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First Drive — 2020 Audi Q3

Small Crossover, Big Sophistication

Colin Ryan
Mar 3, 2020
Some people might dismiss the 2020 Audi Q3 and its kind as mere urban runabouts, small enough to make parking easier and with a short wheelbase that wouldn't work so well on an extended road trip. That would be wrong. Don't underestimate the Q3.
Yes, it's great around town. Outward vision is good, many safety features are standard, and acceleration off the line is healthy. But it's also sufficiently comfortable and controlled to make longer runs enjoyable, with decent power and a quiet cabin. If some rough weather and/or terrain is encountered along the way, then the standard-issue all-wheel-drive system brings some extra confidence.
Photo 2/9   |   2019 Audi Q3 First Drive Rear
The 2020 Audi Q3 is another big reason why the premium subcompact SUV/crossover class is attracting more and more buyers. This second generation made its debut in 2019 and has quickly become a serious contender.
As is usually the case with a new generation, the latest Q3 is bigger than its predecessor. Big enough to consider this instead of a one-size-up compact premium crossover like the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. Especially if money is actually an object.
For example, the 2020 Q3 starts off in Premium trim at $35,695; a 2020 Q5 is priced from $44,295. The Q3's standard equipment includes LED exterior lighting, panoramic sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather seating surfaces, powered tailgate, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, four USB ports (one regular, three type-C), 18-inch alloy wheels, and power-adjustable front seats.
However, this reasonable entry price might also inspire buyers to check out the Q3 Premium Plus version, from $38,795, which comes with parking sensors at both ends, hands-free tailgate, wireless charging (the pad is big enough to take an iPhone 8S), phone signal booster, and blind-spot monitoring.
This could be the ideal choice, as it's eligible for Wi-Fi, adaptive cruise control, a Bang & Olufsen audio system upgrade, and the Virtual Cockpit, a configurable information display that can put navigation information directly into the gauge cluster. Don't worry about the learning curve; it's mercifully short and shallow.
High rollers who don't need any more space might like to look at the Q3 in range-topping Prestige S-Line trim, from $43,895. It comes with the equipment that's optional in Premium Plus, adding (among other things) a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, top-view camera system, and a partially autonomous parking feature.
Photo 3/9   |   2019 Audi Q3 First Drive Interior
As well as 20-inch alloy wheels, Audi offers an orange Alcantara interior package. For anyone who thinks Alcantara is the island next to Alcatraz, it's the trade name of a simulated suede material often found in race cars because it's much lighter than the real thing.
This optional tangerine-like color scheme could easily contrast against a more somber exterior color or enhance a new paint choice that Audi calls Pulse Orange. To those who are tempted, just be aware that we found it to be quite reflective in the windshield—which may be irritating after a while.
We've been talking about space but haven't given any figures so far. Maximum rear legroom is 36.1 inches. The reclining rear seat can slide forward and back by almost 6 inches. Cargo space with the rear seats up is 18.7 to 23.7 cubic feet. When they're folded down, that area opens out to 48 cubic feet.
For a little context, the BMW X1 has 37 inches of rear legroom and has cargo areas of 27.1 and 58.7 of cubic feet. The updated-for-2020 X1 starts at $36,195 for the rear-drive version.
Photo 4/9   |   2019 Audi Q3 First Drive Steering Wheel
Making the choice between these two rivals, or indeed any of the others (like the Volvo XC40 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class), might come down to design preferences. The new Q3 has a few things in common with the much larger Q8.
These are the latest two SUV/crossovers from Audi and bring a little more attitude than the company's previous SUV styling approach. The grille is now larger and has six sides, while the headlamps are smaller (made possible by LED technology).
From the driver's seat, the 2020 Q3 isn't quite so engaging as an X1, but that may not be an issue. And many will appreciate the Q3's refined ride quality, along with the just-right amounts of driver input required. This vehicle is the least expensive Audi crossover, but it's still just as classy as the company's pricier products, right down to the interior design and superior cabin materials.
Photo 5/9   |   2019 Audi Q3 First Drive
If we had to introduce a tiny fly into this slick ointment, we'd say the gearshift action can be a tad abrupt under hard acceleration. Perhaps it's more noticeable because the rest of the Q3 is so sweet. However, don't let this one minor gripe cast an oversized cloud over what is essentially a superb example of its class.

2020 Audi Q3

Base price: $35,695 (including $995 freight)
Price as tested: N/A
Engine: Turbocharged DOHC 16-valve 2.0L I-4
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 228 hp @ 5,000-6,700 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,700-4,400 rpm
Towing capacity: N/A
EPA fuel economy rating: 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined
Indicated fuel economy: N/A
Passenger volume: 84 cubic feet
Cargo volume, seats up/down: 23.7 cubic feet/48 cubic feet