Audi Q3 40 review: the least-expensive Audi is one of the bestMar 30th, 2021
The rise of the SUV is inexorable. Twenty years ago, SUVs represented just a small percentage of new vehicles sold, and were only offered by a few manufacturers, with luxury brands just starting to get into the game. Today, they are everywhere, and are arguably more “mainstream” than the sedans and hatchbacks they’ve replaced as the default family vehicles of our generation – almost 80% of new vehicles sold in Canada are now classified as light trucks instead of passenger cars, and the rise of the SUV has everything to do with that.
Why have SUVs become so popular in Canada? For one thing, they’re practical – a two-box format with an easy-folding rear seat is more spacious, more flexible, and more adaptable within a given footprint than a three-box sedan, which limits the height of the cargo you can carry, and often can’t accommodate roof racks or other capacity-extending accessories. Second, the added security of all-wheel drive provides drivers reassurance and the sense of a mechanical safety net, particularly in Canada, where winter is definitely a “thing.” Third, the image that SUVs project – a sense of rugged, outdoorsy, go-anywhere adventure – aligns with the image many of us would like to project to the world. And finally – and this is a surprising one – SUVs are, relative to cars, actually excellent value, often giving you more features, security, and versatility for less.
This new Audi Q3 40 (the 40 refers to its relative power output on Audi’s scale, in this case 184 hp) is a great example of this. With the A3 sedan on hiatus for the 2021 model year – a new generation is coming several months from now – the “base” Q3 is now the most entry-level Audi, and in it, you get a lot more for your $37,250 list price than you got in the “base” A3.
Quattro all-wheel drive tops the standard equipment highlights; it’s Audi’s familiar, and excellent, system, and something you had to pay extra for in the base A3. The Q3 40’s engine is also a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (as opposed to the A3’s 1.8), an engine closely related to the more powerful version in the Q3 45. While it’s down about 40 horsepower on the more expensive Q3, torque output is much closer, and torque is what you feel when accelerating away from a stop light or when breezing past slower traffic; the 2.0-litre engine, coupled with the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, gives the Q3 40 more than enough power in everyday driving, while also being shockingly economical on gas.
And while the Q3 40 may be the least-expensive Audi, even shorn of all optional equipment, it is remarkably well-specified for a sub-$40,000 SUV. With Komfort trim, you get a standard panoramic glass roof, rear-view camera, digital instrument cluster, two-zone climate control, 10-speaker audio system, Audi smartphone interface, Audi drive select, and a power driver’s seat with power-adjustable lumbar support. The infotainment system, with a large glossy touchscreen, is similar to what you’ll find in higher-end Audis, instantly responsive and intuitive to use, with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. Moving up to Progressiv adds 18-inch wheels, a pile of additional luxury features, some upgraded trim, and additional active safety features. The best deal of all may be to order Komfort trim with the $2,800 Vorsprung Edition Package, which adds 19-inch wheels, lane departure warning, piano-black inlays, front and rear parking sensors, and more – the perfect combination of luxury features and sporty looks.
No matter what version of the Q3 40 you choose, or what options you decide to add, in it, you’re actually getting Audi’s most up-to-date SUV, a platform that was actually launched after the recently-facelifted Q5, Q7, and Q8. As such, it benefits from all the engineering lessons from those vehicles and packs all of the latest Audi technology into a very appealing package. The Q3 40 is shockingly spacious for its footprint, and in the way it drives and in its feature content, always feels like it’s from a class above. For the least expensive vehicle in Audi’s lineup, that’s some kind of achievement.