In the absence of any concrete pricing and features ahead of this car’s Australian launch in March 2020, the most important thing about it is the way it looks, so take a minute to fully appreciate its proportions.
But when we eventually are able to give you the full run down of drivetrain options, extras packages and how much it costs, the Audi Q3 Sportback’s design will still be its most important attribute. That’s because it might very well be the best-looking Audi SUV to date.
Granted, the Q8 may have something to say about that but, while the Q3 Sportback’s bigger sibling is definitely handsome and imposing, there’s something just so damn charming about the smaller coupe-SUV’s proportions when you see them for the first time in person – as we did recently during the model’s global debut drive in Germany.
What we can confirm is that the version which arrives Down Under first will be the 35 TFSI. It represents the entry point of the range in Europe where there are four options on offer and it’s powered by a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine with 110kW and a respectable 250Nm.
If you are familiar with Audi’s freshly introduced nomenclature system, you might assume that the 35 badge on its boot means the performance is adequate at best, and you would be right. A quick blast in the new model from Basel into Germany’s Black Forest revealed the free-revving nature of its relatively small engine and enough power to despatch a few overtaking manoeuvres.
Significantly, the engine in our test steed has a version of Audi’s new mild hybrid system incorporated to the drivetrain allowing a small amount of energy that would be otherwise wasted in braking to be recovered as well as adding a little extra torque.
Read: 2019 Audi Q3 unveiled
Apparently the extra 50Nm is delivered at low engine speeds but the little four-pot pulls strongly through the mid-range too. A reported zero to 100km/h figure of 9.6 seconds is far from fast but the 35 TFSI feels marginally more swift than that thanks to its decent mid-range performance.
Encountering a few twisty bits highlighted how its chassis is also completely fit for purpose. It’s certainly no RS but it isn’t trying to be either, and a front-wheel drive set up coupled to seven speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is involving enough to be fun.
There is a six-speed manual that’s available to certain European markets without the mild hybrid system bolted to the engine, but we would be very surprised if this somewhat esoteric version was offered in Australia regardless of the price.
The Q3 Sportback that does arrive next year will be priced “in the early 50s” said an Audi Australia spokesperson and that positions it a little more expensive than the previous-generation Q3. When the new Q3 arrives at about the same time as the Sportback, expect it to be cheaper than the Sportback to the tune of about $5000, says Audi.
As you might expect from one of Audi’s most competitive rivals, that figure aligns closely with BMW’s coupe-profiled X2 compact SUV.
However, a few months after the model launches, Audi will introduce a second and perhaps third more premium Q3 Sportback variant. Exactly which variant/s are yet to be decided but the 45 TFSI quattro is certain, possibly joined by a diesel.
Just like Audi’s Q2 range, which kicks-off with a front-wheel drive but offers a more expensive but resoundingly better larger-engined quattro variant, the two Q3 Sportback variants are like chalk and chermoula.
With 2.0-litres of turbo power coupled to all-wheel drive, the 45 TFSI is a real hoot and absolutely the driver’s pick. Immediately there is more grunt off the mark and even though the front-drive version doesn’t try to break traction, the quattro all-wheel grip is beautifully paired with the more prodigious 2.0-litre’s 169kW and 350Nm. It’ll also appeal to those who want to leave the sealed road behind for a touch of mild off-roading.
Opt for the quattro and you’ll despatch the 0-100km/h benchmark in 6.5 seconds, and fuel consumption is still a respectable 7.7-7.3L/100km depending on the specification. This compares with a reported 6.0-5.7L/100km for the 35 TFSI.
If none of these figures lights your fire then keep your hands in your pockets because a five-cylinder turbo RS Q3 Sportback is on its way, although details on that potent version are even thinner on the ground at this stage.
No matter which Sportback you pick, both versions we drove were decked out with the interior quality and design that Audi has deservedly earned a reputation for. It’s possible an Australian 35 TFSI will arrive with analogue gauges and a smaller 8.8-inch central information and entertainment screen, but the ones showcased in Germany were fitted with the company’s excellent Virtual Cockpit digital gauges complemented by a huge 10.1-inch MMI plus version. It will be worth forking out for these ambience-boosting extras.
Despite the more compact external dimensions, the Q3 Sportback’s cabin is surprisingly roomy – particularly in the second row of seating. Despite its prettier profile, there is enough headroom in the back for tall adults, although the view out is a little obscured by tightly spaced C- and D-pillars.
More impressively though, the Sportback loses no boot space with the rear seats in place when compared with the Q3 – 530 litres in both cases.
Optionally huge Audi Sport wheels carried a little more roar into the cabin than expected but overall, there’s very little noise to speak of even at German main road speeds. It might be one of the company’s smaller models, but the Q3 Sportback packs in a premium feel that you might have thought limited to bigger and more expensive options.
The verdict is simple, therefore. If you’re yearning for an example of Audi’s first Q3 Sportback for those attractive looks, the entry-level version will suit. For all the driving enthusiasts out there, wait for the second wave of quattro version/s and pay the premium. Quite what that premium looks like remains to be seen, however.
Either way, it’s likely a majority of customers will by signing on the line for not the Sportback’s performance credentials, but its lovely proportions and design, otherwise it makes more sense to simply go for its more wagon-like Q3 sibling, right?
Which begs the question, how much is too much for an added shot of panache?
For context, Audi’s A5 Sportback is $11,200 more than the equivalent A4 sedan, while the company will charge you nearly $16,000 more than the A6 55 TFSI for the A7 Sportback on which is based.
If Audi manages to reign in the forecast premium to about $5000 for the Sportback compared with its Q3 stablemate, the newest arrival in the Sportback family is going to make a lot of sense.