By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.1
The 2017 Audi Q3 goes head-to-head with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1, Lexus NX and other small-luxury-crossover SUVs. Like those rivals, the Audi Q3 promises the kind of premium driving experience suggested by the "Audi" name, but at a relatively affordable price point, which in the case of the Q3 is somewhere a little north of $30,000. Those seeking the ultimate driving experience will likely gravitate toward the BMW X1, and the Mercedes-Benz arguably offers a bit more valet-parking cachet. However, the 2017 Q3 offers a distinctly Audi driving experience. Couple that with Audi's renowned fit and finish and its distinctly Audi styling, and the Q3 is easily evocative of its bigger, more expensive Q brothers.
On the other hand, the BMW X1 offers more horsepower, better fuel economy, a lower starting price than the Q3, and it is rear-wheel drive instead of front-drive. Additionally, nearly everything the Q3 offers -- except brand prestige -- is available for significantly less money on mainstream compact SUVs.
KBB Expert Ratings
The base-model 2017 Audi Q3 Premium gets standard leather, 12-way-power front seats, xenon headlights, and more. Premium Plus models come standard with a power tailgate with programmable height, and a new Sport Plus package for the top-line Prestige trim adds a 3-spoke steering wheel and sporty trim.
Small vehicles like the 2017 Q3 are hard to make comfortable, which makes the balance between comfort and control you find in this Audi especially commendable. Put another way, the...
... Audi Q3 feels equally at home comfortably cruising down the highway as it does taming a winding canyon road. It's married to top-notch steering, and a quiet cabin that's actually easy to see out of, a sadly rare trait these days. From a dynamics standpoint, about the only downside is the engine. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder puts out 200 horsepower, which isn't bad, but it's still 40 fewer horses than BMW gets out of its similarly sized engine in the X1. There's no getting around the fact that the Q3 is small, and taller drivers should know 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
One of the reasons people gravitate to Audi vehicles is the way they're put together. The gaps are tiny, the plastics sturdy, and the materials feel first-rate. It's called “fit and finish,” and it imparts an almost subliminal sense of quality to everything inside the Audi Q3.
QUATTRO ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Of course, the Audi Q3 offers all-wheel drive, and because it's an Audi, it takes the form of the company's quattro system. It works both to help improve traction in bad weather, or if you just want to maximize your handling.
There are five seatbelts in the 2017 Q3, but your rear-seat passengers will be better off if you only use four at a time. Even with that in mind, the Q3's interior is tight, but the standard leather 12-way-power driver's seat is comfortable, and the controls are pretty good from a usability standpoint. Two glaring exceptions are the flick-to-adjust temperature controls and the non-extending sun visors. Rear legroom is tight, but good enough for adults thanks to the clever sculpting of the front seatbacks. Cargo space is surprisingly 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 may be repetitive, but it works. While the Q3 is clearly a smaller version of the 10-inch-longer Q5, it sports the same big grille and squinty headlights that are definitive of the brand. We like the tapered rear end and standard LED taillights, and the dual-exhaust outlets are a sporty touch. Base Premium models get LED daytime running lights and a panoramic sunroof this year, while the Sport Plus package for Prestige models adds 19-inch 10-spoke wheels in a matte finish.
The base Premium model adds quite a bit of standard equipment this year, including leather seating, a panoramic sunroof, 130-degree rearview camera, power front seats, heated side mirrors, and standard front and rear parking sensors. This adds to the dual-zone climate control, 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 that uses a proprietary dongle. Strangely, while Audi includes an SD slot for music-filled memory cards, there's no standard USB input, although there is a USB charge port.
Options include Audi's quattro AWD system, and Audi Connect in-car Wi-Fi and Google Earth-enhanced navigation. With the new Premium model occupying the bottom slot, the Premium Plus becomes the mid-range, and adds power-folding exterior mirrors and a power tailgate with user-programmable height. Just head straight to the higher-end Prestige trim, which includes just about everything (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 the Sport Plus Package that adds all the appearance upgrades, plus front sport seats and Audi drive select to adjust handling and response.
There's only one engine available for the 2017 Audi Q3: a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder putting out 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. It's not bad, but you might wish for more, especially when you learn your neighbor's kid has more power and torque in his VW Golf GTI. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission. The Audi Q3 offers standard front-wheel drive (FWD), but it's worth it to upgrade to quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) for better handling and better foul-weather capability. Fuel economy lags competitors, with its best of 28-mpg highway well behind the 34-mpg rating of the BMW X1. Adding to that, the Audi Q3 requires premium fuel. Due to changes in EPA testing, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
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: 20/28 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a front-wheel-drive 2016 Audi Q3 Premium model is a couple hundred short of $33,000 when you include the $950 destination charge; all-wheel drive adds a bit more than $2,000 to the total. On the other end of the spectrum, an AWD Prestige runs a bit more than $42,000. Those prices are competitive with the base BMW X1, and 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. A less prestigious option is the 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.