost 70% from 2015, while the A3 sedan is down nearly 19% in the same period. In the current rapid shift away from sedans, the little Q3 is exactly what an increasing numbers of buyers want.
Pricing and trims
For 2017, Audi expands the Q3’s market further by adding a Premium trim below Premium Plus and Prestige, which lowers the Q3’s entry price from 2016’s $34,625 to $32,750, including destination charges.
All Q3s come with the same 2.0-liter turbo four, and you’d add $2,100 to either of 2017’s three trims to add Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive.
The tested 2016 was a Q3 Prestige with Quattro. It added the $550 Sport package, and its $575 Mykos Black Metallic finish dazzled onlookers in our twilight photo shoot. Total price: $42,750.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Q3 as a Top Safety Pick for its crashworthiness.
However, it’s not eligible to be a Top Safety Pick Plus like the BMW X1 or Lexus NX, because there are no active safety features available for the Q3 – no forward collision warning or braking. These features will be mandated in 2022, which is a spare five model years away, and so we’d like to see Audi bestow these life- and insurance-premium-saving features on the Q3 sooner rather than later.
The Q3’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder falls in line with what we’ve come to expect from Audi and VW turbos – a little initial lag, and then a satisfying surge that takes you up to speed. Its 200 horsepower feels right for the Q3’s size and weight, and the engine revs with a refined hum.
“TFSI” stands for turbocharged fuel stratified injection, which aims to maximize combustion while saving fuel. Both the front-wheel drive and quattro Q3s post EPA combined ratings of 23 mpg, and premium fuel is recommended.
Audi doesn’t offer a manual transmission in the Q3, but the Tiptronic six-speed automatic works well, with shifts that feel firm and well-timed. Clicking the lever to S notably quickens initial the throttle response.
The tested Q3’s Sport package added Drive Select, which tailors control responses into Comfort, Dynamic and Auto settings, and Dynamic in particular made the Q3 feel impressively nimble.
Ride and handing
The test car’s 19-inch wheels and low-profile, 40-series tires combined with a suspension that resisted understeer and body lean to imbue the Q3 with a fundamentally sporty feel.
The confidence of Quattro all-wheel drive further emboldens one to probe the Q3’s limits, and ample steering feedback informs the driver along the way. The Q3 doesn’t goad you on, but it’ll handle most everything you can throw at it on public roads.
The Sport package’s front sport seats are throne-like, with broad cushions flanked by beefy bolsters.
Taller front-row occupants will love the epic thigh support these sport seats provide.
The rear seat sits low to the floor, which gives rear passengers 0.4 inches more headroom than those in front. On the other hand, legroom is a typically-subcompact 31.1 inches, which makes this row tailor-made for the petite.
The Q3’s angled C-pillars limit roominess; its 16.4-cubic-foot capacity is far less than the BMW X1’s measurement of 27.1. The Q3’s rear seats fold to open up a total of 48.2 cubic feet, which is also about 10 cubic feet short of the X1’s total space. The X1 is less than three inches longer than the Q3, but its more upright lines allow it to pack considerably more space into its footprint.
Infotainment and controls
The Q3 Prestige includes Audi’s MMI navigation system, and one of its distinct advantages is its uncluttered and high-contrast interface displayed on the seven-inch center screen.
Moving through the MMI’s functions is straightforward, with hard buttons directing you to the various function screens. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, but the SD card slot for MP3s are a nice touch.
The Audi Q3 would sell well if it were half as likable as it is. There’s something here for just about every crossover buyer, and the lower entry price afforded by the 2017’s Premium trim level assures that most folks in this market will have a reason to look Audi’s way.
If we were buying, we’d carefully consider whether the Q3’s roominess is up to snuff, and we’d hope for Audi to offer a Q3 with the active safety features that are offered by so many other crossovers – it’s a painful omission from a normally tech-leading carmaker.
But overall, the Q3 has a winning combination of size, styling and quality that is clearly resonating with crossover buyers.
2016 Audi Q3 Prestige 2.0T Quattro
Base Price: $35,800
Price As Tested: $42,750
Destination charge: $925
Mythos Black Metallic Paint: $575
Q3 Prestige Model: $4,900
Audi MMI Navigation plus
Audi Connect w/online services (6-month subscription)
Color driver information system
BOSE Surround Sound
Audi side assist
Power folding exterior mirrors
Driver side auto-dimming exterior mirror
S line exterior
Stainless steel trunk sill and S line door sills
19″ Offroad design wheels with 255/40 all-season tires
Full LED headlights
LED taillights with dynamic turn signals
Sport package: $550
Front sport seats
Audi drive select
Excellent sport seats
No forward-collision active safety mitigation
Subcompact-sized rear seat and cargo area