By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.2
The 2016 Audi Q3 is the smallest sport-utility vehicle from the German luxury automaker, designed to go head-to-head with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1, Lexus NX and other small luxury crossover SUVs. Like its rivals, the Audi Q3 promises a premium driving experience and luxury brand at a relatively affordable price point, with a starting price a little north of $30,000. While it's not quite as fun to drive as a BMW X1, the 2016 Q3 offers a distinctly Audi take for prospective compact-luxury SUV buyers, boasting Audi's renowned fit and finish, pleasant road manners, and styling that's evocative of its bigger, more expensive Q brothers.
The BMW X1 offers more horsepower, better fuel economy, a lower starting price than the Q3, and it comes with standard rear-wheel drive instead of front-drive. Stepping away from the luxury market, you can get most of what's offered on the Q3, for significantly less money, on mainstream compact SUVs.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2016 Audi Q3 gets a new grille, headlights and other exterior trim. It also gets Alu-optic interior MMI controls along with other upgrades. Additionally, the Q3 gets a rearview camera and parking sensors as standard equipment.
Drive a new Audi Q3 and you'll be impressed with the excellent balance it strikes between comfort and control, an especially hard trick in a smaller SUV such as this....
... Put another way, whether you're looking for a comfortable highway ride or something that tames a winding canyon road, the Q3 luxury SUV has you covered. Additionally, the steering feels top-notch, the cabin remains quiet at speed, and it's even easy to see out, an increasingly rare trait these days. About the only real dynamic downside is the engine. While 200 horsepower is pretty solid for a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, that's 40 fewer horses than the similarly sized engine in the BMW X1, and it feels like it. Taller drivers should be aware that their knees may bump the steering column, as it doesn't adjust quite high enough, forcing them into an awkward driving position.
FIT AND FINISH
Even an entry-level Audi is still an Audi, and the Q3 impresses as soon as you step inside. Excellent fit and finish is everywhere you look, whether it's the dash and doors, the textured steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, or the sturdy rear cargo shelf that's sturdy enough to set shopping bags on.
QUATTRO ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Any proper SUV needs all-wheel drive (AWD), and the quattro system available on the Audi Q3 is one of the better ones available. Whether you need the extra traction because of foul weather, or if you just like the handling improvements AWD adds, it's worth the extra money.
With seating for up to five – although four will be far more comfortable – the 2016 Q3 interior is tight for an SUV, but boasts a comfortable 12-way-power driver's seat and the understated sophistication one expects from the brand. Most controls are easy to find and use, with a few exceptions; we're not fans of the flick-to-adjust temperature controls, or the non-extending sun visors. Rear legroom is just enough for adults thanks to the clever sculpting of the front seatbacks, and cargo space is pretty good, expanding to more than 48 cubic feet when you fold the rear seatbacks.
Audi's design philosophy of small, medium and large versions of the same car could be repetitive if it didn't work so well. The Q3 occupies the "small" size, looking like a 7/8-scale version of the Q5. It's 10 inches shorter than the Q5, with a roof that's a couple of inches lower, but it shares the same big grille – refreshed this year – and squinty headlights common to the brand. We like the tapered rear end and standard LED taillights, and the dual exhaust outlets are a sporty touch, as is the aluminum trim on the side windows.
This year, the luxury-branded Audi Q3 finally gets a rearview camera and parking sensors as standard equipment, which were conspicuously optional last year. Other standard features in the Premium Plus base model include leather seating, 12-way heated and power-operated front seats, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat with pass-through armrest, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, push-button start, and bright xenon headlights. Audio entertainment is provided by a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with HD and satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming and iPod integration. Strangely, while Audi includes an SD slot for music-filled memory cards, there's no standard USB input.
Besides Audi's quattro AWD system, options for the 2016 Q3 include Audi connect, which adds in-vehicle Wi-Fi, and enhances the navigation system with Google Earth. However, we think it's worth making the $4,000 stretch to the higher-end Prestige trim, which includes just about everything, including a power tailgate, navigation with voice control, 14-speaker Bose premium audio, and the Driver Assistance system with blind-spot monitoring. The only major option for the Prestige trim is a Sport Package that adds front sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles, and Audi drive select to adjust handling and response.
Unlike a lot of other Audi models, the 2016 Q3 offers just one engine: a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. With 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is exactly enough for the Q3, but you might find yourself wishing for more, especially when you learn the 2016 VW Golf GTI has a 2.0-liter that boasts 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice. The Audi Q3 comes standard with front-wheel drive (FWD), but quattro all-wheel drive is available, and worth the extra money if you have to battle actual weather. Fuel economy lags competitors, with its best of 29 mpg lagging the 34-mpg rating of the more powerful BMW X1.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/29 mpg (FWD), 20/28 mpg (AWD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a front-wheel-drive 2016 Audi Q3 Premium Plus is about $34,500 when you include the $925 destination charge, while a FWD Prestige starts at about $39,500. All-wheel drive adds $2,100 to the price of either. A loaded Audi Q3 Prestige is in the low-$40,000 range. The Q3 starts about $1,500 more than a base BMW X1, and about $1,000 less than a base Mercedes-Benz GLA250, but thanks to their greater option selections, both rivals can quickly exceed the cost of a loaded Q3. Another less prestigious option is the smaller Buick Encore, which costs thousands less at about $25,000. Before buying, check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their Q3. The Q3 is still too new to have a long-term resale value estimate, but the Audi Q5 and Q7 SUVs have held their value very well.