Small car, big appeal. Small crossovers have become the darlings of the automotive marketplace. Premium small crossovers are an especially lucrative pie, and so it is that the 2021 Audi Q3 finds itself in an enviable position. Buoyed by Audi's reputation and its own good looks, the Q3 will have no trouble finding buyers eager to be seen in the newest automotive fad.
One and done. The Audi Q3 doesn't offer buyers much choice outside their color selection. That's particularly true with the powertrain choices. Actually, scratch that – there's no powertrain choices.
Instead, every Q3 rolls out the door identically equipped. All models get all-wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
This combo has become nearly universal for the class, and a stint in the Q3 shows why. Around town, there's plenty of power to zip from stoplight to stoplight. Interstate trips are effortless, and passing slower drivers is an easy blip of the throttle. Inclement weather? No problem for Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system. Whatever the situation, the Q3 feels ready to handle it.
It's a similar story with handling. This is no corner carver, but the Q3 can hold a line through the apex better than most crossovers in this class – credit the added grip from the AWD system for this.
Drive the Q3 over rough pavement and occupants will hardly notice the road quality; the suspension serves up better road manners than most competitors. It remains collected even on its 18- or 19-inch wheels.
Spacious interior, at a price. Small crossovers are in a tough spot. Buyers often purport to appreciate their tidy size, but then bemoan the lack of space. The 2021 Audi Q3 serves up plenty of room, but only because it's bigger than most of its competitors. Those extra inches could mean the difference between snagging a curbside parking space or having to pay for the downtown garage.
Despite being more difficult to shuffle around the city than some other options, we think the extra space is a worthy trade-off. Buyers get ample space in both rows, with rear-seat passengers enjoying a decent 36 inches of leg room. You won't mistake the Q3 for a limousine, but for the size there's plenty of stretch-out space. The rear seats also slide fore and aft for either more leg room or luggage space.
About luggage space – there's 23.7 cubic feet of it when the rear row is in its upmost position. Fold down the seats and that number grows to 48 cubic feet. This figure splits the difference between those of the Merceds-Benz GLA-Class and BMW X1.
In a nice touch, leather upholstery is standard. The seats have multi-way power adjustment, but they're nothing to write home about in terms of comfort. There's other chairs in this class we'd prefer for a cross-country drive, like those in the Volvo XC40.
Technology galore. Audi has built its reputation on two things: quattro all-wheel drive and high-tech doodads. The Q3 has both, the latter in good measure.
It starts with the gauge cluster, which is analog on the base model but is rendered as an all-digital 12.3-inch display on the range-topping Prestige trim. It has customizable menus and can display navigation guidance, which is also standard. It's also available on the midrange Premium Plus model.
The Premium and Premium Plus trims share an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while the Prestige upgrades to a 10.1-inch unit. Both systems come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While some Audi models have used or still use a rotary dial for controlling infotainment rather than a touchscreen, the Q3 gets the haptic setup. It's all the better for that, especially for consumers using the smartphone compatibility.
Safety technology is also abundant. Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning. Premium Plus models add blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning, while the Prestige gets adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system. More and more models are offering this equipment as standard right out of the gate, however, so we can't laud Audi for limiting some of these goodies to higher price points.
Final thoughts. The 2021 Audi Q3 holds its own in a competitive class. It offers desirable features, a spacious interior, and quality appointments at a reasonable price. It costs more than some of the competition, but it gives buyers more as well. We'd pick up a Premium Plus and call it money well spent.