Car reviews - Audi - Q3 - Sportback
Stylish exterior styling, typically clean Audi interior, punchy and dynamic 40 TFSI, good NVH, retains most of Q3’s practicality
Room for improvement
Sluggish DGS in 35 TFSI, compromised rear dimensions, harsher ride due to larger wheels, infotainment system not as useable as before
Audi broadens appeal of Q3 small SUV with stylish Sportback coupe-style version
3 Apr 2020
ONE of the most unexpectedly popular automotive trends of the past decade has to be the coupe-style SUV, giving customers the option of a sportier look for their SUV, which has been slowly surpassing passenger cars as Australia’s favourite vehicle type.
First kicked off by BMW with the X6, other brands have jumped on the coupe-style SUV bandwagon with models like the Mercedes GLC and GLE Coupes, the Porsche Cayenne Coupe and the Audi Q8.
Audi wasn’t satisfied with having the top-spec Q8 as its only slope-backed SUV, and as such has introduced the Sportback body style to its popular Q3 small SUV, which arrived in new-generation guise late last year.
With a sportier overall design and some minor spec changes, has the Sportback emerged as the most desirable iteration of the new-generation Q3?
First drive impressions
The Q3 Sportback range largely mirrors that of the regular Q3, with the same choice of variants and a slightly enhanced level of specification, which results in a roughly $3000 premium over the wagon body.
Variant choice mirrors that in the Q3, with the entry-level 35 TFSI, more potent 40 TFSI quattro and exclusive 35 TFSI Launch Edition being offered out of the gate, which will be followed by the hi-po RS Q3 around August.
The biggest distinguishing factor of the Q3 Sportback is its exterior styling, which in the flesh makes for a far more dynamic and sportier look than the regular Q3.
The sloped-back silhouette, larger alloy wheels and S-line exterior styling enhancements make for one of the most stylish small SUVs on the market, clearly fitting the bill of a visually enhanced Q3.
Inside, the stylish theme continues, with Audi living up to its reputation as one of the best brands in the business when it comes to a clean and sophisticated interior layout.
Both the 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI feature a comfortable and well-specified cabin, with generous standard specification including dual digital infotainment and instrument cluster, leather upholstery, wireless phone charging and dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning for the 35 TFSI.
This level of spec is generous for an entry-level offering, while the 40 TFSI adds quality features such as comfortable heated and electric front seats with side bolstering and leather/Alcantara trim, the S-line sports steering wheel with paddle shifters which sits perfectly in the hands, a 10-speaker premium sound system and a larger 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster display.
Despite being one of the first brands to offer a digital instrument cluster, Audi’s display remains a benchmark thanks to its extensive customisation, which surpasses anything Mercedes or BMW can offer.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system features slick graphics and a relatively easy interface to navigate, however the move to integrate controls into the touchscreen – a trend multiple car-makers have jumped on in order to declutter the cabin – has made the process of navigating the MMI more fiddly and difficult.
Audi models previously offered a button/dial set-up placed on the centre console similar to BMW’s iDrive controller, which took up some space but generally meant you could spend far more time with your eyes on the road while navigating the system.
With its sloping roofline, headroom for rear occupants over 6ft tall is marginal, however the Q3 does offer comfortable lateral room.
Audi has done a good job of retaining the same amount of load space below the tonneau cover in the Sportback (530L), however with the rear seats folded, it does sacrifice 125L.
The entry-level 35 TFSI uses a powertrain that should by now be familiar to those who know Volkswagen Group products – a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder developing 110kW/250Nm, driving the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Performance from the 1.4-litre mill is appropriate but modest, and is better suited as a regular daily driver as opposed to a small family car that can pull double duty as a fun hot-hatch-like SUV.
In the middle of the rev range the 35 TFSI has a greater deal of punch, however it is still relatively slow off the line, as evidenced by its 9.3-second 0-100km/h sprint time.
Our main gripe with the 35 TFSI is its six-speed dual-clutch automatic, which gives a spongy, delayed pedal response and is generally sluggish when shifting and responding to throttle inputs.
Kicking into sport mode does quicken gear shifts and throttle response slightly, however it is still a frustrating unit that we think in this case is inferior to a torque-converter automatic transmission.
Meanwhile, the 40 TFSI makes use of a 2.0-litre unit good for 132kW/320Nm, while employing a seven-speed dual-clutch unit and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive.
From the moment you push the accelerator, it is clear the 40 TFSI is the more dynamically capable of the two, with a much faster throttle response from the seven-speed DSG.
Throw in the extra power of the 2.0-litre engine, which also comes on nice and low in the rev range, and the 40 TFSI is clearly the more enjoyable of the two offerings, with a far sportier character and more willing performance.
On our drive route we recorded an average fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per 100km in the 35 TFSI – not far off its 7.3L/100km official figure – while the 40 TFSI was unsurprisingly a little thirstier at 8.5L/100km, again close to its official combined number (8.3L/100km).
The Q3 Sportback has one clear dynamic advantage over its wagon counterpart, which is the standard fitment of Audi Drive Select which tweaks engine and suspension response to allow for a sportier dynamic when needed, as well as a variable steering ratio.
Driving through the twisting roads of the Yarra Valley outside Melbourne, the Q3 Sportback did a fine job navigating through the twisty stuff, with even the front-drive 35 TFSI holding its own dynamically.
However, when adding the quattro all-paw grip, the 40 TFSI comes into its own, holding its line even when tipped hard into corners, and able to accelerate briskly out of sweeping bends without exerting any under- or oversteer, despite the extra weight penalty over the 35.
The Q3 Sportback also has a well-weighted steering set-up that is light and comfortable around town but also gives good feedback when driving harder.
Ride quality on both variants proved to be respectable, with the Drive Select program able to help dial in an appropriate suspension calibration. That said, the Sportback’s ride is probably slightly harsher than the Q3, due to its larger alloy wheel size.
The ride quality leads to low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, with a quiet and comfortable cabin befitting of a luxury brand.
Overall, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the Q3 and Q3 Sportback – exterior design is clearly the biggest separator, while practicality and everyday use are basically the same.
If you are buying the Sportback for a more dynamic experience, the 40 TFSI is worth the extra coin over the more sluggish 35 TFSI.
For fans of coupe-style SUVs, there’s never been such a breadth of choice.
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