The 2021 Audi Q3 is the smallest and least expensive SUV from the German luxury brand. Though compact in size, this Audi is one of the biggest and best players in the entry-level luxury SUV segment where it competes with the BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Volvo XC40. The Q3 is still fresh off a revamp two years ago. This second-generation Q3 has a more substantial presence and feel and design-wise looks like the proper little brother to the Audi Q5.
The Q3 stands out from the pack with standard all-wheel drive, cool technology, standard leather interior and fit and finish that’s a cut above. Only one engine is available, though, and we wish its transmission were more refined. That gripe aside, the Q3 rightfully stands at the head of its class.
For 2021, the top-end Prestige trim has been dropped, leaving the Premium and Premium Plus trims. The S line exterior styling treatment becomes standard. The Technology package for the Premium Plus trim now bundles several features that were formerly had in the Prestige trim. Also new are the Parking Assistance and Black optic packages. See the 2021 Audi Q3 models for sale near you
What We Like
- Tech features
- Practical interior for its size
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Stylish & sporty
What We Don’t
- Transmission can feel jumpy
- No hybrid or performance variants
- Adaptive cruise control still costs extra
$36,000 to mid-$40,000, plus destination fee.
Like other compact crossovers, the Q3 uses a small but potent 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. This one makes 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and is linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Unlike many of its rivals, the Q3 comes standard with AWD. This enhances traction but does sap some fuel efficiency.
This year’s numbers are still to be announced, but the Environmental Protection Agency rated the 2020 Q3 at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving. These numbers are OK but hardly the best in the segment. An AWD BMW X1, for example, returns up to 31 mpg hwy and 26 mpg combined. Putting an even higher priority on fuel efficiency is the Lexus UX hybrid, which is rated at 39 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
With the topline Prestige trim dropped for 2021, the Q3 lineup is simplified to two trims: Premium or Premium Plus. Both are well-equipped, and high-end features formerly found in the Prestige can still be had on the Premium Plus trim as options. Also of note: the formerly optional S line aesthetic treatment is now standard. It’s also the reason for the increase in the Q3’s starting price.
The Premium ($36,000, plus destination fee) comes with 18-in alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, aluminum roof rails, LED headlights, LED taillights with dynamic turn signals, heated side mirrors, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, push-button start, heated front seats, a 12-way power-adjustable front seats, leather seating surfaces, dual-zone climate control, selectable driving modes, powered lift gate, a 10.25-in digital driver information cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, an 8.8-in infotainment touchscreen, four USB ports (including one Type-C USB port) and 40/20/40 split folding and sliding rear seats.
Premium trim is eligible for a Convenience package that adds keyless entry and ignition, powered hands-free lift gate operation, an alarm, auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, front and rear parking sensors, satellite radio and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The Premium Plus ($39,300, plus destination) has the contents of the Convenience package as standard along with adaptive cruise control, wireless charging, phone signal booster, full LED headlights, LED cabin lighting, satellite radio and a self-dimming rearview mirror with a digital compass.
The optional Technology package bundles many great features. Among them are the slick Virtual Cockpit with 12.3-in digital instrument cluster, Bang & Olufsen 3D premium audio, navigation and 10.1-in touchscreen. The Park Assist package adds a top-view camera and, as its name implies, a parking assistance system that can automatically steer the car into a parallel or perpendicular space.
In addition to mandated safety features like stability control, hill descent control and airbags, the 2021 Audi Q3 includes some active safety systems. The standard Audi pre-sense basic system prepares the vehicle for a potential crash by closing the windows and sunroof and pre-tensioning the seat belts. Also standard is a forward-collision warning system and, new for 2021, standard lane-departure warning. On Premium Plus models, adaptive cruise control is now standard. Blind spot monitoring, which Audi calls “side assist,” is optional.
In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Audi Q3 performed admirably in all major categories, earning a coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation when fitted with the full LED headlights. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2020 Audi Q3 its highest rating of five stars for overall safety.
Behind the Wheel
The Q3 offers a useful range of adjustment to the seats and steering wheel, meaning that your ideal driving position is there — you just have to find it. Especially nice, even in base models, is the ability to adjust lumbar support. Once settled in, you’ll likely find the front seats to be pleasantly supportive. Additionally, while most European cars offer an aggressively-tuned suspension, we’ve found the Q3 to be composed with a good blend of comfort and athleticism.
Although the Q3 might be considered an ideal city vehicle with its raised driving position, quiet cabin, excellent outward vision, modest footprint and various driver aids, it’s also perfectly appropriate for longer trips. Four adults fit comfortably as long as they pack light. The sliding rear seat has 5.9 inches of travel, while there are storage areas on either side that are perfect for phones. Speaking of phones, the wireless charging pad in the center console (when fitted) is big enough to accommodate a large-size iPhone.
Audi (along with parent company Volkswagen) has been perfecting the turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder arrangement years before everyone else started following suit. The 228-hp setup here has plenty of potency that’s well suited to just about any scenario. The amount of effort required for steering, braking, accelerating and activating various controls feels just right — not too light, not too heavy.
It’s hardly a deal-breaker, but there’s just one minor issue. Under enthusiastic acceleration, the transmission’s shift action can sometimes be a tad abrupt. Because everything else is so refined, it becomes noticeable. But drive smoothly, with gentle inputs, and the Q3 responds kindly.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 BMW X1 — The X1 offers a firm ride, but it’s fun to drive. It has similar options to the Audi, so with either one, if you want more features, it’ll cost you.
Used Audi Q5 — A clean, certified pre-owned Q5 will cost about the same as a brand-new Q3 and offers more space.
Questions You May Ask
How much does the 2021 Audi Q3 cost?
The 2021 Audi Q3 starts at $36,000. If you’re looking for ways to save a little money, Audi does offer a very flexible lease program that may help make the monthly payments a bit easier.
Does the 2021 Audi Q3 hold its value as well as the competition?
Yes. The Q3 is expected to have better-than-average resale value, though not as high as the Volvo XC40 or Lexus UX.
Is there a hybrid or plug-in Audi Q3?
No, for now the only powertrain offered in the 2021 Audi Q3 is a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. If you’re looking for something a bit more green, look to the Lexus UX Hybrid.
Where is the 2021 Audi Q3 built?
The Q3 is a great choice in the growing sea of subcompact luxury SUVs. It offers handsome design, good driving dynamics and admirable content at a price that makes it approachable to a younger demographic. For only $3,300 more than the base Premium model, we’d opt for the Premium Plus, as it brings more amenities and, for 2021, adaptive cruise control. It also opens the door for the alluring Technology Package that is filled with innovative features and creature comforts. Find an Audi Q3 for sale