Most vehicles are like people. As they age they tend to get a little bigger, a little wiser and a little bit more practical. All of those attributes apply to the second-generation Audi Q3 subcompact SUV, which gets a needed full redesign for 2019 that did a good job of rectifying many of its predecessor’s issues.
Though this new Q3 has been on sale in Europe for quite some time, the model is making its North American debut at the 2019 New York International Auto Show. The first thing you’ll notice is the striking new styling with a new grille that features vertical slats — a la the Audi Q8. If this is the new styling direction for Audi’s SUVs, I am here for it. The Q3’s profile still has that soft, Audi signature symmetry to it, so some angular dynamism in front is welcome.
The interior is a massive improvement, thanks to a few key changes. The first is that the Q3 is just bigger, by 3 inches of wheelbase and 3.8 inches in overall length, which results in a larger passenger area, especially in the backseat. I found the backseat in the older Q3 to be rather cramped, but the new one has a lot more legroom and enough headroom that adults can sit in the outboard seats comfortably. The seat also can slide 5.9 inches back and forth now, in case you need to open up more cargo room in the back.
New Audis have recently opted for a dual-touchscreen setup that incorporates the climate controls into a bottom touch-sensitive panel, but I actually like the Q3’s arrangement more: The top screen, which is either 8.8 (standard) or 10.1 inches, incorporates the multimedia system and vehicle settings, but below it are more conventional, physical controls for climate and changing drive modes, plus a volume knob. While Audi’s dual touchscreen is a marked improvement over what’s found in recent Jaguar and Land Rover products, I’m still a fan of the old way of doing things — hard points for climate and other commonly used functions do reduce driver distraction compared with a flat screen you have to look at to use.
The Q3’s instrument panel is now a digital display, but the standard 10.25-inch cluster can be upgraded with the optional virtual cockpit’s 12.3-inch display. This completes the tech transformation for the Q3, which used to offer Audi’s older multimedia system and a tiny display between analog gauges — the new screens look and feel modern, and help to keep the Q3 competitive.
Just a bit of warning: If you want to get the Q3 to look like the one on display at the show, it will get expensive. The vehicle shown here featured Audi’s S Line Package ($1,300), which adds sportier bumpers, side sills and 20-inch wheels wrapped in summer tires (19-inch wheels with all-seasons are also available). Also added to the mix was the Sport Interior Package with S Line sport seats, shift paddles, aluminum inlays and (as an additional option) orange Alcantara accents that I liked a lot, but will be hit or miss with others. The S Line Package is included on the line-topping Prestige level that starts at $43,895 including destination charges, but adding the interior package (price unknown) will kick that up a notch or two.
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I found a lot to like in the 2019 Audi Q3, as its updates do an excellent job of addressing the vehicle’s previous shortcomings and making it a more viable small SUV if you hope to transport anyone larger than children in the backseat. There’s no official on-sale date yet, but we do know some pricing details: The Q3 will start at $35,695 for the Premium trim level, $38,795 for Premium Plus and $43,895 for the Prestige (with S-Line included); all prices include destination.
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