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Americans are crossover crazy; we just canít get enough of these glorified station wagons. Whether itís their all-season capability, generous cargo capacity or improved fuel economy they have distinct advantages over sedans and traditional SUVs, upsides that account for much of their appeal.
Of course automakers have taken notice of this trend and are introducing more and more car-based utilities, seemingly at an ever-quickening rate.
A similar movement is taking place in the luxury space right now. As a way of increasing sales and attracting new customers top-tier brands are reaching down market. Products like the Audi A3, BMW 2 Series and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class are perfect examples of this ongoing shift.
At the intersection of those trends is the Audi Q3. Itís a premium compact crossover thatís making its North American debut for the 2015 model year. Clearly this vehicle has a foot in each camp but is it truly the best of both worlds or is it simply compromised in more ways than one?
Sizing up the Competition
Riding atop a 102.5-inch wheelbase the new Q3 is sized like a C-segment car. Its hub-to-hub span is slightly shorter than a Honda Civic or Chevy Cruzeís, though it exceeds subcompacts like the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent by a couple inches.
Accordingly this crossover rivals products including the BMW X1 and new Mercedes GLA, both of which are slightly larger inside and out, though not by much. With its second-row seats folded flat, maximum cargo space in this Audi is slightly greater than 48 cubic feet, meaning from a junk-carrying standpoint itís comparable to a Mazda3 hatchback.
Like many other products in the Volkswagen Group empire the Q3 features a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine; itís the only powerplant on the menu for ĎMurican drivers. Of course Europeans have a veritable buffet of options with all kinds of spark- and compression-ignition engines to choose from. They can even get a manual transmission; the only gearbox we have is a six-speed automatic.
In any event, the four-banger in this Audi delivers 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, numbers that are rather unimpressive on paper. The same displacement engine used in the brandís larger Q5 crossover for instance delivers 20 extra horses and an additional 51 units of twist, plus it has two more forward gears. This isnít fair!
As for fuel economy you can expect to get 20 miles per gallon around town and 28 on the interstate. Combined, all-wheel-drive versions of the Q3 should average 23 MPG.
Cut from the Same Cloth
Despite its petite dimensions this crossover certainly looks the part, dovetailing nicely with the rest of Audiís lineup. Up front it has that unmistakable single-frame grill. Flanking this large air opening are standard xenon headlamps as well as LED daytime-running lights.
The rest of the Q3ís design is clean and tasteful; superfluous flourishes have been kept to a minimum. Supposedly it has a coupe-like profile though thatís debatable. A standard panoramic glass roof lets plenty of light into the cabin, which can be pretty dark, especially with an all-black interior.
ĎRound back this vehicle has standard LED tail-lamps and some nice chrome exhaust tips. And if you want you can even opt for a power hatch. Overall from an exterior-styling standpoint this vehicle is pure Audi, though look scan be deceiving.
The four-ring brand has a well-deserved reputation for building some of the nicest interiors in the automotive business. Theyíre tastefully done, impeccably built and constructed of some of the nicest materials south of a Rolls-Royce. This is true of most Audis but not necessarily this one.
Regrettably when it comes to cabin quality the Q3 is a bit disappointing. Some of its plastics are a little down-market, notably a strip of hard stuff that runs right across the dashboard. Additionally much of the switchgear feels low rent. For instance the MMI knob ...
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