Test Drives

Audi Q3 Sportback review: Not naughty, but nice



Fashionistas rejoice: Audi has turned up the glamour on the solid and spacious Q3. Should you be just as chuffed if you’re a driving enthusiast or family man?

EIMELDINGEN, GERMANY — This here is the Audi Q3 Sportback, a car that isn’t due in Singapore for some time, but which we’re betting you can’t wait to lay eyes on.

Why? Because it’s a derivative of the new Q3, an excellent car by our editor’s reckoning, but also because its silhouette perfectly satisfies the ongoing shift not just towards Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers, but beyond them into various transmogrifications.

People want to be different like everyone else, after all, and even if all your relatives drive crossovers now, chances are none of them has something like an Audi Q3 Sportback.

So sit back and come along for the ride as we spend a day in the Q3 Sportback at its international launch, sticking strictly to tarmac, of course…

What kind of car is this?
Think Honda HR-V or Toyota C-HR, only bigger and plusher. Or, think BMW X2 rival, only less fussy-looking. Or indeed, think Audi’s own Q8, but smaller.

Whichever way you look at it, the Q3 Sportback is essentially the Q3’s hotter sister. And if you think about it, it’s faithful to the original concept of a coupe, which is to take a car and “chop” (or cut, as the word means in French) its roof down.

“This is not a coupe but a coupe-ish SUV, because this is combining an SUV which is sporty and dynamic with a coupe-ish roof, which has a more elegant, emotional feeling,” says Seulah Park, an exterior designer for Audi. “We really tried to combine them beautifully.”

So Q3 plus lower roof equals Q3 Sportback?
Basically, yes. The two cars are pretty much built on the same running gear (the Q3 Sportsback sits on the Q3’s sport suspension by default, although customers can option the basic suspension if they want a comfy Sportback) and have the same 2,680mm wheelbase.

The roof is a good 29mm lower, but just to keep things in proportion the Sportback is slightly (16mm) longer.

Just for comparison, this is what the regular Q3 looks like in profile:

What else?
Basically everything from the A-pillars back is different, but the nose of the car gets different treatment. This is what the regular Q3 looks like from the front:

“The normal Q3 has vertical elements in the grille. For the Q3 Sportback, we wanted to make it one step sportier, so there’s a very specific three-dimensional shapes, with very interesting metallic inserts,” Park tells us. “Using this part we wanted to make maximum differentiation between Q3 and Q3 Sportback.”

The sides of the cars have different creases to shift the visual weight of the Sportback lower, the window line kicks up at the back to meet the tapering roofline, and the tailgate spoiler is a visual trick to elongate the roof.

Over at the back, there are horizontal lines galore. They’re there to break up what would otherwise be a huge surface, and have the effect of slimming down the Q3 Sportback’s backside.

That just goes to show what a great stylist can do for a body, and overall the Audi is a pretty car that looks especially fetching on the move.

Age-old question, then: does it drive as good as it looks?
Hmm, tough one. Like many of its platform siblings (such as the Volkswagen Golf) the Q3 Sportback exudes a huge level of competence and composure.

Even on sport suspension and 20-inch wheels, the ride (over admittedly smooth German roads) is fabulously well-sported and nicely absent of the rock and jitter over bumps that SUVs often display.

It even carves corners fairly well, and feels balanced and predictable enough to have you slinging it into bends without fear. Overcook things and you get simple understeer that simply goes away once the exceed speed is scrubbed off (ask me how I know).

Yet, in plain terms the Q3 Sportback isn’t an engaging drive. The steering is pretty direct but it’s not particularly feelsome, and despite the chassis’ abilities you never feel like attacking corners. BMW’s X2 somehow encourages that sort of thing a bit more, while the Q3 Sportback seems more tuned for comfort.

Is it at least fast?
Depends on the engine we’re getting, which raises another question: Which engine are we getting? To which the answer is: it depends.

Right now Singapore is slated for a 1.4 TFSI with 150 horsepower; we drove a 1.5 TFSI mild hybrid (pictured above) with the same amount of power, and it was decently spirited but not overflowing with zest. A little over 9 seconds to hit 100km/h is fine, but it isn’t anything to text home about.

Expect a generic four-cylinder turbo voice, too.

As for the mild hybrid system, it gives the engine a small boost but its real purpose is to shave off 0.4 litres of petrol consumption per 100km. Whether we get it or not, Audi is still deciding. It all depends on what its engineers think of our fuel quality.

We did try a 2.0-litre 45 TFSI quattro model with 230 horsepower and all-wheel drive. Much livelier, of course (100km/h takes just 6.5 seconds in that one), but really, the Q3 Sportback’s laidback handling doesn’t cry out for more power.

There are other reasons to consider the car.

Such as?
Surprisingly, practicality is one of them. The Q3 Sportback is a bigger car than the BMW X2, and it shows. On paper the Audi has a huge boot, capable of ingesting 530 litres of stuff. That’s the same as the regular Q3 even though the rear screen slopes down so gently.

The space is so generous because the rear end is a teeny bit longer than the normal Q3’s, but also because luggage measurement is only done up to the window line.

If you habitually carry large loads, our advice is to have a careful look at the Sportback’s boot instead of going by numbers — even underfloor storage is a part of the 530-litre rating.

Nevertheless, if you fold the rear seats the Q3 Sportback can accommodate up to 1,400 litres. Speaking of the back seats, they slide and recline pretty extensively, letting you play around with how much cabin space to give to the boot, and vice versa.

But it’s coupe-ish, so is it cramped at the back?
Not at all, surprisingly. It’s not as airy feeling inside as in most SUVs, but the Q3 Sportback doesn’t fare poorly if you have to stick adults in the back seats. We found a six-footer and shoved him into the back; he claimed to be comfortable, but he worked for Audi so make of that what you will.

Chances are, if your kids aren’t on the secondary school basketball team they won’t find the back objectionable at all. Although who’s to say what teenagers don’t find objectionable, these days?

How are things up front?
Nice, and verging on bling.

The Q3 Sportback’s dash is straight out of the Q3, so expect it to be dominated by digital screens; Singapore cars will almost certainly have the Virtual Cockpit Plus system, which has a new “dynamic” display mode that does away with needles for less traditional, more funky instrumentation.

 

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The infotainment system has a 10.1-inch touchscreen tilted towards the driver by 10 degrees, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready to go. It’s not super responsive, but the graphics are crisp and sharp, doing much to give the Audi a cutting-edge feel.

Expect all-day comfort from the seats, of course, along with a seating position that does feel elevated even though you don’t have to climb up a ladder to get into the Q3 Sportback.

Who’s gonna buy this thing?
Crossover coupes (or coupe-ish SUVs to use this as an example) are proliferating in the market, so the Q3 Sportback should be popular, especially in the under-S$200,000-with-Certificate-Of-Entitlement zone, where we think it’ll land.

If anything, the fact that Q3 Sportback is only arriving in Singapore at the end of 2020 could be costly for Audi; coupes are for the image-conscious, and the image-conscious want the latest-and-greatest.

Still, it ticks many of the right boxes; it takes a solid and spacious car in the form of Q3 and adds glamour without sacrificing much practicality. Good looks have never hurt a car’s prospects.

Just don’t expect to be enthralled by the driving experience. The Q3 Sportback is a sexy sister of the Q3, but it isn’t a naughty one.

Audi Q3 Sportback S line 1.5 TFSI

Engine 1,498cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 150hp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1500-3500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed automatic
0-100km/h 9.3 seconds (estimated)
Top Speed 205 km/h (estimated)
Fuel Efficiency 6L/100km (estimated)
VES Band / CO2 TBC / 130g/km (estimated)
Agent Premium Automobiles
Price To be announced
Available Late 2020

 

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about the author

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Leow Julen
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 25 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.