• All-new 2nd-generation Audi Q3
  • Larger, more spacious
  • Quattro all-wheel drive standard
  • Standard digital instrument display
  • Arrives in the U.S. next summer or fall

 

Audi has sold some 1.1 million Q3s since the model made its debut in 2012, but this small crossover SUV, based on the platform of the 5th-generation Volkswagen Golf, hasn’t made a huge splash in the U.S. market. Now, though, with the debut of the all-new 2019 Audi Q3, a 2nd-generation model based on the VW Group’s MQB chassis architecture, that looks like it will change. KBB recently sampled a European-spec 2019 Q3 in the mountainous Tirol region of northern Italy, where this new compact Audi SUV proved itself to be sportier, more mature, and a much better competitor for the likes of the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Volvo XC40.

Some basics

As before, the Audi Q3 remains a compact 4-door crossover SUV powered by a transversely mounted front engine. Although several powerplants, including a TDI diesel, are available in Europe, the U.S. Q3 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in two states of tune -- 228 horsepower or 184. With either power output, the direct-injected engine in the U.S. Q3 mates exclusively to one transmission – a conventional 8-speed automatic with Quattro all-wheel drive.

The new 2019 Audi Q3 is 3.8 inches longer than the previous model, and its wheelbase has grown by 3.0 inches, which translates to more 2nd-row legroom. While width has grown a bit, by 0.7 inches, the overall height of the new Q3 has been reduced by 0.2 inches. In back, the cargo area aft of the rear seat has grown from 16.7 to 18.7 cubic feet, while the back seat, now with an adjustable backrest, slides fore/aft 5.9 inches to help this compact Audi SUV accommodate tall passengers or bulky cargo. In the real-world everyday environment, the new Q3 feels reasonably compact, but it’s now much better at carrying four adults and their gear in good comfort.

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Design

Audi sought to make the new Q3 look more like an SUV. To that end, the stylists at the new Ingolstadt design studio raised the Q3’s hood and full-LED headlights, while also shortening the overhangs and sharpening the angle where windshield meets hood. An octagonal grille provides the familiar Audi face, with two of its vertical slats lining up perfectly with creases in the new hood. From the side, the strongest styling element is the shoulder line, which spans the length of the new Q3 from nose to heavily raked C-pillars. Further complementing the SUV appearance of the new Q3 is a long roof spoiler that shades much of the rear glass. Topping it all off is a handsome stance that’s powerful without being overly aggressive, aided by large wheels (18-, 19-, or 20-inch in the U.S.) and subtle body creases above each wheel that provide a welcome stylistic link to the blister flares of the original Audi Quattro.

Inside, the dashboard has been made taller to elevate the SUV feel of the Q3, though not so much as to restrict its outward view or make the interior feel claustrophobic. Rather, the opposite is true -- the new Q3 feels roomier than before (because it is), and we appreciate how the octagonal theme of the single-frame radiator grille is replayed inside for the frame of Audi’s MMI navigation screen.

Of note: All the Q3s in these photos are European-spec models, which sport thick black fender lips to go along with the dark lower bumpers and rocker trim panels. All U.S. Q3s, in contrast, will have a single-paint tone, presumably to give the vehicle a more refined look. While we haven’t seen a U.S.-spec Q3 yet, we hope Audi USA decides to import some Q3s with the 2-tone Euro look, especially since the German company wants to play up its SUV nature.

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The driving experience

KBB drove a European-spec Q3 in Italy, one fitted with a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and a slightly lower ride height than the U.S. version. Nevertheless, the Q3 we sampled had the 228-horsepower version of the 2.0T, so it gave us a good picture of what the U.S. Q3 will be like when it arrives in the U.S. next summer or fall from Audi’s Gyor, Hungary, factory.

Next summer or fall? Yes, that’s a painfully long wait for the U.S. 2019 Audi Q3, but we suspect your patience will be rewarded because it’s a much better vehicle than the one it replaces, improved noticeably in all areas. The interior looks and feels like it has moved up a full class in overall refinement, and the single-panel MMI screen looks like was just yanked right out of the uber-luxurious A8 sedan.

The Euro-spec Q3 also did not have the large panoramic sunroof that will be standard on the U.S. version. That stated, the headroom in the Q3 we tested in Italy was more than ample for taller drivers, so we suspect the U.S. version, even with the huge sunroof, will be just fine tor tall folks. Seat travel is also adequate for taller drivers.

On the road, the new Q3 felt refined and peppy, although the turbocharged engine can get a bit grumbly under load in low-rpm situations. At all other times, though, the well-isolated powerplant worked well, propelling the Q3 up to highway speeds with ease and feeling fairly relaxed in its duties around town. The twin-clutch gearbox of the Euro-spec Q3 shifted smoothly. It wouldn’t surprise us one bit, however, if the traditional 8-speed automatic coming in the U.S. model felt even silkier.

In ride quality, the Q3 shined. It’s softer than, say, a VW Tiguan, but not the least bit floaty, exhibiting well-controlled body motions. On the high-speed curves and twisty mountain switchbacks near and around Bressanone (Brixen, if you speak German), the Q3 stayed composed, aided by light-effort steering and pleasingly minimal body roll. We suspect the same can be said of the U.S. Q3, but we should point out that it does ride a bit higher than the Euro Q3 -- by about 3/4 of an inch in front and half an inch in back.

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Standard safety

As you might expect of an all-new Audi, the 2019 Q3 will be loaded with driver-assist programs. Among the aids that will be standard on the U.S. version are: adaptive cruise control, park assist, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic assist with automatic braking, and a suite of cameras that provide a bird’s-eye 360-degree view around the Q3, which is especially handy when backing out your driveway or squeezing into a tight parking spot. When the U.S.-bound Q3 goes on sale next year, it will likely be available with other features still being finalized for the vehicle.

Thoughtful touches

Scalloped B-pillars: While these may seem minor, they show the high level of thought that has gone into the Q3. On the back side of the B-pillars, down at floor level, Audi has re-contoured the rear-facing edges to make it much easier for people with large feet to get out of the Q3. More manufacturers should emulate this.

Dual-height rear load floor: All Q3s have a rear load floor that can be switched from a lower standard position to a slightly higher one. When the floor is in its upper location, the Q3’s hard cargo cover can be stored securely beneath it, keeping it in the Q3 for possible use later. Very handy.

Excellent connectivity: Besides four USB ports (two in front, and two in back), the 2019 Audi Q3 has optional Audi Connect Navigation & Infotainment Plus with Google Earth, plus wireless smartphone charging and a special phone box that helps your phone get a better signal by utilizing the dorsal fin antenna on the roof of the Q3.

Audi Virtual Cockpit: All Q3s have digital instruments standard, but connectivity (and the coolness quotient) is much heightened with the available Audi Virtual cockpit, which boasts a 12.3-inch main screen and a 10.1-inch touch display atop the interior’s center stack. When you’re using navigation, you can have the large map appear on the Q3’s big screen directly in front of you, while your audio info is displayed on the smaller center screen. The air conditioning and heater, for the record, are controlled via manual switches and knobs on a handsome panel below the center screen.

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Pricing

It’s way too early for Audi to provide pricing information on the 2019 Q3, but this may help: The outgoing 2018 Q3 Quattros start at $35,995, a price that includes a $975 destination fee. Given the much-improved nature of the all-new U.S. Q3 -- which will be sold only as a Quattro with leather interior trim, the panoramic sunroof and available options such as Alcantara interior accents and a powerful 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium sound system – we expect the all-new 2019 Audi Q3 to be closer to $40,000.

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