There are plenty of non-luxury compact SUVs that when fully loaded are priced right around where the 2020 Audi Q3 begins. This, despite it being smaller and less equipped than the range-topping Mazda CX-5’s and Honda CR-V’s of the world. To some, that’ll make for dubious value, but as expected for a luxury car, the Q3 justifies its price premium with superior interior quality, cutting-edge technology, stronger performance and, of course, a ritzier brand image. The original Q3 really only offered the latter, but the new one introduced last year finally comes across as the real deal.
It has plenty of competition among luxury players, and although generally well-executed, the 2020 Q3 also has enough demerits (cargo space, fuel economy, steering and transmission response, tech functionality) that making sure to also check out the BMW X1 and X2, Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 and Volvo XC40 is a must. One thing the Q3 does have going for it, though, is a greater amount of standard equipment for a base price that effectively undercuts those rivals. So while some may view the Q3’s value as dubious, in the realm of luxury vehicles, it’s actually pretty good.
What’s 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 just OK for its price point. There are more hard plastics than you’ll find in other Audis, and the token wood strip on the right side of our test car’s dash is the epitome of the term “tacked on” as no other wood appears elsewhere in the cabin. The $150 optional Alcantara Orange package that adds a welcome splash of color to the interior is more appropriate for the environment, though we wish it were available in additional hues.
How big is the Audi Q3?
The new Q3 is a larger, more practical car than the one it replaced last year. Those upgrading to the new model will find that the 2020 model is not only much nicer inside, but more comfortable and spacious as well. When compared to its competition, however, it’s basically par for the course, with backseat leg- and headroom comparable to the BMW X2 and Volvo XC40. The BMW X1 and new Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 are more spacious.
That back seat slides forward to increase cargo capacity, which we suspect must be done in order to achieve the substantial on-paper claim of 23.7 cubic feet of space behind the back seat. Otherwise, it’s pretty cramped back there, as we discovered in our Audi Q3 luggage test. Maximum cargo capacity of 48 cubic feet is much less than the X1 and GLB.
What’s the Q3 like to drive?
Acceleration is invigorating from the turbo four-cylinder, getting up to speed smartly in a way that’s appropriate and expected for a luxury vehicle. The engine note is a bit louder and growlier than expected, especially when compared to Audi’s A4, Q5 and 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.
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.
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.