Audi’s Q5 compact crossover has been crushing it for years, so we expect big things from its little sibling, the subcompact 2016 Audi Q3. In some ways, there’s no doubt that the pint-sized Q3 delivers. Interior quality has long been an Audi hallmark, and the Q3’s got plenty of it. How about a hushed, compliant ride? Yep, the Audi comes through again with a suitably serene character on most surfaces. Furthermore, even the base Q3 comes loaded with lots of desirable equipment, so value turns out to be another core strength.
On the other hand, the Q3 is hardly the freshest face in this segment, even though it debuted on our shores just last year. Audi’s been building it since 2011 overseas, which explains why it comes with the company’s outdated proprietary music interface rather than USB connectivity like newer Audi models. The Q3’s turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is also an earlier design, as is its 6-speed automatic transmission. Consequently, the Q3 is actually slower than the larger, heavier Q5 2.0T, which gets an eight-speed automatic and more power, while EPA fuel economy is a wash between the two.
Of course, the Q3 is also significantly cheaper than the Q5, but there are similarly priced subcompact luxury crossovers that offer comparative advantages. The biggest option you should check out is the fully redesigned 2016 BMW X1, which boasts a larger cabin and cutting-edge technology along with superior performance and fuel economy. The Lexus NX 200t is neck-and-neck with the Audi in terms of space- and fuel-efficiency, but it pulls ahead with faster acceleration and standard USB integration. Then there’s the even smaller but pleasantly frugal and highly customizable 2016 Mini Countryman, which is more engaging to drive and can be outfitted with spunky turbo power. In sum, the SUVS "C" rated 2016 Audi Q3 still merits consideration if you’re drawn to its sophisticated style, but otherwise, this little crossover may be less of a big deal than you’d think.
In the real world, the 2016 Audi Q3 may seem peppy enough, especially if you put the transmission in its more aggressive Sport mode. Still, the Q3’s tepid full-throttle acceleration puts it near the back of the pack, which is unusual for an Audi these days. On the bright side, the engine itself is quite refined, seldom drawing attention to itself and remaining vibration-free even at high rpm.
Over broken pavement, the Q3 delivers a controlled yet supple ride. The steering is light and can feel rather numb, but it’s adequately precise. When pushed harder around turns, the Q3 exhibits substantial body roll and doesn’t feel as responsive or fun as we’d expect from the Q5’s baby brother. Note that the optional Sport package does not include any suspension upgrades, so every 2016 Q3 will have the same soft underpinnings. That said, overall composure is still respectable, and most folks will likely find the Q3 affable and easygoing in everyday driving.
The 2016 Audi Q3 is a subcompact luxury crossover available in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige. Both are offered with either front- or all-wheel drive ("Quattro").
Standard features on the Premium Plus include 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, LED running lights and taillights, automatic headlights and wipers, roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, eight-way heated power front seats (with four-way lumbar), 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, Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface) control system with a pop-up 7-inch display and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, a CD player and Audi’s proprietary digital music interface.
Optional for the Q3 Premium Plus is a Technology package, which includes a navigation system, Audi Connect telematics (comprising enhanced Web-based navigation and information services along with WiFi hotspot capability), a color trip computer and a blind-spot monitor.
The Prestige starts with all of the above and adds 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, "S line" styling cues, a power liftgate, heated auto-dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors, a 14-speaker Bose sound system and stainless-steel door and tailgate sill plates.
There are only a few other options for the Q3. A Sport package adds Audi drive select (adjustable drive modes for steering and transmission), paddle shifters and front sport seats with extendable thigh support. Wood inlays and a black cloth headliner are optional on both trim levels, while the Premium Plus can be equipped with the Prestige’s 19-inch wheels and power liftgate.
Even though this is the most affordable Audi crossover, the cabin doesn’t skimp on quality. The Q3 employs many of the same materials and design principles as any other modern Audi, and the result is one of the finest interiors in its class. In fact, the cockpit’s design theme is 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 lives on the dash, which takes a bit of getting used to and can make for an uncomfortable reach. Another drawback is the absence of a USB port and even a basic auxiliary input jack — it’d be a surprise in virtually any 2016 vehicle, let alone a premium crossover from Audi. Instead, you get the company’s strange proprietary digital music interface that requires a special adapter cable for USB connectivity and fails to provide rich feature integration like most USB-enabled interfaces.
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 36.1 inches the Lexus NX 200t provides, for example. As for cargo capacity, it’s a mixed bag. Behind the rear seats, there are 16.7 cubic feet of available space, a paltry figure that’s nonetheless in line with the Lexus. Fold down those seats, however, and the Q3 provides a reasonably roomy 48 cubic feet.
Standard safety equipment for the 2016 Audi Q3 includes stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. The Technology package adds 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.
In crash tests conducted by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2016 Q3 received the highest rating of "Good" in the small-overlap frontal-offset, moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests, while the Q3’s seat and head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Every 2016 Audi Q3 comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine rated at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It’s matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2016 Audi A3 checks in at 23 miles per gallon combined (20 city/29 highway) with front-wheel drive and 23 miles per gallon combined (20/28) with all-wheel drive.
In SUVS testing, a Q3 Quattro accelerated to 60 miles per hour in 8.0 seconds, a slow time compared to direct competitors like the X1 and NX 200t.
Quiet and cozy ride; upscale interior; many luxury features come standard.
The 2016 Audi Q3 crossover delivers the luxury ambience and drive expected of the brand, but its mediocre performance, fuel economy and utility mean that some competitors could end up being more appealing.