More space, sportier looks and lots of tech make Audi's latest Q3 a top small crossover contender.
When the Audi Q3 arrived in the US in 2015, it was already a bit outdated. From its conservative sheetmetal to its also uninspired interior, it didn't feel new-new -- because it wasn't. Across the pond in Europe, the Q3 had been in showrooms since 2011, helping explain the small crossover's semiunderwhelming US debut. The arrival of the 2019 Q3, however, changes everything. It's bigger, better-looking both inside and out, loaded with tech and a solid daily driver.
Compared with its predecessor, the second-generation Q3 is a bit larger and more mature, growing 3.8 inches in length, 0.7 inch in width and 1.5 inches in height and being blessed with a much more interesting design. It has a new octagonal, single-frame grille and slick LED running lights up front that, along with the sculpted sides, provide a sharper appearance.
The Q3's interior is also drastically improved, with a fresh dash layout that is anything but boring. It's clean and intuitive with clearly marked switchgear, and with quality materials like brushed aluminum and matte wood trim tastefully sprinkled throughout. My tester's optional Sport interior package adds more supportive seats. A standard panoramic roof also ensures that the cabin is always light and airy.
Remember the Q3's upsized dimensions? They pay major dividends inside with the front and rear areas being sufficiently spacious for adults. Rolling three across in the back, however, is cozy, with the poor person in the center needing to straddle a tall center floor hump. For shopping trips, cargo space behind the rear seats grows from 16.7 cubic feet in the old Q3 to a more usable 23.7. When more space is needed, folding the second-row seats down bumps real estate to 48 cubic feet that I fully utilized during a supply run for the Wong family restaurant.
Anyone springing for the range-topping Prestige version of the Q3 will experience it in its most tech-rich form. The responsive and user-friendly MMI Touch Response infotainment system uses a large, 10.1-inch touchscreen to control navigation as well as an excellent 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio unit. Happily, the MMI system is both Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-compatible. Audi's fantastic Virtual Cockpit is also standard on this trim, offering a reconfigurable 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster.
There's no shortage of power points inside of the Q3. Folks in the front have access to a wireless charging pad, a USB Type-A port, a USB Type-C port and a 12-volt outlet. For people in the rear there are two USB Type-A outlets and a 12-volt within easy reach on the back of the center console.
The safety tech menu has forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking coming on all 2019 Q3s. Prestige trims get the full complement of features including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, parking sensors and a crisp, 360-degree camera.
One major part of the new Q3 that didn't need a complete overhaul is its drivetrain. A familiar 2.0-liter, turbocharged I4 engine and an eight-speed automatic gearbox send power to all four wheels. With 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque on tap, the latter at your service from 1,700 to 4,400 rpm, it gets moving at a respectable clip. Audi says the engine is strong enough to get the Q3 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds and return an EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. During a short, mostly highway road trip, I observed 25.6 mpg.
The engine's power doesn't blow you away, but it's on par with standard versions of the BMW X1 , Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class . Toss the Q3 around in Dynamic mode and it reacts admirably. The steering becomes a touch weightier for quick turn-in, and the Q3 has all the grip you'll ever need for street driving on its 19-inch Goodyear Eagle Sport tires. The standard suspension setup gives way to controlled body roll and the brakes are grabby with a firm pedal feel for confident stopping muscle.
For the normal motoring around town or for longer expressway hauls, the Q3's Comfort setting calms the drivetrain and steering down. In the engine's case, Comfort is too sluggish, and I prefer to keep the engine in its Sport setting for better off-the-line thrust.
For my ideal Q3 build, I would start with the S Line Premium Plus trim, which begins at $39,100, not including $995 for destination. That gets me niceties such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a wireless charging pad. A no-cost Turbo Blue paint job will cover the exterior, while the $500 Sport Interior Package is a must-have for the comfy and supportive sport seats. And to jazz up the interior a little more, a $150 Alcantara Interior Package adds the orange, suedelike trim to the dash and front doors.
All in, my Q3 stickers for $40,745, making it a little more wallet-friendly than the $45,340 Prestige car pictured here. I have to live without the fancy Virtual Cockpit, crazy audio system and a lot of available active safety tech, but those items aren't mission-critical to me.
The 2019 Audi Q3, with standard all-wheel drive, begins at $34,700. That makes it a smidge more affordable to start with than the $37,200 BMW X1 xDrive28i, $35,950 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic and $36,345 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD. All of those listed above are strong competitors, but the Audi is now indeed an impressive number itself. Thanks to more style, space and tech, and stout performance chops, the Q3 is easily in the conversation for top honors in the small luxury SUV class.