Building on the success of its compact Q5, Audi has entered the growing premium smaller crossover fray with the 2015 Audi Q3. The Q3 looks like a 7/8-scale version of its sibling, which is fine by us, as that means it shares its bigger brother’s chiseled good looks. Stylish design is not the only thing the Q3 shares with the Q5, as its cabin is likewise handsome, well-trimmed and well stocked with standard luxury features. Among the latter are a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery and heated, power-adjustable front seats.
Taking its place below the Q5, the Q3 is 10 inches shorter in length and nearly 3 inches shorter in height. It’s also thousands of dollars less expensive. We also like the way the Q3 handles the daily grind. It’s smooth and quiet, and the front seats are very comfortable. There are some downsides to this smaller Audi, though. Its acceleration and handling aren’t as good as we’d expect from an Audi, a few controls are somewhat awkwardly placed and the cargo area is pretty small. Given this segment, however, the latter should come as no surprise.
These new entry-level compact crossover luxury SUVs are becoming more popular, and that means there’s a fair amount of choice available for 2015. Compared with the Q3, both the 2015 BMW X1 and the 2015 Infiniti QX50 are faster and handle more sharply. You could also check out the less expensive Buick Encore, the sporty Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, the highly customizable 2015 Mini Countryman or the roomier 2015 Lexus NX 200t. Within this group, the SUVS.com "C" rated Q3 leaves us a little underwhelmed. It’s certainly worth a look, but it’s also possible that one of the Q3’s competitors will serve you better.
Although the 2015 Audi Q3 may not be as quick as a BMW X1 in an all-out dash to 60 mph, in the real world the Q3 is peppy enough. This is especially true if you put the transmission in Sport mode, which keeps the Q3 on its toes. Lean into it for merging or passing and the Q3 responds with modest response. The transmission is smooth, if a bit reluctant to downshift if not in Sport mode.
Over broken pavement, the Q3 delivers a controlled yet still supple ride. Driving enthusiasts will likely feel that the steering, though precise, is too light, but most folks will like it just fine. When pushed harder on a back road, the Q3 exhibits noticeable body roll and doesn’t feel as responsive or fun as what we’d expect from the Q5’s baby brother. That said, overall composure is still respectable, and most drivers will find that the Q3 has an affable, easygoing demeanor in everyday driving situations.
The 2015 Audi Q3 is a small luxury crossover available in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige. Both are available in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive ("Quattro").
Standard features on the Premium Plus include 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, LED running lights, automatic headlights and wipers, roof rails, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar), heated front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, a CD player and an iPod/USB input.
Optional for the Q3 Premium Plus is the MMI Navigation Plus package, which includes Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface) controller, a 7-inch display screen and a navigation system with voice controls. You can also get the Driver Assistance package, which adds front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and blind spot monitoring.
The Prestige includes the above and further adds a power liftgate, auto-dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors, an upgraded 14-speaker Bose sound system, Audi Connect (enhanced Web-based navigation, information and WiFi hot spot) and stainless steel door and tailgate sills plates.
Other available features for the Q3 include 19-inch wheels and a Sport package (adjustable drive modes for steering and transmission, paddle shifters and front sport seats).
Even though this is the most affordable Audi SUV, the cabin doesn’t skimp when it comes to using the same high-quality materials and excellent build quality that are seen in pretty much every modern Audi. The cockpit’s design theme looks more sports auto than sport-utility, as it features a center stack canted toward the driver along with large primary gauges and various metallic accents.
Most of the Q3’s controls are fairly straightforward, but the climate controls are located inconveniently low on the center stack, in front of the gear selector. Also, the multifunction control knob for the MMI system (on navigation-equipped cars) has said knob located on the dash, rather than on the center console like most other systems, which isn’t as convenient and takes a bit of getting used to.
Although the front and rear seats are plenty cozy thanks to their firm, well-shaped cushions, the rear compartment is rather tight for taller folks. At 31.1 inches, rear legroom is considerably less than the 37.4 inches the Q5 provides, for example. Cargo capacity is a mixed bag. Behind the rear seats, there are 16.7 cubic feet of available space, which is about 8 cubes shy of what a BMW X1 provides. Fold down those seats, however, and the Q3 provides 48 cubic feet, which is about average.
Standard safety equipment for the 2015 Audi Q3 includes stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The optional Driver Assistance package features front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and a blind spot monitoring system.
During SUVS braking testing, an all-wheel-drive Q3 came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 122 feet, about average for the segment.
Every 2015 Audi Q3 comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine good for 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It’s matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and buyers can choose between front-wheel and all-wheel drive.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2015 Audi A3 varies ever so slightly, depending on whether you get front- or all-wheel drive. The front-wheel-drive Q3 earns 23 miles per gallon combined (20 city/29 highway), and the AWD version also rates 23 miles per gallon combined but it has a slightly lower highway rating (20/28).
In SUVS testing, a Q3 Quattro sprinted to 60 miles per hour in 8.0 seconds. This is an adequate time, but the BMW X1 and Infiniti QX50 are noticeably speedier.
Quiet and cozy ride; upscale interior; many luxury features come standard.
The 2015 Audi Q3 is comfortable, but offers merely mediocre performance and utility. Some competitor compact luxury crossover SUVs could end up being more appealing.