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In this ongoing series, Boston.com talks with automotive authorities about why you should consider driving — or avoiding — a specific model.
2017 Audi Q3
The Audi Q3 puts the “utilitarian vehicle” in SUV. It should come as no surprise that the luxury German brand’s smallest crossover features outsized style and performance. But perhaps more so than any other competitor, the Q3 is at home both in the city and the country: easy to park and maneuver in the city and roomy, durable, and fuel efficient enough for a cross country trip.
The five-passenger subcompact SUV comes with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 200 horsepower, which is slightly less than the Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, but buyers can upgrade to all-wheel drive for $2,100.
The Q3 crossover is available in three trims: premium, premium plus, and prestige. Leather seats, Bluetooth, a USB port, a panoramic moonroof, LED taillights, daytime running lights, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, and a 10-speaker stereo system are standard. The premium plus trim, which adds heated mirrors and a power tailgate as standard for 2017, includes push-button start and heated front seats. The prestige trim comes standard with Audi’s MMI infotainment system, which includes navigation, front sport seats, and a 14-speaker Bose stereo.
The Q3 earned top scores in crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has not yet been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The SUV comes standard with a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. However, blind spot monitoring is the only optional advanced safety feature offered on the Q3, while competitors offer additional safety capabilities such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, parallel park assist, and in the case of the Mercedes GLA, a driver drowsiness monitor.
Starting at $31,800, the Q3 undercuts most of its rivals and even costs less than Audi’s A4 sedan. The premium plus and prestige trims start at $34,500 and $39,200, respectively.
What the experts are saying
Comfort despite the odds
“Small vehicles similar to the 2017 Q3 are hard to make comfortable, which makes the balance between comfort and control in this Audi especially commendable. Put another way, the Audi Q3 feels equally at home on the highway as it does taming a classic canyon road. It marries top-notch steering to a quiet cabin that’s actually easy to see out of, a sadly rare trait these days. From a dynamics standpoint, the only downside is the engine. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder puts out 200 horsepower – not bad, but still 40 fewer horses than BMW gets out of its similarly sized engine in the X1. There’s no getting around the fact that the Q3 is small, and taller drivers should know that their knees may bump the steering column, as it doesn’t adjust quite high enough, forcing an awkward driving position.” –Keith Buglewicz, senior associate editor, KBB.com
Some safety shortcomings
“The Audi Q3 earns good ratings across the board in our crashworthiness tests. However, it’s behind its competitors in the relatively new arena of crash avoidance technology. Unlike many other small SUVs, the Q3 lacks an available front crash prevention system. It also doesn’t perform well in our headlight performance test, which is a new criterion for the top IIHS safety designation in 2017. Vehicles have to be available with headlights that are rated at least acceptable in that test. Both the headlight systems available on the Q3 earn poor ratings. For buyers looking for state-of-the-art safety in a small SUV, we recommend that they look at the nine models that currently earn the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ designation.” –Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Attracting younger customers
“America is experiencing an SUV craze, and the smallest entries are a way for consumers to reap the advantages of an SUV – higher ride height and more flexible cargo space – at a more attainable price point. The Q3 was the right addition at the right time for the expanding Audi brand, which is now the fourth largest luxury car maker in the U.S. Among the luxury brands, Audi has done a good job at reaching the elusive younger buyer and this vehicle definitely plays a role in those efforts.” –Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds