It’s no secret that Audi is on a style tear at the moment, intent on making stylish coupe versions of all of its SUVs.
The latest in a long line of Audi SUVs to get the treatment is the Q3 Sportback. It’s one of the more affordable ways to get into a stylish coupe SUV, but does it compromise on the things that make SUVs great?
What is the Audi Q3 Sportback?
People typically bemoan the coupe-based SUVs that usually end up looking hunch-backed with a rear end the size of a rhino, and yet - somehow - it seems to have translated quite well on the Audi Q3 Sportback.
But the slicked-back treatment is fraught with danger, focusing less on the actual reasons you’d buy an SUV – such as space and practicality – in favour of style and dynamics.
However, it is actually refreshing to see from a brand that has typically held more reserved designs across its model range in years gone by.
Now, you can get suave coupe design language from the Q3 which is on the other end of the price spectrum to style icons like the bigger brother Q8, and those from other carmakers like the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and BMW X6.
It does pay to be fashionable though; the Q3 Sportback’s price is $3500 more expensive than the regular Q3 and the 35TFSI S Line car we had on test is just $100 shy of $50,000 before options and on-road costs.
You can see that there’s not a lot changed on the front end, which is no bad thing, but around the rear, you immediately notice the tapered roofline and rear window which eats into the Q3’s boot.
Surprisingly, though, the Q3 Sportback concedes no official boot space over its wagon-shaped Q3 counterpart, both with an identical 530-litre capacity.
Our Q3 Sportback S Line in question wears striking Pulse Orange paint colour from the standard palette and includes option-up 19-inch wheels (though a 19-inch five-twin-spoke wheel design is standard), wireless Apple CarPlay and phone charging, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.1-inch infotainment screen, digital radio and navigation as standard.
Keyless entry and engine start, ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, leather-appointed upholstery and LED headlights all join the party as standard, too.
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A number of safety items are equipped as standard to help the Q3 Sportback achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating including six airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic assist and tyre pressure monitors.
What is the Q3 Sportback like to live with?
It seems as though on paper there are not as many concessions for ‘going coupe’ as you’d expect. It may begin $3500 more expensive than its wagon twin but there’s still plenty of space up front for the driver and a great number of amenities to make the experience suitably stylish.
As stated before, that same 530-litre amount of boot space is available and it’s genuinely usable as well – there’s a comfortable loading height and the rear window doesn’t intrude on space either.
However, the Q3 Sportback isn’t able to pull off the same magic when you get into the second row. I’m 187cm and my head is firmly pressed into the roof, though for smaller people there’s a comfortable, tall backrest and extended seat squab. There are rear air vents with dual USB-C ports underneath too.
In the hot seat, it’s a much more comfortable place to be and you get a full view of the driver-focused dash which incorporates a 10.1-inch screen for the main commands while Audi’s 10.25-inch Virtual cockpit takes place of a normal instrument cluster.
Using the central touchscreen with updated infotainment is a fairly simple affair, and there’s wireless Apple CarPlay and phone charging too which makes connectivity an easily managed ‘set and forget’ thing.
But I do miss the rotary controller which made quick on-the-fly commands easy. A happy medium would have been to include both, but let’s not stand in the way of progress…
A major part of the Q3 Sportback’s angle – and coupe SUVs in general, for that matter – is its drive experience so we hit the road to see if there’s any dynamic pedigree within the Sportback name.
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What is the Q3 Sportback like to drive?
In a way, driving the Q3 Sportback allows you the best of both worlds.
Its tall and commanding profile allows you a higher perch over other cars (while not too large – it's still a small SUV) while conversely, its low-slung nature and sporting characteristics ensure it’s steady around corners and entertaining to drive.
The ride and handling are completely fit for purpose – it doesn’t sway around corners in the way a traditional SUV would and the ride comfort levels are high too. It’s even a fun steer, with light and direct inputs resulting in a quick change of direction.
Where the Sportback shape can hurt a little bit is with visibility. Though it remains quite decent in consideration with its design, you have to be that extra bit careful to doubly make sure nothing is behind you when reversing.
The engine mated to this Q3 Sportback 35TFSI is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that outputs a meek 110kW and 250Nm to the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
While that’s not especially powerful, it at least bodes well for fuel use. Audi says it’ll sip 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres which is a figure I managed to match on test.
The transmission and engine combo is a great match, faithfully putting the power down across a number of surfaces and delivers intuitive gear shifts at all the right times.
You do get the odd fumble from the gearbox when switching between drive and reverse but it’s nothing to worry about.
While the 35TFSI powerplant in this car gets the job done just fine, if you want the kind of sporty nature that the Q3 Sportback’s design lends itself to, we’d opt for the more powerful 40 TFSI engine or even the RSQ3, both of which use all-wheel-drive, also.
Is the Audi Q3 Sportback worth it?
While there’s plenty of manufacturers out there doing it wrong, there are some car makers like Audi which has done the whole coupe SUV thing justice.
It does impede on rear-seat space and cost an annoying $3500 extra over the standard Q3, but there’s still plenty of space in the boot for weekend getaways and it brings proper style to a more affordable price point when compared to its premium rivals.
Make no mistake, we imagine those shopping for the Q3 Sportback are doing so for aesthetic reasons rather than driving ones – and in that regard, it delivers in spades.
For the style-oriented brief that was set, Audi has done its part and provided a good looking, well-equipped and head-turning alternative to the sea of SUVs.
If you want to change it up a bit or need a bit of spice in your life, you can do a lot worse than a Q3 Sportback.
Pros: Stylish and spacious, great interior materials and standard equipment
Cons: 35TFSI engine not especially exciting, enclosed second row
Rating: 4/5 stars