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2016 Audi Q3: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2016

As the 2016 Audi Q3 demonstrates, smaller compact crossovers are becoming more popular. Even premium brands feel the need to have one in their fleet. The Q3 isn't that new, though, despite the fact that it only made its debut in the United States last year.

When the Q3 launched in Europe about six years ago, Audi thought that a genuinely compact SUV would be of little interest to this side of the Atlantic. But high-riding runabouts such as the BMW X1 and Mini Countryman have shown that Americans don't need to supersize everything. The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is also getting some of that action.

Loosely related to the Volkswagen Tiguan crossover, the Q3 is 10 inches shorter than its Q5 sibling, with a wheelbase that is 8 inches shorter. Not surprisingly, there's less room for rear passengers and cargo alike. If the hatchback-size interior is acceptable, the Q3's elevated driving position, city-friendly dimensions and relatively reasonable pricing could seal the deal.

What's New for 2016?

In light of the Q3's real age, the 2016 model year's mid-cycle refresh makes more sense. This entails changes in styling at the front end, plus the inclusion of a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors to the list of standard equipment. Audi has its S Line package of sporty cosmetic touches and this is now part of the higher Prestige trim, along with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and dynamic rear turn signals (this involves a series of LEDs that illuminate sequentially according to the intended direction).

What We Like

Easy to park; plenty of standard luxuries; premium ride quality

What We Don't

No improvement in fuel economy over the larger Q5; limited back seat and cargo space

How Much?

$34,625-$39,525

Fuel Economy

The Q3 comes with either front-wheel drive or Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive. Either way, the transmission is a 6-speed automatic, and the engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the front-drive Q3 returns 20 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive returns 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined. Surprisingly, the larger, heavier Q5 also gets 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined with its 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive is not available).

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Audi Q3 is offered in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels. All-wheel drive is a $2,100 option on either trim.

Premium Plus ($34,625) comes standard with 18-in alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, ambient LED interior lighting, leather upholstery, 8-way power heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 60/40 split/folding rear seats with a center pass-through, a monochromatic trip computer, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 10-speaker audio system with iPod connectivity, a SD card slot and satellite/HD radio.

Prestige ($39,525) adds a power tailgate, a color trip computer, 19-in alloy wheels, Audi's MMI Infotainment system with a dash-mounted controller and a 7-in display, navigation, Audi Connect (including mobile Wi-Fi, Google Earth map imagery and Google Points of Interest search), voice controls, blind spot monitoring and a 14-speaker Bose audio system.

The MMI system (including the color trip computer) can be added to the Premium Plus trim as an option, although the Audi Connect system is exclusive to the Prestige. Also available on the Premium Plus are the Prestige's safety items and power tailgate.

A Sport package is optional on both trims. This includes a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, sport front seats and Audi Drive Select (which provides adjustable drive modes with specific steering, throttle and transmission calibrations).

Safety

The Q3 comes standard with anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, hill-descent control and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). Optional features include blind spot monitoring.

Due to its older design, the Q3 lacks cutting-edge features such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation or lane-keeping assistance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the Q3 its top score of Good in all major crash test categories.

Behind the Wheel

The Q3 mostly meets Audi's high standards in terms of materials and build quality. Relative to the Q5, the biggest technological downgrade is that the Q3 Premium Plus doesn't come standard with the MMI system at all, while the Q3 Prestige's MMI setup (optional on Premium Plus) features a dashboard-mounted controller that may require an awkward reach to operate. In the Q5, the dash-mounted version comes as standard and the upgraded (extra-cost) version has a superior console-mounted controller that simply isn't available on the Q3.

The standard front seats have plenty of firm support for long hauls, and both get the same power adjustments (8-way positioning plus 4-way lumbar). The special seats that come with the Sport package add side bolsters, which are perhaps too prominent for the typical crossover shopper. Predictably, the super-compact Q3's rear accommodations are cramped for adults, and cargo capacity measures a modest 16.7 cu ft. behind the rear seats, expanding to 48.2 cu ft. with those seats folded down.

The refined 200-hp turbo engine feels stronger than the projected 7.8-second sprint to 60 mph suggests (8.2 seconds with all-wheel drive). Still, there's no denying that this is an older engine used primarily in Volkswagen products -- including the related Tiguan -- whereas the Q5 and most other Audi vehicles use a different version with more power and torque. The 6-speed transmission is also a bit of a relic. Most other Audis have upgraded to an 8-speed transmission. Like the engine, though, it doesn't feel outdated, even if it technically is.

The Q3 is capable enough when taking on corners, but it's hardly a performance-oriented crossover. Its natural habitat is the highway, where the compliant-yet-composed ride underlines the Q3's luxury status. We've mentioned the Tiguan parallels, but the suspension is actually a mix of various Volkswagen and Audi platforms, and you can feel the difference. It's an appropriately upscale driving experience.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 BMW X1 -- The X1 is an all-new generation for this model year. It's fun to drive and it has a versatile interior.

2016 Lexus NX 200t -- The 200t is like the best-selling RX, only smaller.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA -- The GLA offers a sportier drive, but its interior materials aren't as good.

2016 MINI Cooper Countryman -- The Countryman has even less cargo space than the Q3, but its sliding rear seat means that adults can ride back there. It's more fun to drive, too.

Used Audi Q5 -- A clean, certified pre-owned Q5 will cost about the same as a brand-new Q3. As long as the larger size is not intimidating, you'll like the better features and capabilities. And there won't be a fuel penalty.

Autotrader's Advice

This isn't Audi's freshest model by any means, but if space is at a premium where you park, the Q3 could make sense. If you're fortunate enough to afford an Audi, then you might as well choose the Prestige model to enjoy many luxury features for which the company is renowned.

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Certified 2016 Audi Q3 quattro 2.0T Premium Plus
Certified 2016 Audi Q3
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Certified 2016 Audi Q3 quattro 2.0T Premium Plus
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Used 2016 Audi Q3 quattro 2.0T Premium Plus
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Audi Q3: New Car Review - Autotrader