The A3 is Audi's entry-level subcompact car. But it's 2022, and many buyers prefer crossovers — so the entry point to the Audi lineup for many buyers will be the Q3, Audi's smallest and most affordable SUV.
Audi loaned me a 2022 Q3 Premium Plus S Line model to drive around my home in southeastern Michigan for a week. It was an eager companion and a strong encapsulation of what the Audi brand offers...albeit one that's a bit undersized for family duty.
Well, it's not too old. Audi debuted the Q3 back in the summer of 2018 — when you were far less familiar with communicable disease management protocols. The Q3 is still new enough to be competitive. But we'd expect some form of refresh from Audi soon.
Subcompact crossovers aren't thrill machines typically. But the Q3 drives quite well. Steering is spot on. It handles nimbly. It shifts smoothly. You get grip and weather capability with Audi's trademark (and excellent) all-wheel drive. The more potent 228-hp motor won't leave you coveting more power, even though it doesn't make the Q3 particularly quick.
The Q3 does have noticeable turbo lag; it waits a beat before responding when you mash the pedal. I grew accustomed to it over a week, but it became very noticeable when I need to get moving to hit a rapidly closing lane gap on a freeway on-ramp.
And gas mileage in the Q3 isn't that great. It only earns 21 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway, which makes it less efficient than the automatic Volkswagen Golf R.
Spending under $50,000 does not score you an opulent Audi, but the Q3 still feels Audi-like. It's a smart interior, with leather seats. The screen is tilted toward the driver for better ergonomics. And unlike VW's digital cockpit, the Q3 has physical, easily accessible stereo controls for both the driver (steering wheel) and passenger (right side of the center console). The latter is great when your wife has a better handle on the Sing 2 soundtrack.
The Q3's trunk is reasonably spacious. I was able to fit all of my family's pool gear — which didn't include my daughter's stroller — easily. The rear seat compartment is less spacious. I had to switch my kids from their usual sides because the rear-facing car seat forced me to sit too far forward.
Audi's infotainment system can be spectacularly laggy. When switching radio stations, I had to consciously pause between clicks to avoid the system getting overwhelmed, freezing up and leaving me stuck listening to Train on Sirius XM.
The Audi Q3 is meant to be affordable. It starts at $36,400. My tester added the more powerful 45 TFSI engine, the Premium Plus Package, the Technology Package, the Black optic sport package, 20-inch wheels and summer tires. It still priced out to $48,740 with the $1,195 destination charge included.
Small luxury crossovers are popular, and Audi's main competitors each offer a similar SUV at a similar price point. The Q3 buyer can cross-shop with the BMW X1, the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, the Lexus NX and the Volvo XC40. Said buyer could also save a bit of coin and get similar vibes with the Mazda CX-30.
The Audi Q3 should do two things. It should offer a taste of leveling up in the Audi-verse for a buyer who may not be able to afford that. And it should offer a comprehensive upgrade — beyond just the badge — over VW's more affordable option, the Taos.
The Q3 succeeds on both fronts. But yeah, the Q5 offers the same qualities and more space for not that much more money.
Powertrain: Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four; 8-speed automatic; AWD
Torque: 251 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
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