Here’s an oddity for you. Before even getting a chance to review (or drive) the 2015 Audi Q3 now on the market here in Canada, we are bringing you this advance preview of the 2016 Q3, which receives a mild refresh and is coming to market next fall. That’s a long way off, but the changes relevant to our market are incredibly subtle, so this is a great point to begin our coverage of the Q3, which is beginning to take the Canadian market by storm.
Although just released in Canada this fall as a 2015 model, the Audi Q3 has been on the European market for several years now, and is a resounding success with over 400,000 units sold to date globally. In Canada, it got out of the gate a month before the Mercedes-Benz GLA, its primary competitor, and is outselling that mini-ute so far in their first couple months – that is a sales battle we will continue to follow with avid interest. It also has an edge on the established X1 from BMW in those same months, but it’s hard to make too much of it with Q3 supply likely not yet keeping up to demand.
Anyhow, the vehicle itself: the 2016 Q3 receives a mild facelift and interior upgrades, though there are also a range of updates to various European powertrains. The sole powertrain option in North America, the familiar 2.0TFSI turbocharged gasoline engine remains paired with a tiptronic automatic transmission and choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
Like the specifications, price is unlikely to change much, if at all, currently starting at $35,800 for a base FWD Progressiv model to $40,900 for the top Quattro Technik trim, with various options available to take the price up to the mid-40s.
The Q3 is a truly compact crossover, its footprint no larger than a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic (actually, it’s quite a bit shorter in length, but wider), but it has much of Audi’s modern design ethos wrapped into a tight package. With stubby proportions, it also has a certain element of fun to it, but a touch of chrome around the windows and metallic roof rails keep it classy.
The front is where we will see the most distinct changes, with a more pronounced angular grille shape surrounded in chrome that reaches out to the headlights at the top. Those headlights are also updated with Audi’s clean straight lines and kink in the housing and wraparound LED accents that give it a strong visual signature at night.
2016 Audi Q3, dashboard showing interior trim options. Click image to enlarge
At the back, the design changes are even more subtle, again with new lighting design and more horizontal creases in the bumper to emphasize its width and twin tailpipes finishing the underbody diffuser. The redesigned taillights don’t just look modern and slick, they also feature a neat little party trick: the individual LEDs in the turn signal indicator illuminate from the inside to outside, clearly identifying the intended directional change. It remains to be seen if this and the stuttering brake lights to indicate panic braking will be fitted to North American models.
Always an Audi highlight, the Q3 interior is thoroughly modern, and although more basic than its larger siblings, still features superior quality to anything this size. However, the design itself is a bit of a mixed bag, the leaning vents and asymmetrical effect it creates are not my favourite Audi design.
The steering wheel, especially as in this S-Line Package model is a feast for the hands, with perforated leather, thick, tight stitching and contoured grips. The buttons on the left spoke control Audi’s interface and those on the right spoke volume, voice command and a programmable ‘favourite’ button. Behind the wheel are bright, clear gauges, and an extra information screen in the middle that can display a digital speedometer or a variety of other information like efficiency, music, phone contacts and vehicle settings.
2016 Audi Q3 steering wheel, gauges, HVAC controls, centre stack. Click image to enlarge