If you took Audi's mid-size Q8 SUV and hit it with a shrink ray, it would turn into the 2021 Q3. From its large trapezoidal grille to aggressively canted rear hatch, the junior Audi SUV does its best impression of the brand's larger crossovers.
Inside, buyers will find a tech-heavy interior, which is expected from modern Audis, but it offers youthful flair in the form of optional brightly-colored suede dash trim and multi-color ambient interior lighting.
A turbocharged four-cylinder and standard all-wheel drive provide decent pep and all-weather assurance, but those seeking outright speed may be disappointed. Still, its agile chassis gives it the moves to challenge driver-favorites such as the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-class.
Audi has simplified the Q3 lineup for 2021 by dropping the top-flight Prestige trim level and splitting its features into available Technology or Convenience packages on the remaining Premium and Premium Plus trims.
The entry-level Premium model now comes standard with power-adjustable front seats, lane-departure warning, and steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.
The Convenience package now includes an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, heated power-folding exterior mirrors, and LED interior lighting.
The Premium Plus model gains adaptive cruise control as a standard feature and can be equipped with a new Technology package that includes a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a larger 10.1-inch infotainment display, a Bang & Olufsen stereo system, and built-in navigation.
All Q3s now come standard with the previously optional S line Exterior package, which includes 19-inch wheels and S line-branded door-sill inlays.
A Black Optic exterior package (unique 19-inch wheels and black exterior trim) is now available, as is a Parking Assistance package, which includes a 360-degree exterior camera system and a self-parking feature.
Although it's now the most expensive model, the Premium Plus trim still represents the best buy in the Q3 lineup.
Its relatively affordable price tag equips it with many desirable features, including a wireless charging pad, blind-spot monitoring, passive entry with push-button start, LED headlamps, and adaptive cruise control.
We'd also suggest the aforementioned Technology package, which unlocks the coolest tech features Audi has to offer.
The Q3 is powered by a 228-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine and comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive, its transmission shifted smoothly during normal operation and has sportier reactions when shifted into S mode.
Thankfully, its suspension damped out all but the harshest road imperfections. Direct steering with a light-to-the-touch feel gives the Q3 a sense of agility. The little SUV also moves with the same grace as its larger siblings when pitched down a twisty section of road.
While the EPA hasn't released fuel-economy estimates for the 2021 model year, the Q3's lack of mechanical changes suggest the ratings will be the same as last year. The 2020 Q3 is expected to earn 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Those numbers are between 3 and 4 mpg lower than similarly equipped rivals, such as the X1 and Volvo XC40.
However, the Q3 we tested on our 200-mile fuel-economy route exceeded its government highway rating by 4 mpg (31 total), which matched the real-world figure on the X1 we tested.