Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan gives the striking and stylish new Audi Q3 Sportback a test drive.
Might we get straight to the point about the striking Audi Q3 Sportback? Good. The whole purpose of adding the additional Coupe-SUV niche in the Audi range is aesthetics. And in the bright Pulse Orange shod with the 20-inch five-spoke alloy wheels on my car it looked particularly striking indeed.
Being a slave to style has implications: my test car was priced at €46,450.00. After Audi added options it eventually totted up to €54,800. That’s a lot of cash for a 2.0 litre petrol, front-wheel-drive Coupe SUV with an S-Tronic auto with a respectable 150 bhp under the hood.
“Commendable, composed and reassuringly stylish – the Q3 Sportback gives a good account of itself”
To offer some pricing perspective the splendid Audi Q5 starts from €53,030. As a rational buying decision, the Q3 Sportback – albeit with glitzy options – struggles as a buying proposition against the bigger Audi Q5. Fact: the Q5 may be a little dull in lower specification models but few SUVs out there that are as polished. It’s recommended choice.
However, do take a look the Q3 Sportback’s photo. It’s a stunner. What Audi did was to lower the roofline and add fatter arches and stole the hexagonal grille design from the big Q8. Random people who saw it liked the car’s proportions. I was assuming the bright orange would be a turn off. But no, it was a hit. A Lamborghini or McLaren hue that lifted the car’s appeal over and above the regulation grey or silver.
Power and performance
Powered by a 2.0 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine the 150 hp is a refined unit but lacks the outright sporting edge to take it out of the genre of a cruiser. If real performance is hoped for the hesitation of the smaller Audi engines to accelerate sharply is present here. Say you are at a roundabout. You’re about to pull out into the approaching traffic. The latency leaves you without the immediate surge needed to make a swift exit from standstill. I managed to make allowances for this and built in the expected delay into my manoeuvres. It may be a problem with the S-tronic software and not something as prevalent in Audi’s manual gearboxes. But it remains an Audi peculiarity and a frustration.
The Q3 Sportback’s petrol unit does offer good flexibility but I found the 2.0 litre diesel with 163bhp unit I tested in the A4 a far nicer companion that may suit the Q3 Sportback’s cruising credential better. If testing the Q3 Sportback make sure you also drive the 35 TDI S-tronic for a good comparison. There were no complaints about the suspension and as long as it was kept in Dynamic mode body roll is well controlled.
There was a degree of transmission of uneven surfaces, but this was due in part to the 20-inch alloy wheels – a €1,890 option.
My recommendation is always to choose smaller wheels, but they suited the car’s appearance. For true style appeal they are probably worth the extra degree of harshness.
Elsewhere the reassurance of Audi’s top build quality a given. The Q3 Sportback felt well-conceived, but for my money just skirts the aforementioned Audi A4 facelift’s depth of supreme construction – something that betters any car under €50,000.
Boot practicality is a 530/1,400 litres but sloping roofline loses 135 litres to the regular Q3’s – 530/1,535 split.
The Q3 Sportback is, of course, a niche SUV that nobody asked for. When testing it I used a few off-street car parks and it was relatively easy to find a space that fitted car’s dimensions. I’ve witnessed far larger and more expensive SUVs shoehorned into car spaces that literally leave no room for extraction by passengers.
For me the Q3, even in stylish Sportback spec, is large enough. Even the Q5 is at the extremities of what is needed to transport people and their possessions about.
Standard equipment on my car included LED headlights, 19-inch allow wheels, parking sensors front and rear, Audi PreSense, Smartphone integration, hill descent and hold, Audi drive select adaptive damping, tyre pressure monitoring, dual zone climate control, Audi Virtual Cockpit, lane departure warning, tyre repair toolkit and part-leather seats.
Commendable, composed and reassuringly stylish – the Q3 Sportback gives a good account of itself. By offering a very agreeable package that nevertheless does fall into the higher echelons of a Q5, the Sportback made my mind up on two things. There are plenty of niches that car brands are keen to fill and the Q3 Sportback is as big an SUV as I’d ever want to own.
Unless you really need seven seats, you should rethink your absolute necessity for an Audi A7 or even bigger Q8. The 2020 Q3 Sportback delivers enough while being SUV enough.
Written by Mark Gallivan
Published: 5 August, 2020