A compact luxury car is almost an oxymoron.
Despite slightly more agreeable pricing, small luxury cars lack the substance and feel of their larger (and heavier) midsize counterparts. While entry-luxury compacts may have their larger counterpart’s list of exclusive features, the luxury refinement is diminished in the driving.
In a recent test of the compact-class Audi A3 sedan, I appreciated its generous features and technologies, but the car felt lightweight, which made its $37,000 as-tested price loom large.
But getting into the compact Audi Q3 crossover — an A3 sibling — the impression was more rich and fulfilling, as a luxury experience should be.
The difference in the two cars was 320 pounds in the larger architecture of the Q3, today’s test car.
Luxury brands have laid out these new compact welcome mats to reach younger buyers. And while starting prices are advertised at a low $30,000, the transaction price ends up closer to $40,000 with the desirable, posh extras.The Q3 is sold in Premium Plus or Prestige trim levels in front-wheel- or optional all-wheel-drive (Quattro), all with a 200-horsepower, turbocharged and direct-injection 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
Pricing starts at $33,425, including the $925 freight charge from Martorell, Spain, and ranges to $39,425 for the Prestige Quattro.
Standard for all models are 12-way power front leather-trimmed seats, panoramic sunroof, a 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, dual-zone automatic climate control, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights and keyless locking and push-button ignition and a 60/40 folding rear seat.
As tested, my Premium Plus Quattro was $39,175. Among its $3,650 in options were the Navigation Plus system with color display screen and voice control, 19-inch off-road-design wheels ($800) and the striking Cobalt Blue metallic paint ($550).
Moving up to the Prestige adds most of the options that were on my tester, but also adds the worthwhile rearview camera with a parking system, 14-speaker audio system, some stainless steel trim pieces and more technology features, such as an enhanced navigation system and online services.
The Q3 will be a likable, comfortable car for most American motorists who leave the house in the morning with arms loaded, run errands during and after work, and then trudge home with all of that stuff to unload. It’s also a good gear hauler with about 59 inches of cargo length with the back seat folded, 38 1/2 inches of cargo-area width and 29 inches at the rear door opening, though it opens a bit inside the cabin.
Performance is brisk and even aggressive when Sport mode is engaged. Fuel economy on premium fuel is OK at 20 mpg city, 29 highway and 23 mpg combined for front-drive models and just 1 mpg lower in the highway range for Quattro. I was averaging 22.6 to 23 mpg.
The interior has an understated design treatment with a clean and readable gauge display. The slightly raised ride height gives good visibility in traffic with no compromise to handling. And it is a smooth roller and quieter at highway speeds than the A3 sedan I tested. But those who are moving up from Volkswagen (Audi’s parent company) will see a similarity to the controls and features.
Because the Q3 is a compact, the interior dimensions will be limiting. The front headroom of 37 inches and 40 inches of legroom will be tight for some. But the height-adjustable passenger seat will be appreciated. The front seat belt locking base is easy to reach for all girths. Interior lighting at the door handles is a touch of class. And there are plenty of cup holders throughout.
Back seat legroom of 31 inches is snug with a short seat bottom but with good footroom under the front seats. The seat area is fully functioning with a wide fold-down armrest, reading lights, grab handles with coat hooks and door storage.
It is the attention to detail that will help the new owner appreciate and enjoy a nearly $40,000 compact crossover. And it is the Q3 heft that delivers more substance and reinforces that rewarding perception of luxury.
The GM pickups are now the benchmark for any redesigned or new pickup to come to market. And for the majority of pickup intenders, the Colorado will get the job done while treading a little more lightly.