After spending the weekend in the 2015 Audi Q3 2.0T, it's easy to see the appeal of this new generation of compact crossover SUVs-the vehicle provides plenty of utility and plenty of performance in a package that can best be described as handy. That's because the Q3 maximizes its interior dimensions with an exterior that's truly compact resulting in a vehicle that's easy to park. Yet, thanks to the raised seating position of the Audi Q3, you won't feel intimidated by the traffic around you.

While many of these new generation crossovers feel more like high-riding hatchbacks than true SUVs, the looks and build quality of the Q3 gives it more of a feel of a slightly smaller Audi Q5 than a pumped up A3 Sportback. This is one solid piece and the 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine offers good performance through its  6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Unlike the twin-clutch DSG gearboxes that are seemingly ubiquitous on VW Group offerings, the torque converter Tiptronic transmission is much smoother and seamless in its operation than the DSG, which is essentially a manual gearbox with an automated clutch. And fuel economy doesn't seem to suffer much, as the Q3 is rated at 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway for a combined average of 23 mpg, which is pretty typical for this class of vehicle.

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High functionality  

The 2015 Audi Q3 is as versatile as it is good looking. The 60/40 split fold down rear seats allows for a large cargo area behind the front seats and the large rear hatch offers plenty of easy access to the load floor. We were able to easily accommodate a 5-foot Christmas tree into the back of the vehicle by flipping one-side of the seat forward. The materials including the rear shelf, and the below floor storage for the spare, jack and other assorted tools is of high quality, as befitting a vehicle with a base price of $34,600, plus $925 delivery. Our test model also had a $550 Cobalt Blue metallic paint scheme, $1,900 Navi system, 19-inch wheels which added $800 and a $400 rear power gate option, bringing the total to $39,175 with destination.

Even though the Q3 has an impressive list of standard equipment including a panoramic sunroof, 12-way power adjustable seats, leather upholstery and dual zone climate control, the most glaring omission is the lack of a back-up camera, something that is almost a given these days. Still, the overall quality of the materials, the ride and handling and the utility of the Audi Q3 make it a key competitor in a market with such entries as the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA, 2015 Lexus NX and the 2015 Lincoln MKC

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