Audi has officially entered the compact crossover fray with the stateside introduction of the Q3, a luxury SUV in a small package that is expected to compete with the BMW X1, Lexus NX 200t and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.
The Q3 shares the PQ35 platform with the Volkswagen Tiguan and has been available in select overseas markets since 2011. It is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower (hp) and 207 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy clocks in at 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway. Adding Quattro all-wheel drive doesn’t affect the Q3’s combined fuel economy of 23 mpg, but that rating falls short of the marks set by the X1 (27), NX 200t (25) and GLA-Class (29).
The new SUV owes its good looks to the larger Q5, which slots in just above the Q3 in Audi’s lineup and has perfected the stately-but-not-too-boxy SUV design that is slowly overtaking the segment. The Q3 starts with the Q5’s yawning façade, big doors and big tires and saves space in the rear end — where the tires are set close to the corners and the angular cargo hold yields a paltry 16.7 cubic feet of storage.
The Q3 is available in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels. Both models can be equipped with all-wheel drive and include HID headlights and LED taillights, 18- or 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated and powered front seats and a 10-speaker stereo.
Prestige trim brings a Navigation package that is optional on Premium Plus editions and includes a 7-inch display powered by Audi’s knob- and voice-controlled MMI interface. Prestige also adds upgraded audio, stainless steel accents and a power liftgate. A Sport package, optional for both trims, adds sporty seats, paddle shifters and a selection of drive modes.
Critics have praised the Q3’s smooth, quiet ride and able handling — especially when equipped with all-wheel drive — while deducting points for body roll and a somewhat slow take-off speed.
The 2015 Audi Q3 is in showrooms now. The starting MSRP is $32,500 for the Premium Plus and $36,400 for the Prestige; all-wheel drive adds $2,100 to the sticker price for both models.