The Audi Q3 is a natural-born fun car to drive, which is somewhat unexpected for a small SUV crossover, even if it is an Audi. There is a palpable driver-machine synergy between steering, suspension set, braking and exhilaration. It is a nimble city runner and a safe commuter with all-wheel drive, eight air bags and supportive safety features.
Redesigned last year, the Q3 stands 1.5 inches taller, 3.8 inches longer and nearly an inch wider than its predecessor. And it has a new turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine new eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
The bigger footprint translates to 2.6 inches more front headroom, now at 39.6 inches with the standard panoramic sunroof, and almost an inch more front shoulder room. Back seat headroom lost about an inch (now at 36.3 inches) due to the more athletic slope of the roofline, but legroom grew by 5 inches. And cargo space grew by 7 cubic feet behind the back seat and stayed about the same with the seats folded at 48 cu. ft., with about 5 ½ feet of length.
The engine has the same displacement as before but now with 228 horsepower, a boost of 28 hp, and 51 foot-pounds more torque, now at 258 lb.-ft. from 1,700-4,400 rpm.
But there is a slight delay from foot down to turbo spooling to forward motion, and then it can be a rush of force. There is fuzzy logic in how the transmission responds and if the driver had been driving lightly but then called for full force, the system takes precious split seconds to respond. Sport mode trims away some of the mileage-minded temperament, but it can feel abrupt and shift points do not feel luxurious, but the active engine-rev downshifts are fun.
The curb weight is up by 234 pounds at 3,916 lbs., but performance and fuel economy improved. Audi cites 0-60 acceleration in 7.0 seconds vs 7.8 seconds, with quattro all-wheel drive.
EPA fuel-economy estimates lost 1 mpg in all three categories, 19/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined. But the new engine runs on 87 octane rather than premium. I was averaging 19.7 mpg around town and worked up to 25 mpg on the highway, but I expect more range was possible.
The new suspension has five drive modes — comfort, auto, dynamic off-road and individual. And the four-wheel vented disc brakes also were upgraded to 13.4-inch rotors front, 12.2-inch rear versus 12.3/11.1 inches.
The tester’s Goodyear Eagle Sport (235/50) 19-inch all-season tires were on the hard side (with a treadwear rating of 560) and with some tire noise at highway speeds. But they stuck well in cornering and braking with no whining. The tires have a warranty of 50,000 miles and are praised by owners at the various tire websites.
The cabin is handsomely crafted with an emphasis on driver focus, with a slight angling of the center control touch screen to the driver. Sightlines are open at the side mirrors and the little rear quarter glass helps over-the-shoulder views, with parking help from the rearview camera.
The new cabin width allows smart placement of screens, switches and buttons in logical succession for easy adjustment. The shift console is substantial with a large e-bin for wireless charging and two USBs, one of which is a Type C. There are several areas for small-item storage and a height-adjustable center armrest.
The seats are supportive and eight-way power adjustable, but with wedgie-inducing side cushion bolsters for those moments of sporty driving.
The tall AWD tunnel makes the Q3 a great four-seater, with reclining seatbacks and extended thigh support at the window seats. But the space still feels compact for adult comfort with a slight butts-down, knees-up position. A wide fold-down center armrest has can holders and passengers have access to two charging USBs, grab handles above both doors, dry-cleaning hooks and are jacket hooks on the B-pillars.
The working end of the Q3 is more functional than might appear. The opening is wide at 44 inches with 3 feet of length to the seatback or about 5½ feet with the 60/40 seat folded. There are side corner storage nooks but just four small sections for basement storage, which is full occupied by the temporary spare tire.
Sold in three trim levels of Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige, starting prices range from $35,695-$43,895, including the $995 freight charge from Gyor, Hungary. The S-line upgrade adds $3,100 to the Premium trim or $1,300 to the Premium Plus. Today’s Premium Plus S-Line tester was $43,295 with options for the navigation package, $2,000, which adds a 10.1-inch touch screen, Audi connect for six months and the 12.2-inch virtual (graphic display) cockpit. A 15-speaker, 680-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system added $850 and brown-gray natural wood and matte inlay trim added $350.
The S line’s sporty treatment includes a full-paint finish (front and rear bumpers and the side sills), and 19-inch five spoke alloy wheels with all-season tires, though an upgrade to 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires is offered.
The Premium Plus package is a substantial upgrade, including smart-key locking and push-button ignition, wireless charging, side assist with rear cross-traffic assist, lane departure warning and eight-way power front passenger seat.
Standard equipment includes leather-trimmed upholstery, rearview camera, heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, eight-way power driver’s seat and four USB ports (one Type C).
The warranty four years or 50,000 miles includes a free first scheduled maintenance and four years of roadside assistance.
The Audi Q3 and Audi e-tron EV have earned top rankings in the ALG Residual Value Awards for 2020. The Automotive Lease Guide forecasts which vehicles in 27 categories are expected to retain the highest percentage of their manufacturer’s suggested retail price after a three-year period.
The 2019 and 2020 Audi Q3 have earned the maximum overall safety rating of five stars by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in its New Car Assessment Program testing. The NCAP’s crashworthiness ratings focus on frontal, side and rollover tests.
Some of the credit goes to Audi’s advanced technologies in the so-called pre-sense basic, and pre-sense front, both standard on all models of Q3. Pre-sense basic helps prepare the vehicle for impact by beginning to close the side windows and sunroof and pretensioning the front safety belts. Pre-sense front uses a front camera and radar sensor to monitor the scene for potentially hazardous situations and then issues visual and acoustic warnings to alert the driver.
Standard safety features include eight air bags and rear cross-traffic assist with lane-departure warning.
The Q3’s bigger footprint is more practical as a young family’s starter car, even if they could soon outgrow the back-seat space. But it will be a welcome option for others seeking to simplify and downsize while living in congested urban space.
Body style: compact, 5-seat AWD SUV crossover
Engine: 228-hp turbocharged and direct-injection 2.0-liter 4-cylinder; 258 lb.-ft. torque from 1,700-4,400 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic
Fuel economy: 19/27/22 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane
- Fuel tank: 15.9 gal.
- Cargo space: 23.7-48 cu. ft.
- Front head/leg room: 39.6/40 in.
- Rear head/leg room: 36.3/36.1 in.
- Length/wheelbase: 176.6/105.5 in.
- Curb weight: 3,916 lbs.
- Turning circle: 38.4 ft.
- Standard Premium Plus equipment includes: smart-key locking with push-button ignition, 3-zone climate control, heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, leather-trimmed upholstery, 8.8-inch touch screen display, electric parking brake, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connections, 10-speaker audio system, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, high-beam assist, parking sensors front and rear, heated side mirrors with turn signals, 60/40 folding back seat, power tailgate, adjustable cargo floor with basement storage, 19-inch wheels
- Safety Premium Plus features include: 8 air bags, rear cross-traffic assist with lane-departure warning, hill-descent control, stability and traction controls
- Base price: $38,095, including $995 freight charge; price as tested $43,295
- Options on test vehicle: navigation package, $2,000, includes a 10.1-inch touch screen, Audi connect for six months and the 12.2-inch virtual (graphic display) cockpit; Bang & Olufsen audio system $850; and brown-gray natural wood and matte inlay trim $350
- Where assembled: Gyor, Hungary
- Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles with free first scheduled maintenance and 4 years of roadside assistance