If you took Audi’s mid-size Q8 SUV and hit it with a shrink ray, it would turn into the 2021 Q3. From its large trapezoidal grille to aggressively canted rear hatch, the junior Audi SUV does its best impression of the brand’s larger crossovers. Inside, buyers will find a tech-heavy interior, which is expected from modern Audis, but it offers youthful flair in the form of optional brightly-colored suede dash trim and multi-color ambient interior lighting. A turbocharged four-cylinder and standard all-wheel drive provide decent pep and all-weather assurance, but those seeking outright speed may be disappointed. Still, its agile chassis gives it the moves to challenge driver-favorites such as the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-class.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Q3 is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes either 184- or 228-hp; either way it comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. In our time behind the wheel of a Q3 with the more potent of the two engines, we noted that the engine provided ample power, but our test vehicle wasn’t as quick as some rivals, and we noticed a delay between our right foot’s action and the engine’s response (read: turbo lag). Still, its transmission shifted smoothly during normal operation and provided sportier reactions when shifted into S mode. Thankfully, its suspension damped out all but the harshest road imperfections. Direct steering with a light-to-the-touch feel gives the Q3 a sense of agility. The little SUV also moves with the same grace as its larger siblings when pitched down a twisty section of road.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the 2021 Q3 will earn up to 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Those numbers are similarl to rivals such as the X1 and Volvo XC40. The Q3 we ran on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, earned 31 mpg—matching the real-world result of the X1 we tested.
Interior, Comfort , and Cargo
The Q3’s cabin addresses all of our complaints about that of the outgoing model, with a much improved driving position, a user-friendly layout of its controls, and finer materials. Its standout standard features include a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats with eight-way power adjustments and lumbar support for the driver. More luxurious options include ambient interior lighting, a fully digital gauge cluster, and contrasting microsuede on the dashboard and doors. The cabin is also more spacious than the previous model, but its back seat still lacks sufficient legroom to keep adults comfortable on long slogs. We managed to fit six carry-on suitcases in the cargo area and another 12 bags with the rear seats folded. Those are both less than we fit in the X1 but on par with the Jaguar E-Pace.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Audi equips most Q3 models with an 8.8-inch touchscreen MMI infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A larger 10.1-inch touchscreen is also available with the same content. We found the interface to be attractive and mostly easy to operate due to its large icons and haptic feedback. However, its low position on the dashboard can be distracting. Top options include SiriusXM satellite radio, wireless charging, and a 15-speaker, 680-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Q3 earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was named a Top Safety Pick+. The subcompact-luxury crossover also offers a wide range of driver-assistance technology, such as automatic high-beam headlights and automated emergency braking.