The Audi Q3 is a five-seat crossover with nubile styling that aspires to be elongated, like its big brother the Q5. All-wheel-drive subcompact crossovers have become popular, and the Q3 now competes with the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Mazda CX-3, and Fiat 500X, to name a few. The Q3 is more compact than them, though not as small as the Range Rover Evoque. At 172.6 inches, it’s only a foot longer than a Mini Cooper hatchback.
The 2018 Audi Q3 is in the fourth year of its second generation, and continues unchanged.
There is one powertrain, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It handles well, although its engineering priority is ride and comfort, over crisp cornering. For a compact, its fuel mileage is low, with an EPA-estimated 20/29 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. Luxury cars get that nowadays.
The Q3 rates top crash-test scores from the IIHS. A rearview camera and parking sensors are standard, while options include blind spot monitor and automatic park assist.
There are three trim levels: Premium ($32,900), Premium Plus, and Prestige. Front-wheel drive is standard Quattro all-wheel-drive is extra ($2100).
Standard equipment on the Premium includes 12-way power front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and LED running lamps and taillamps. The Premium Plus model adds heated folding mirrors and a power liftgate. The Prestige has an grander audio system, navigation, blind-spot monitors, in-car 4G LTE data services with Audi Connect, and Audi’s Multi-Media Interface.
The Q3 has a tidy shape that’s not dated, a subtle wedge that’s subtly rounded at the edges. Its stance that’s more muscular than the same-sized A3 Sportback, and two inches lower, if less broad-shouldered, than the Q5. The Q3 looks purposeful.
Narrow headlamps fly like wings from the top corners of the huge grille, but the real beauty is in the black mesh intakes, four of them, off the lower corners of the grille.
The sculpting at the sides climbs to a hatchback roofline that aspires to coupe, and wraps down to a smooth liftgate with LED taillamps that look neat from behind.
Technically it seats five but the third passenger in rear won’t like it, as there’s not much knee or head room back there. A panoramic sunroof is standard, which is nice but lowers the ceiling. Visibility isn’t great, with thick pillars and a small rear window.
The cabin is tasteful and detailed well, and the trim choices are simple and few. The dash is a broad stretch of soft black plastic trimmed by thin metallic rings. The gauges are big and clear, and on some models with infotainment, a 7.0-inch screen folds out from the dash. On others, it doesn’t stow away, with the MMI knob fixed on the center console. The screen offers a bright high-resolution display, especially vivid with the Google Earth maps.
The driving position is excellent, but the optional sport seats aren’t optional, they’re necessary, for their bolstering. The center console doesn’t crowd the driver’s right knee, as it does in many compacts.
Cargo space is good, with 16.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat, about the size of a big trunk. And with the rear seatbacks flipped, there’s a 48.2 cubic feet, quite healthy for a compact.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is exceptionally well-tuned and responsive, and gets the most out of its 200 horsepower. But the Q3 is kind of chubby for a sub compact, at 3500 pounds, so more horsepower would be nice. The Q3 does zero to sixty in 7.8 seconds, or 8.2 seconds with all-wheel drive.
The good news is that the torque, 207 pound-feet, hits its peak at a low 2000 rpm and stays there over a broad range of rpm, a compensation that helps make the Q3 feel energetic.
The 6-speed automatic transmission’s gears are well spaced, and shifts are confident, but we miss the DSG twin-clutch that Audi builds so well.
The suspension has four links in rear, and struts in front. The ride is well damped. The Q3 isn’t harsh on bumpy streets, like the Mercedes-Benz GLA. It has good road manners, and feels balanced.
The electric-assist power steering is responsive and fairly quick. The handling is tidy, even agile at times, but it can’t match the BMW X1. But overall, the Q3 actually feels sportier than the X1.
The tidy Q3 is fairly nimble and fairly quick. It could be compelling, if only it were nimbler and quicker. Two hundred horsepower, no matter how responsive, lugging 3500 pounds, is a bit of a drag. It’s reflected in 23 miles per gallon.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.