In a world of boring compact luxury crossovers, the Audi Q3 manages to stand out in all the right ways.
Audi will be happy to sell you a Q3 compact crossover in gray, black, white, silver, or any boring color that’s not this Pulse Orange or the equally flashy Turbo Blue. But you shouldn’t buy one. Getting a Q3 in a boring color is to miss the point of the vehicle — and to miss out on its clever styling and some of its best interior amenities. Because the Q3 is big on brash and bold — at least, if you’ll let it be.
The Audi Q3, like the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, came along and stole the lunch of the compact sports sedan. Buyers wanted the same level of style as the sedans, but when it came to crisp handling versus more space, they picked space in droves. Add in all-wheel drive and a little bit of extra ground clearance, and you get a big seller.
2022 Audi Q3 Review
Two Engines, Only One Choice
Audi offers two different versions of its turbocharged four-cylinder, one advertised as 40 TFSI, and the other as 45 TFSI. However, there’s nothing on the vehicle to tell you which is which. They’re both 2 L in displacement but have a big power difference. The 40-badge means just 187 horsepower, and while it’s hard to call that underpowered, it’s definitely not much for this segment.
Pick the 45 engine, offered on both Premium and Premium Plus trims, and you get 228 horses along with 251 pound-feet of torque. The power cuts a couple of seconds from the 0-60 mph run, so naturally, it’s the one we tested.
Fuel economy for the more powerful engine is estimated at 20 city and 28 highway. I saw 27 combined, a good figure for the class, especially since it’s perfectly happy on regular gas. The 40 TFSI engine isn’t rated for much better at 22/30, so if you’re picking the smaller engine to save fuel, you might not want to bother.
This is a smooth four-pot, but it’s not quiet. From idle to redline, the engine makes itself heard. The noise isn’t bothersome, but it’s not particularly refined or pleasant like we’d expect from an Audi.
Zippy Power, Sluggish Automatic
At least the engine is responsive, acting immediately to whatever your right foot demands with ample passing power. Audi pairs this engine with an eight-speed automatic.
The transmission makes the Q3 feel more sluggish than it should, given the power. While the engine is ready, the gearbox is slow to engage gears when downshifting, or to give you any go from a stop sign or a slow yield.
Hit the gas and after a long delay, it snaps forward. Or pull away from every stop as slowly as possible and save your neck, but annoy traffic.
Using the transmission’s S sport mode or the Dynamic drive mode doesn’t improve the response; it just keeps the box in a lower gear.
Of course, since it’s an Audi, quattro all-wheel drive is standard. Like every Audi, the system does its AWD magic behind the scenes, and you’ll probably never notice that it’s even there.
Sharp Turn-In a Joy
Audi calls the suspension “comfortable yet agile.” To us, that means typically German smooth, as long as the pavement is also German smooth. The Q3 has sharp reflexes with quick turn-in and firm steering assistance feel no matter the drive setting.
Over bumps in the road, the Q3 remains sharp. The suspension keeps the body well controlled with no floating or bobbing around. But if the bumps get bigger, the ride gets sharper. The body feels solid, and there aren’t any offputting noises, but we’d like a little more cushion.
Road noise is intrusive, even at less than highway speeds, but at least there’s not much wind noise on the highway. Probably because it’s blocked by the tire noise.
Use the Q3’s sharp turn-in to throw it into a corner and the suspension quickly asks you to reconsider. The steering and styling are writing checks the chassis can’t cash, so if you’re planning on tearing down a backroad the way you would in an A3 or A4? Stop planning.
Small Changes for 2022
Feature changes for 2022 included updated infotainment software. Audi made side assist with rear cross-traffic alerts and Audi Parking system standard kit as well.
Mini Bentley Rear Styling
Look at the Q3 from the rear three-quarter view and there’s a whole lot of Bentley Bentayga in the lines under the D-pillar glass. It’s a handsome shape that works well with Audi’s single-frame grille — especially the blackout version of the nose that you get with the Black Optic package.
Without the orange, this is one of the few models in the segment that actually looks premium. With it, the Q3 is an absolute stunner.
We mentioned cargo space up top because it’s a big part of why this segment exists. While an A3 sedan has just 10.9 cubic feet of trunk space, Q3 offers 23.7 cubic feet with the seats up. a figure that’s about average against crossover competitors.
Clever Storage Cubbies
Fold the rears and the 48 flat cargo space nearly exactly doubles. The cargo area is flat with easy access and a good load height. Small cubbies in the corners give you somewhere to put bits and bobs to stop them from rolling around.
Q3 is loaded with those clever storage spots. There is a well beside each rear seat and front door pockets big enough to lose that Nalgene bottle until your next hard braking.
A door near the driver’s left knee is a great spot to put your wallet or parking pass. My passenger longed for a spot on their door armrest to put their phone until they discovered a clever slot between the two drinkholder spots that was a near-custom fit for keeping it handy.
Audi knows how to build a classy cabin. The Q3’s is well laid-out and sufficiently upscale. An easy-reach headlight switch sits on the left, while the 8.8-inch screen is in the usual spot and angled just enough toward the driver.
Virtual Cockpit Highlights a Tech-Forward Cabin
Virtual Cockpit is the company’s digital dash display that lets you put a full-screen navigation map on the dash is standard. The extremely customizable display looks great and is highly responsive, letting you zoom in and out quickly.
If the 10.25-inch version isn’t enough, a Technology Package gives you a wider 12.3-inch digital cluster and a larger 10.1-inch center touchscreen. Also included in the tech pack are traffic sign recognition and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus system gives you Google satellite imagery for your map instead of just boring maps. It has live traffic updates, too.
Audi’s physical controls for adjusting the HVAC system are appreciated, along with the volume knob and a real toggle switch to switch on the parking cameras.
What’s not appreciated is Audi’s choice to hide the volume knob just above the gearshift and to the far right of the center stack. It’s going to be out of reach for many drivers, but Audi is probably expecting the driver to use the steering wheel control and makes this one for the passenger.
The only strange ergonomic decision in the cabin is Audi’s lack of a sync button to lock the dual climate control temperatures to the same setting. We’ll save you a trip to the owner’s manual or moving on to a competitor in frustration: Hold down the auto button to resync and lock the two sides.
Big Comfort in a Small Footprint
Audi’s eight-way power-adjust seats have big side bolsters, but they’re wide enough to fit large passengers without pinching. The seats have extendable thigh supports, too, a great feature to help give passengers both tall and short more comfort.
What’s missing are ventilated seats, which, frankly, surprises us in this segment. A Kia Sportage offers them, but not this loaded-up $47,495 Audi?
Both the front and rear seats have a surprising amount of space, especially for the class. This is a vehicle with a small footprint that has plenty of room for four adults.
Our tester has an orange suede dash and door trim to match the exterior paint. It’s also available in a beige, but the option appears to be part of our Canada-spec test car and not something U.S. buyers can pick. This is a shame because it plays a big part in making this little crossover feel special.
To make up for it, Audi USA lets you pick from more than a dozen Audi Exclusive special paint colors. Sure it’s a $5,900 option, and you’ll have to wait for it to be built, but 2022 industry inventory levels mean you’re probably waiting anyway. So, why not?
Driver assistance features include front collision warnings with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic warnings, and front and rear parking sensors. Premium Plus adds a top-down surround view camera plus adaptive cruise and lane guidance.
A Small Footprint but a Big Experience
Audi has done a great job at making the Q3 stylish. Key in this segment, it looks and feels special. It feels premium, like a luxury vehicle should, an almost intangible quantity that comes from small details like body surfacing and how the cabin is put together. This is a feeling that is missing from some of its key competitors.
We’d like it if the cornering experience matched the firmness of the straight-line ride and the promise of the crisp steering, but this is still a pleasant vehicle to drive and a great highway cruiser. An appealing model with competitive pricing, expect it to continue to crush the sales of the A3 and A4 sedans as the brand’s number two model for sales.
Our advice? Skip the low-power 40 engine and pick a fun color. You won’t regret it.