2021 Audi Q3 Test Drive Review

The Audi Q3 has an engaging driving experience, useful technology, and plenty of space for passengers (even if it comes at the cost of cargo space).

8.2 /10
Overall Score

The 2021 Audi Q3 is a subcompact luxury SUV. Small crossovers and SUVs are seemingly taking over the automotive world, and even among this extremely crowded field, the Q3 is a standout. Despite having “SUV” in the name, the expectation with these vehicles is that they drive as comfortably and are as efficiently as a sedan. The Q3 delivers on this with a refined ride and standard driver assistance features, as well as helpful-in car tech.

The Q3 first entered the North American market for the 2013 model year. The redesigned second-generation model arrived for 2019 and is still on sale today. For the 2021 model year, the Q3 gains additional high tech safety features and loses its top-tier Prestige trim. You can now get the features from this trim as options packages.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

We’re at an interesting time for car design. The towering hoods of some full-size trucks are well over the tops of their engines and some new electric cars have grilles, despite not having engines at all. Let’s call it “postmodern automotive styling.” In this context, the massive Audi corporate grille looks good on the Q3. It pairs well with the stout, chunky styling that presents the “idea” of utility and dynamic handling, while primarily delivering on the latter.

The cabin echoes some of that mechanical, modern aesthetic. The dash design frames up the center touchscreen, putting one of the Q3’s top features front and center. When this interior debuted with the redesigned Q3 for the 2019 model year it was a standout design. However, Audi’s non-luxury corporate sibling Volkswagen has been catching up. The newest VW interiors have similar (albeit not as upscale) designs. The result is that the Q3 and other Audi cabins still feel modern and refined, just not as special.

Trims for the 2021 Audi Q3 are Premium and Premium Plus. Standard features on the Premium include leather upholstery, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Other standard features include a power liftgate, four USB ports, and several high-tech driver assistance features. You can get a few additional driver assistance features and creature comforts as part of an available Convenience Package.

The Premium Plus trim adds remote start, pushbutton start, remote keyless entry, wireless device charging, and a hands-free power liftgate. The Premium Plus was previously the mid-tier trim, with the Prestige as the range-topping trim. The Prestige trim is gone, but its features are still available as options and packages. The Technology Package costs $2,700 and adds a larger touchscreen, a premium stereo, and a digital instrument panel.

Performance

7/ 10

The Audi Q3 comes equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission to Quattro all-wheel drive (AWD). If you select the S-Line trim, the same engine is tuned to put out 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This optional power unit was previously the standard engine. But Audi isn’t fleecing its customers, though. The base MSRP is now $2,000 lower, and the 228-hp engine is a $2,000 option.

The more potent powertrain is a great fit for this vehicle. It feels lively and provides a decent kick off the line. It has solid power for passing as well, made better by engaging “S” or Sport mode. This mode quickens the throttle response and alters the transmission mapping for harder acceleration. The Q3 also has Audi’s Drive Select, with Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, and Off-Road drive modes. The “Off-Road” mode won’t turn the Q3 into a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and is best for some light dirt trails out to a campsite.

The less powerful base engine has the same jump from a standstill, but also some turbo lag. Turbochargers require exhaust gases to spin up a turbine, which in turn spins up the corresponding air compressor, which allows for more power to be extracted from a smaller-displacement engine. The delay caused by this process is called turbo lag, and in the non-S-Line engine, it’s more pronounced. It’s most notable under hard acceleration, or when you’re cruising on the highway and decide to accelerate to make a passing move.

The Q3 has nimble handling, blended well with a very comfortable ride. It’s no sports car, but it is engaging and enjoyable, but not in a way where the handling detracts from the refined ride quality. It’s a best-of-both-worlds dynamic that automakers don’t always get right. Audi nails it with the Q3.

Form and Function

9/ 10

The Q3 provides just 48 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded and 23.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats. The space behind the seats is decent for a subcompact luxury SUV, but cargo space with the rear seats folded is subpar for the class.

The Q3 makes up for its cargo space with its passenger space. The front seats are comfortable and provide plenty of deep cargo pockets for all your items. The rear seats provide an impressive level of headroom and legroom. It seats five, but four passengers could reasonably take a road trip in comfort. Just pack light.

Tech Level

8/ 10

An 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard in the Q3. It runs the Audi’s MMI system, which has logical, ergonomic menu navigation, as well as standard Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. The upgraded system is a 10.1-inch touchscreen with navigation. Other available features include wireless device charging, satellite radio, and a Bang & Olufsen 15-speaker premium audio system.

Also available is the Audi Virtual Cockpit. It replaces the conventional instrument cluster with a digital display. It can be customized and can even present the navigation map across nearly the entire screen.

Safety

9/ 10

The 2021 Audi Q3 comes standard with Audi Pre Sense and Pre Sense Front. The latter includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection. Lane-departure warning is standard as well. Optional driver assistance features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and traffic-sign recognition. Buyers can also select available features such as a 360-degree camera system, front-and-rear parking sensors, and self-parking assist for parallel and perpendicular parking spots.

Cost-Effectiveness

8/ 10

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2021 Audi Q3 Quattro are 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. The S-Line Quattro trim returns 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. While many luxury vehicles require premium fuel, the Q3 can run on regular gasoline.

Base MSRP for the 2021 Audi Q3 Quattro is $34,000. The Premium Plus trim starts at $37,300. Selecting the S-Line package will add $2,000 to the price of either trim. A range-topping Premium Plus trim with the S-Line Package and Technology package will clock in at around $42,000. Pricing is in line with the other top vehicles in the subcompact luxury crossover segment. In fact, the Q3 has a lower starting price than the BMW X1 ($35,400) and Mercedes-Benz GLA ($36,230). Other rivals include the Lexus NX ($37,610) and Volvo XC40 ($33,700). The 2021 Audi Q3 is backed by a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.

Updated by George Kennedy

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