2015 Audi Q3 road test: Luxury and practicality in a pint-size crossover

2015 Audi Q3

2015 Audi Q3

Small crossover utility vehicles are popping up like crocuses in Spring so it’s no surprise that the German manufacturer has joined the fray with the 2015 Audi Q3.

And, as one would expect, the crossover is handsome on the outside, luxurious on the inside, easy to drive, well equipped, reasonably fuel-efficient —- and relatively expensive.

Based loosely on the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Audi Q3 may be new to the United States, but it has actually been on sale in Europe and China for several years. It is the smallest of the Audi utility vehicles, trailing behind the similarly styled Audi Q5, and the Audi Q7.

Audi Q3 instrument panel

Audi Q3 instrument panel

Like all Q3s, the test vehicle is powered by a turbocharged 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine which produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, and is teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA estimates fuel efficiency at 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. My mileage in several hundred miles of travel ranged from 22 to 30 mpg, with an overall average of 23 mpg.

Although front-wheel drive is available, the test vehicle is equipped to fight the bad-weather demons with Audi’s patented Quattro all-wheel-drive system. With a base price of $34,600, the all-wheel-drive model is $2,100 more expensive than the front-wheel-drive model.

Frankly, I felt that the 3,680-pound Audi could use a little more power. The Q3 will run from a stop to 60 mph in a bit under 8 seconds, satisfactory but certainly not quick in this day and age. Where I really noticed the power deficiency was in certain traffic situations such as passing on a hill.

Driving dynamics are handled by electromechanical power steering, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and an independent suspensions system, MacPherson struts up front and a four-link setup at the rear.

Audi Q3 fron seats

Audi Q3 front seats

The result is a comfortable ride and handling capabilities that allow the Audi to move confidently, rather than ponderously, on the back roads. The Q3 excels in an urban atmosphere, where there are narrow streets and tight parking spaces.

Overall, the Audi doesn’t thrill, but it doesn’t depress, either.

Perhaps it is my oddly shaped physique (5 feet, 9 inches tall and a 29-inch inseam), but I had trouble adjusting the seat height and tilt-and telescoping steering wheel in a way that I could drive comfortably without having the steering wheel partially block the vehicle’s instruments. It’s not a problem I have previously experienced in test vehicles.

Likewise, the placement of the multi-media interface controls in the center stack required an awkward reach to access all of the features.

Minor complaints, I confess, but it seemed odd to find these glitches in a car that is usually so ergonomically correct.

Audi Q3 rear seats

Audi Q3 rear seats

The rear hatchback opens to a cargo area with 16.7 cubic feet of space. Fold down the rear setbacks and the Q3 cargo area increases to 48 cubic feet.

Standard safety features on the Audi Q3 include a full complement of seat belts and airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control

Entirely unexpected —- by me and others I have talked with — was the absence of a rearview camera. Welcome in all vehicles, the rearview camera is particularly helpful in tall utility vehicles, especially among those whose age has begun to limit the flexibility of the neck muscles.

A rearview camera is available in an optional Driver Assistance Package which the test car did not have. It also includes front and rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system. In my opinion those features should be standard on any vehicle that bills itself as premium.

Audi Q3 cargo area

Audi Q3 cargo area

Among the standard features included in the base price of the Premium Plus trim level are a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights and windshield wipers, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, 12-way power heated front seats with lumbar adjustment, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a trip computer and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio availability and iPod and USB connectivity.

Optional on the Audi Q3 test vehicle were Monsoon gray metallic paint ($550); navigation, HD radio, CD/DVD player and color driver information display ($1,900); 19-inch off-road design wheels and all-season tires (($800); and a power tailgate ($400).

Add all of that together, plus the $925 delivery charge, and the $34,600 base price leaps to $39,175.

If a premium compact crossover is what you are seeking, the 2015 Audi Q3 is certainly worth a close look. But, there are a lot of similarly practical vehicles out there that also merit a look. It will pay to study the market to determine what works best for you.