Video review_ 2016 audi q3 quattro technik _ the chronicle herald

Lately, it seems like every week sees the release of a new small crossover model, as shoppers demand more options for downsizing out of a larger SUV, or up-sizing out of a smaller car.

Competing with current and upcoming machinery from Mercedes, BMW, Buick, Infiniti and others, the Audi Q3 is a contender in the newly emerging compact luxury crossover scene, and it offers sharp looks, proven powertrains, and interior and exterior cues

that are largely familiar and well-executed.

Existing Audi drivers looking to upsize or downsize into a Q3 will feel right at home: the central-command system utilizes a central control knob and four peripheral buttons to control hundreds of functions with minimal dial and button clutter.

It’s a bit complicated and intimidating at first, but powerful and slick once you get it down.

Instrumentation, controls, even switches and buttons are all familiar to the brand, too. Heck, even the signature feel of heavy doors, durable handles and switches, and a thick and solid build quality throughout the cabin are offered.

It feels like an Audi through and through: good news if you’re returning to the brand, as well as if you’re new to it.

Closer inspection reveals plenty of detailing via nicely finished edges, first-rate materials, and thoughtful little trim bits scattered throughout.

It’s a comprehensive scattering of small details and touches that see this cabin hit harder than the price-tag suggests.

The two-litre turbo engine starts up eagerly, settles into a creamy smooth idle, and barely makes a peep thereafter. This boosted four-cylinder is smooth and buttery from idle to redline, however driven.

Torque is generous at low revs, enabling a high-responsiveness, low-RPM feel through traffic, no need for downshifting to climb highway hills, and pleasing thrust when opened up.

Pushed, the engine never feels like it’s being overworked or leaving its comfort zone.

Available full-throttle acceleration should be adequate for the majority of drivers: it’s not excessive, not wimpy, and feels, largely, just right.

Fuel economy proved appreciable during my test drive: with some 1,400 kilometres of driving, including plenty at a good clip on major highways, landing at 9.4L/100km.

For someone like your writer, the Q3’s sizing is bang on. I have no kids, typically drive alone, or with my dog, who can enter via the doors or a jump into the tailgate with relative ease thanks to the low floor height.

That low floor height also sees the cabin easily accessed by elderly or mobility-challenged passengers. The cargo hold isn’t enormous, and loses some capacity on account of the rake of the tailgate, though it’ll accept a full Costco-run worth of groceries, no problem.

Further, rear seats fold nearly flat when you’ve got to haul more large items and less passengers.

Cleverly, the tester’s powered tailgate features two options when closing: one button closes it, and the other closes it, and locks the vehicle.

If your keys are buried in your pocket and you have an armful of groceries to unload, just press the ‘close and lock’ button, grab your stuff and walk away, no need to fish for the remote to lock the Q3 afterwards. It’s a thoughtful little touch.

With the tester’s S-Line package bolting big wheels wrapped in thin tires to a suspension with sporty calibrations, the ride and handling equation are a bit of a mixed bag.

Handing is sharp, athletic and pleasing, without feeling nervous or hyperactive. The Q3 cruises the highway eager to stay centered on its line with good steering weight, and vigorous browsing of sequential bends sees fast responses and flat cornering with minimal inputs at the wheel. The handling is a refreshing touch here.

There’s a trade-off though, and test-drivers are advised to visit the roughest road they can find on a test-drive, to confirm that the ride quality falls into their desired comfort and noise levels.

The big wheels can reduce ride quality when the going gets rough, so skip them if you’re after luxury first and sportiness second.

Other notes? Q3’s small footprint and quick steering make it a cinch to park, outward visibility and sightlines are decent, and the driver has access to numerous cubbies, open and covered, to keep items organized and secure.

Brake pedal feel is a little soft at initial application, though the braking system proves powerful and fuss-free when called upon for panic stops, with minimal intrusion of vibration or noise from the ABS system.

The vibrant LED headlight system, available in the tester’s Technik trim grade, is also magnificent.

A unique lighting signature as the Q3 comes down the road conveys a sense of high-tech charisma, and the performance of the lighting system on dark highways is second to none, with engagement of reflective surfaces far up the roadway, and a uniform flood of clean, white light far up the way.

Complaints? Road noise, thanks to the thin wheels, was higher than expected, and the backup camera system disappointed slightly, as there’s a notable delay before it activates when reverse is selected.

Further, unlike numerous competitors, the view angle isn’t particularly wide.

Ultimately, whether you’re looking to upsize, downsize, or simply add a luxurious and flexible runabout to your family garage, the Q3 makes a compelling argument for your crossover cash.

For shoppers after a proven drivetrain, a driving experience that’s as sporty as it is luxurious, and a stand-out cabin finished discreetly and beautifully to the last detail, Q3 should be at or near the top of your “To Test Drive” list.

The specs

2016 Audi Q3 Quattro Technik

Engine: two-litre TFSI Turbo four-cylinder, 200 horsepower

Drivetrain: Quattro AWD

Observed mileage: 9.4L/100km

Transmission: six-speed auto

Features: Panoramic sunroof, LED lighting, BOSE audio system, navigation, heated leather, automatic climate control, parking assist, powered tailgate

What’s hot: Slick and punchy turbo engine, nicely-finished cabin, just-right sizing, easy to access, very potent lighting system

What’s not: Noise levels and ride quality suffer with larger wheels fitted, strange delay in backup camera system

As tested: $47,750