Companies looking to play in the premium subcompact crossover segment need to bring their A games – and maybe even A+ – if they want to find any measure of success. With this body style serving as the beyond-dominant configuration for many Canadian car shoppers, brands from Acura to Volvo are looking for a slice of this profitable pie.
Audi is no stranger to luxury, having slung lavish vehicles for over a century and enjoying a surge in popularity after doubling its global sales in the 2000s. It’s currently bringing the fight to BMW and Mercedes-Benz in today’s era of wonky supply chains, and is increasingly adding a dash of colour to what can sometimes be a staid palette. Serving as an entryway to the SUV side of the brand’s ledger is the compact 2022 Audi Q3, which delivers simple styling to go with stellar amenities.
Audi has always played the different-lengths-of-sausage game, tending to create a series of vehicles which look similar save for their overall dimensions. This is entirely by design, of course, since those who are just buying into the Audi brand with a Q3 will receive some of the same nods and winks as customers who pay up for the Q7.
The Q3 is handsome in a stoic sort of way, with Audi’s latest lighting signatures dancing across the front and rear to liven up the joint. On the subject, this author offers the highest of fives to whoever checked the options boxes for this test car. Its Pulse Orange paintwork is a welcome departure from the usual dour array of greyscale hues, while the optional orange trim inside adds a tremendous zest to the space (more shortly).
Two turbocharged engines are available in the Q3, both displacing 2.0L but cranking out either 184 or 228 hp. This one had the latter – a $2,500 option for the entry-level Komfort trim or $3,100 with the mid-grade Progressiv trim, but standard with our Technik tester. The Q3 was not left wanting for accelerative grunt, processing its German horses through all four wheels using Audi’s well-sorted all-wheel drive system. Overtaking a slow coach or merging into highway traffic was easy, provided your right hand was gripping the gear selector and making full use of the transmission’s self-shifting functionality.
Driving Feel: 7/10
Left to its own devices, the otherwise-pleasant eight-speed automatic tends to be slow on the downshift. Crawling at low speeds then punching the accelerator (say, when leaving a parking lot) is nothing short of headache-inducing as the transmission dawdles before finally serving up first gear. It’s the same story at higher speeds, such as when moving through a yield sign then trying to accelerate smartly onto a main thoroughfare.
Wrangling manual control solves these issues, but it wouldn’t kill Audi to bake more aggressive transmission programming into the selectable sport mode (dubbed “dynamic.”) I suspect the behaviour of hanging onto high gears is an effort to boost fuel economy.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
And about that: the Q3 averaged 9.2 L/100km during this test week covering a roughly even mix of highway and rural driving, but with minimal stop-and-go traffic. It’s on par with Q3 competitors I’ve driven, but not better. Other markets are currently enjoying plug-in hybrid variants of this crossover, which will realize much better fuel economy but at the cost of a higher price tag.
Upgrading to the top rung of a Q3 ladder brings crowd-pleasers like a 12.3-inch instrument display that swaps analog dials for digital representations of…analog dials. Well, in one setting at least. My preferred configuration placed a detailed map wider than the Prairies dead ahead of me, tucking readouts for speed and engine revolutions down in the bottom left and right corners of the map, respectively.
Luddites can select round dials the size of dinner plates via buttons on the steering wheel, both of which have crisp action and feel expensive. The surround-view monitor has excellent video quality and – like the AutoTrader podcast – an abundance of views.
User Friendliness: 9/10
Despite the amount of tech on hand, it isn’t befuddling to use. The Audi user interface, baked into the infotainment screen and the so-called virtual cockpit, has menus which are easy to navigate and tend not to bury commonly used features. Fonts are easy on the eyes and resolution is crisp. If you don’t like it, there’s always wireless Apple CarPlay. Multiple redundant controls for stereo volume exist, though I will cop to turning down the ventilation fan more than once when trying to silence the dour CBC News reports. Audi has also elected to retain real buttons and dials for its HVAC system, a move I applaud.
A manually-adjustable leg support juts out from the front of these (optional) front seats in an attempt to support those of us who are rather long of limb, but even these extenders were insufficient for this 6-foot-6 driver. Anyone not of NBA-grade height will be fine. Space in the rear seat is pinched, as you’d expect for this class, though not punishingly so. If your brood has yet to hit their growth spurt, one would be wise to sample the size-up Q5.
The Q3 outstrips the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class in terms of cargo space behind the rear seat, at least on paper, clocking in at 671 and 1,359 L, respectively.
The crash test dummies gave all Q3 models a four-star overall front crash rating, citing equal ratings for both the driver and passenger. Side impact crashes received the full five stars. It is worth noting that even in this top trim Technik, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality is a $1,250 option.
Remember all those features I extolled a few paragraphs ago? Some of them come at a cost. All that slick dark-coloured exterior trim is an extra $500, that snazzy strip of orange faux suede in the cabin is an extra $200, and the TT-esque wheels are part of an $1,150 S Line package. Also, it’s important to note the upgraded engine can be had for $6,500 less in the Komfort trim. Even though you’re giving up tasty items like the digital instrument display at that lower level, it may be the smart buy if all you care about is having a Q3 with the extra horses.
Most customers go eyes-wide-open into a transaction with a luxury brand like Audi, knowing they’re going to fork out more simoleons at a luxury German showroom than they would at a workaday brand. Make no mistake: $50,000 is a significant ask for a vehicle with these overall dimensions. However, Audi makes up for it – as it usually does – with a top-shelf cabin and great build quality. This one, in Pulse Orange with matching interior trim, even has a bit of colour.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4|
|Peak Horsepower||228 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque||251 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||11.4 / 8.3 / 10.0 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||671 / 1,359 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2022 Audi Q3 Quattro Technik|
|Price as Tested||$52,720|
$2,270 – S Line Sport Package (19-inch wheels, 255/45R19 all-season tires, black headliner, front sport seats), $1,150; Black Optics Package (dark exterior trim), $500; Audi Connect Navigation & Infotainment Plus, $420; Interior Elements, Orange Alcantara, $200