The Audi Q3 is one of the best-selling machines currently in the company’s lineup. With sales of small crossovers and SUVs booming, the Audi A3 is sitting at that perfect intersection of luxury, brand cache and cost to bring in buyers like flies to honey. That said, the A3 is a relatively ancient machine by today’s standards. It debuted in 2011, and it’s built on the old Golf Mk5 Platform from a decade ago. To keep it fresh for buyers, Audi gave the 2016 machine a facelift with new lights, updated equipment and some interior upgrades. We spent a week, and more than 1000 miles on a road trip, testing the new Q3 to its absolute limits. Is it worth your dollar, or should you be looking to a more modern CUV for your family?
From the outside, the Q3 is handsome enough. Audi sticks to a very clean design language so their cars always look pretty new and modern, even if they are a few years old. For 2016 the Q3 received a new grille, some updated headlights and a few nips and tucks for the trim to keep it looking as fresh as possible. The look works, and it keeps the Q3 in line with the rest of the Audi family. The profile of the Q3 features a sharply cut back end that Audi says is supposed to evoke the feel of a coupe, but in practice it’s just cutting cargo space. I would rather have a more squared profile like the larger Q5 to make the Q3 more practical. I do like the silver paint though, and the sharp body lines look good when you get it a bit dirty.
The inside of the Q3 sees more useful upgrades and luxury touches including Audi’s Alu-optic interior MMI controls. Every Q3 comes standard with luxury features like leather seats, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and advanced keyless entry. This gives the Q3 some of the best standard equipment in the segment. Our tester included all the bells and whistles including sports seats, Audi Drive Select, Audi Connect and MMI with Navigation. Our tester also had the power liftgate option, which is as annoyingly slow to use as every power hatch on the market.
Why is this still even a thing?
Beyond my annoyance with the powered hatch, the interior is a pretty nice to place. It’s a little bland, being large swaths of black on black with just the slightest hint of aluminum trim to break up the monotony, but everything feels well built, and the ergonomics are top notch. Interior space is even decent for a car this size. I loaded up three other adults, all of which are over six-feet tall and over the 240-pound mark. It was a very tight fit, but we all managed to make it the 9 hour ride to Daytona without too much trouble. We did have to make a few stops for stretching and moving about, but that was about it.
The actual driving experience of the Audi Q3 will be familiar to anyone who has driven any multitude of VAG products. Under the hood is the same 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder engine that has been found in the Jetta, GTI, A3, TT, A4 and more. The Q3 uses the slightly older version of the motor that produces 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed through a Tiptronic six-speed automatic. Our car was equipped with Quattro as well.
This engine is easily the weakest link in the Q3’s chain. While 200 horsepower is plenty for a 3,000 lb GTI, the Q3 with Quattro weighs almost 3700 pounds. And you can feel every pound of it. 0-60 arrives in a leisurely 8.2 seconds. You can imagine how much lower that number was I had it loaded four-people deep with a trunk full of camping gear. It was rough. The torque from the 2.0 TDI motor or updated 2.0-liter turbo would do wonders for this machine. Once you are up to speed though, the Q3 is a champion cruiser. Road noise is pretty subdued, and the car tracks straight and true with a solid on-center feel and very little issues with crosswinds or drafts. That curb weight likely has a lot to do with this.
At least with a small engine, you get decent fuel economy. The EPA says you should get 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 23 combined out of the Q3. No mistake, 23 combined is pretty poor, but after my week of testing including my giant road trip, I was staring at almost 26 mpg on the dial, so you may see better than expected numbers.
It is still hard to get around the fact that this machine is still little more than a lifted A3 Sportback. And therein lays my biggest issue with the thing. It’s not any more practical than an Audi A3 hatch or A4 sedan, or the lesser Golf Sportwagen for that matter, and it certainly doesn’t drive any better than those other machines .It’s underpowered for its weight, its cargo space is just acceptable for the class, and fuel economy is just on par. With an as-tested price of $40,000 it doesn’t make a great bargain-argument either.
Instead what we have is a machine that is wholly competent and competitive in its class, but it’s not exactly special. I still prefer it over something like the GLA, but that has more to do with annoyances in Mercedes interior design than anything else.
Still, if you want a capable compact luxury crossover with some pretty decent interior equipment, you could do worse than the 2016 Audi Q3.