The 2020 Audi Q3 Sportback has joined the growing list of coupe-like SUVs as an increasing number of buyers move away from conventional hatchbacks.
Based on the new-generation Audi Q3 five-seat soft-roader that went on sale locally late last year, the Audi Q3 Sportback takes the same ingredients but packs them into a sleeker body with a unique interior. Although it looks familiar, the Audi Q3 Sportback body is lower, longer and slightly wider, with a coupe-like roof tapered at the rear.
There are initially three models in the new Audi Q3 Sportback range: the 35 TFSI S Line from $49,900 plus on-road costs, the 35 TFSI Launch Edition from $56,450, and the flagship (until the high-performance Q3 RS models arrive later in the year) 40 TFSI Quattro S Line from $61,900. The prices represent an increase of about $3500 over the equivalent Q3 SUV models.
Both 35 TFSI editions are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (110kW/250Nm) that drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is rated at an average of 7.3L/100km.
The 40 TFSI variant is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (132kW/320Nm) paired to all-wheel drive via a seven-speed automatic. Fuel consumption is rated at 8.3L/100km.
During our preview drive of the 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI, we dipped well below these numbers on freeways and used more than the claimed average in city and suburban driving. Both engines prefer premium unleaded (95-octane minimum).
In the past, Audi has had long options lists, but the Q3 Sportback bucks that trend with comprehensive standard equipment. Standard fare on the Q3 35 TFSI Launch Edition includes advanced safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive headlights, a 360-degree-view parking camera, as well as front and rear sensors.
An electronic tailgate with foot-swipe, hands-free 'gesture' control is also standard, as are scrolling rear indicator LEDs, privacy glass, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI Launch Edition comes with a sensor key and push-button start, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless smartphone charging with, pleasingly, enough space to accommodate devices with bulky protective cases.
It was the first time I have used wireless Apple CarPlay and I'm now converted. No need to fumble with a cord to charge the phone, just drop the phone onto the charging pad and let technology do the rest. Awesome.
The Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI also comes with 10-speaker premium audio, a 10.1-inch high-resolution infotainment screen with embedded navigation and digital radio, plus the 10.25-inch widescreen digital instrument display. Drivers have the option of using one screen or both screens for navigation instructions, which include Google Earth imaging.
Additional phone charging points include one USB, one USB-C and one 12V socket in the front cabin, and two USB-C and one 12V socket for back seat passengers.
Rear passengers also get the convenience of air vents, and the back seat itself tilts and slides to create extra leg room or cargo space. The cargo hold is massive, about 1m by 1m of floor space, and a total capacity of 530L with the back seats in position (the same capacity as the Q3 SUV).
When the back seats are stowed, there is 1400L of storage space available up to the back of the front seats, about 125L less than the conventional Q3 SUV. Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare tyre.
The Audi Q3 40 TFSI Quattro S Line gains an even sportier appearance, with Audi Sport trim front and rear, unique 20-inch wheels, as well as automatic high beam, automatic parking and heated electric front seats – in addition to its more potent engine.
The warranty for Audi cars is three years/unlimited kilometres and service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Pre-paid service plans cost $1610 for three years and $2630 for five years.
On the road
The Audi Q3 Sportback has a striking presence on the road. Its sleeker, lower body helps it slip through the air more efficiently, and also helps it hug corners as it’s not throwing its weight around as much.
The interior is a refreshing change from most other luxury cars. The combination of sharp lines and clear controls makes it look both futuristic yet user-friendly.
Visibility is okay, although the over-shoulder view when changing lanes is restricted slightly by the sloping roof line and small glass area, but the side blind-zone alert (which flashes a light in the side mirror housing) alerts you if you’re about to move into an occupied lane.
As with many new cars these days, the Audi Q3 Sportback has lane-keeping assistance. None of these systems are perfect, but they’re getting better. The Audi was able to ‘read’ the road ahead with reasonable accuracy, though the roads we were on were clearly marked and the weather was fine.
The car can detect lapses in concentration or if you’re not in proper control of the steering wheel, flashing up a warning to pay better attention to the road. If the car does sense you’re wandering from your lane – or not travelling in the centre of your lane – it will either advise you with a warning on the dash or give the steering a gentle nudge to pull you back in line.
As we said, these systems are not perfect and are not designed to replace proper driver attention, but they have the potential to mitigate fatigue or inattention in the right circumstances.
We started our drive in the 35 TFSI and, to be frank, it doesn’t feel sluggish despite what the numbers suggest (0–100km/h claim is 9.3 seconds, quicker than a Toyota Corolla, but a touch slower than a regular VW Golf). It felt fine in the bump and grind of city and suburban driving, and was easily able to go with the flow on freeways.
If you’re wondering whether you need to go the whole way and opt for the 2.0-litre turbo over the smaller 1.4-litre turbo, be sure to take the 1.4-litre for a drive first. You may be pleasantly surprised.
One alternative that Audi says buyers will likely adopt: the 1.4-litre 35 TFSI optioned with more luxury equipment. This combination will still cost less than the 2.0-litre 40 TFSI.
Tyre noise is always an issue on cars with big wheels and low-profile (yet grippy) tyres. The rubber on both versions of the Audi Q3 Sportback we tested were relatively quiet on smooth bitumen, but got a little rowdy on certain coarse-chip surfaces. This is the compromise for having excellent grip, wet or dry.
The comfort over bumps for both models was surprisingly impressive given that low-profile tyres usually don’t absorb impacts well. Well-sorted suspension and cushioned tyres mean you get the best of both worlds: good-looking wheels and a smooth ride.
The only time the Audi Q3 Sportback got a touch upset over bumps was on abrupt expansion joins in the city and suburbs. Once on the open road, it was a smooth operator, whether on winding back roads or major freeways.
Both automatic transmissions (the six-speed and seven-speed) are seamless once on the move, but have a slight hesitation on take-off from rest. This is not a fault, merely a trait of this type of design, and you soon adjust your driving style to accommodate.
Both engines have plenty of zip for daily driver use, but there is no doubt the turbo 2.0-litre will appeal to buyers who want a bit more oomph. With a claimed 0–100km/h time of 7.8 seconds, it’s not far off hot-hatch territory. Call it a warm hatch, then.
Overall, though, both versions of the new Audi Q3 Sportback are well executed and well equipped.
The Audi Q3 Sportback is a refreshing take on the familiar coupe-like SUV theme, and will probably win buyers on looks alone.
It looks sharp inside and out, has most mod-cons covered, and is comfortable to drive.