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2023 Audi Q3 Review: Brings the style, lacks the substance

Pros: Very stylish; a nicely equipped value; solid tech all around

Cons: Some cheap-feeling interior materials; less cargo space than rivals; boring to drive; below-average fuel economy

The 2023 Audi Q3 is the cheapest four-ringed SUV money can buy, but it makes a great first impression as an Audi. Design is a high point, as this little crossover totally looks the part of a luxury vehicle with its flashy LED lighting, sharp lines and modern Audi styling. You could even mistake it for some of Audi’s larger and more expensive SUVs. A big dose of Audi’s fantastic tech is brought down into this little car, too, which means you get to enjoy many of the niceties seen on Audi’s bigger models. However, a lot of this great styling and flashy tech is covering for other substandard attributes.

The Q3 is largely dreary to drive and suffers from very disconnected throttle and steering response. Its base model 40 TFSI is downright slow with an 8.7-second 0-60 mph time. Fuel economy versus its competition is notably down. Plus, it offers less cargo space than most competitors (not to mention similarly priced small SUVs from non-luxury makers). Interior tech may be a plus, but there are some odd ergonomics and interior quality is a disappointment with a lot of cheap-feeling plastics that seem more Volkswagen than Audi. Many of these downsides sway us in favor of other small luxury SUVs, including the Volvo XC40 and both the GLA and GLB from Mercedes-Benz. You’d also be smart to check out the luxurious Mazda CX-5 or CX-50. The Q3 has its pluses, but it’s far from leading the way in this segment.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it’s like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What’s new for 2023?

Updates for 2023 are light-touch in nature. Full LED headlights are now standard across the board. A wireless phone charger replaces Audi’s “phone box with signal booster.” New 18-inch wheels grace the 40 TFSI model and new, optional 20-inch wheels come with the summer tires that are part of the Black Optic Sport package on the 45 TFSI.

What are the Q3’s interior and in-car technology like?

Like other Audis, the Q3 interior is tech-focused and has a rather architectural design with lots of sharp angles. It’s a bit reminiscent of the 1980s. The materials are disappointing for the price point. There are more hard plastics than you’ll find in other Audis (even the surprisingly disappointing Q5), and the token strip of metal or wood trim on the dash is the epitome of the term “tacked on.”

Audi has packed the interior with technology, including a standard 10.25-inch digital instrument display and an 8.8-inch touchscreen presented high and within easy reach. Both can be upgraded, however, to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system that increases the instrument unit to 12.3 inches and the center touchscreen to 10.1. We’ve only tested this latter setup and found that the resolution is exquisite, it reacts quickly to inputs and even goes so far as providing haptic feedback when you press the screen. Feature content is also strong as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, and we love that the car automatically pairs your phone to work wirelessly with CarPlay after plugging it into a USB port just once.

The touchscreen’s functionality isn’t perfect. We like that the menu options always remain in a channel on the screen’s left side, reducing the back-and-forth between menus. However, the radio controls aren’t entirely convenient and involve a lot of jockeying around the system to swap between stations. The multi-purpose knob that controls volume and selects tracks is oddly placed on the center console over by the passenger’s knee. There’s also no getting around the fact that a touchscreen draws your eyes away from the road longer — Audi’s old knob-and-screen MMI system and BMW’s current iDrive can be operated with less glancing at the dash.

How big is the Q3?

The new Q3 is a larger, more practical car than the one it replaced four model years ago. Those upgrading to the new model will find that the 2023 version is not only nicer inside, but more comfortable and spacious as well. When compared to its competition, however, it’s still one of the smallest out there. Backseat leg- and headroom are comparable to the BMW X2 and Volvo XC40, but the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Mercedes GLB are more spacious. 

Worse is the cargo area. Though it’s certainly nice that the back seat slides forward to increase cargo capacity, you basically have to do so in order to come close to the capacity offered by its competition. It is one of the least voluminous crossovers we’ve luggage tested. By contrast, the GLB’s back seat also slides, but doing so takes it from being best-in-segment to rivaling midsize crossovers.

What are the Q3’s fuel economy and performance specs?

Every 2022 Q3 comes standard with all-wheel drive (Quattro) and an eight-speed automatic, but there is a choice of two 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engines.

The first, known as 40 TFSI, produces 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Audi says it goes from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, which is definitely on the slow end of something with a luxury badge. It returns an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. Audi says that the 40 TFSI will only have late 2023 model year availability due to parts shortages, so unless you’re planning on buying toward the end of 2023, your only option will be the 45 TFSI, described below.

The 45 TFSI version produces 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Audi says it’s good for a more acceptable 7.0-second 0-60 time, but even that seems a bit pokey given the Q3’s size and that sizable output. We thought it seemed quicker than that. Fuel economy is 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. This is a lower than its similarly powered competitors, the Volvo XC40 B5 AWD (26 mpg combined), BMW X2 xDrive28i (27 mpg combined) and Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic (26 mpg combined).

What’s the Q3 like to drive?

Acceleration is just fine from the 45 TFSI engine, getting up to speed smartly in a way that’s appropriate and expected for a luxury vehicle (even if the 0–60 times underwhelm). The engine note is a bit louder and growlier than expected, especially when compared to Audi’s A4Q5 and A4 Allroad. The transmission is also an issue. Both during our first drive of the Q3 in Nashville and a lengthier test thereafter, we noticed significant hesitation between the accelerator being planted and the engine responding. We didn’t always trust that it would respond quickly enough when pulling into traffic, and there’s some low-speed jerkiness as well. This caused one of our editors to assume the Q3 had a dual-clutch automated manual, which can be prone to such behavior, but there’s actually a traditional eight-speed automatic at work.

Handling is quite good, as the suspension takes a set nicely and maintains composure around corners. Despite having a fixed suspension with no adaptability or multiple settings, it manages to provide both capable handling and an accommodating, well-damped ride. As always, Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive deserves praise, as you can really feel the power being sent rearward to help power you through and out of corners. With the optional big wheels and summer tires, it has way more grip than you’d expect from a non-performance crossover, too.

The steering is less praiseworthy, as it’s utterly numb at slower speeds. There’s being lighter for parking reasons, as Audis have been for a decade, but then there’s this dead-fish business that lasts well into around-town speeds. We ended up driving with the steering in its Dynamic mode just to mitigate it, which is something we rarely need to do these days. It’s perfectly precise at higher speeds, but is still bereft of feel. In this way and some others described above, the Q3 drives more like a Volkswagen than an Audi, which, under the skin, is actually fairly accurate. 

What other Audi Q3 reviews can I read?

2019 Audi Q3 Road Test

We take a second look at the Audi Q3 after its big redesign.

 

2019 Audi Q3 First Drive

Though we literally got our first drive in a European-spec Q3, this was our first go of the American version on American roads. We include more in-depth information about its specs, engineering, design and what changed.

 

Audi Q3 Luggage Test

In one of earliest luggage tests, the Q3 shows that it can’t hold that much stuff, especially with the cargo cover in place and the seat pushed all the way rearward (which you’ll likely need to do with passengers). Later tests would show competitors, including those of the Mercedes GLA and GLB, to be better. 

 

What is the 2023 Q3’s price?

Pricing starts at $37,595, including the $1,195 destination charge. Audi then breaks down the trim hierarchy into Premium and Premium Plus versions with the 40 TFSI and 45 TFSI engines available with both. The more powerful engine gets sportier S line styling elements and adds $2,300 to the price – we think it’s well worth that if you’re set on the Q3.

The standard features list includes 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights and wipers, a power liftgate, a panoramic sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front seats, leather upholstery (all of the above competitors have synthetic substitutes standard), the sliding and reclining 40/20/40 back seat, four USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a 10-speaker sound system. The $1,400 Convenience package adds, a memory driver’s seat, motion sensor alarm system, a hands-free power liftgate, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, satellite radio and fancier LED interior lighting.

The Premium Plus at $43,195 includes the Convenience Package items and more as standard. Getting the Premium Plus is also mandatory if you want the $2,700 Technology package that includes the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel, larger touchscreen, navigation, wireless Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Alexa integration and a Sonos premium sound system.

You can find a full breakdown of features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.

What are the Q3’s safety ratings and driver assistance features?

Every 2023 Q3 comes standard with a low-speed forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking system called Audi Pre-Sense as well as lane-departure warning. It also has blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors and automatic high beams. Rear side impact airbags are a $350 option.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Q3 a five-star overall crash rating (out of five), including a four-star frontal rating and five-star side rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best possible scores for every test but the side test where it scored an Acceptable. It received a Good rating for its standard forward collision-mitigation system (vehicle-to-vehicle). The base model’s headlights that received a Poor rating for the 2022 model year are discontinued for 2023, and the only headlights available now are last year’s upgrade lights that the IIHS rated as Good. Official 2023 info isn’t out yet, but one would assume that its headlight rating would at least improve. 

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