Audi Q3 Sportback combines styling flair with utility
Less rear headroom, but this SUV-coupe has edgy styling and a great ride
While joining the masses on the recent Black Friday shopping spree I noticed that every car in the row I’d parked in was an SUV.
It brought home how these high-riding vehicles are becoming ever more entrenched in SA, and nowadays they represent about one in every three new vehicle sales. The segment has spun off a recent subculture of sporty-styled vehicles dubbed crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) - or coupes on stilts, if you prefer.
They have less accent on the “utility” part but they’re gaining popularity with buyers who want a vehicle that has both practicality and posing appeal. It’s a niche segment that grew 20% last year and includes cars like the BMW X2 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe.
The new Q3 Sportback joins the ranks as the edgier-styled cousin of the Q3 SUV. With its lower and sleeker roofline the Sportback is a likable combo of styling flair and still-reasonable utility, and at 4,500mm long the Audi is positioned between the 4,360mm BMW X2 and the 4,732mm Mercedes GLC Coupe.
There’s some loss of rear headroom as penalty for the stylish vibes, but at six feet tall I was able to sit in the Sportback’s rear seat without my head touching the ceiling - though it was a close call and anyone taller may have to slouch. There aren’t any complaints about the rear legroom though, which is as ample as in the regular Q3 and makes for a roomy cabin that’s suitable for school runs and holidays.
The Q3 Sportback’s a fully-fledged five-seater with three individual rear seats that are separately adjustable for leg room and backrest angle, and they fold down to expand the boot space to a very useful 1,400l. The car has the same plentiful 530l loading space as the regular Q3 under its rollout parcel shelf, but loses some capacity when items are stacked right up to the roof.
The cabin lays on Audi’s usual styling flair and high-grade materials. It feels very premium and hi-tech, and there are progressively higher levels of digitisation as you tick the options boxes.
A digital instrument cluster, operated via the multifunction steering wheel, comes with an integrated MMI touch radio plus as standard. For extra money owners can specify the more advanced virtual cockpit with multiple views. The top-of-the-line system which forms part of the Technology Package comes with a larger screen and MMI Navigation Plus.
The infotainment system provides all the requisite smartphone connectivity, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and there’s a premium Bang & Olufsen audio system available at extra cost.
There’s a lengthy list of individual items that can be ticked off but Audi offers several preset packages - including Comfort, Technology, Sport, and S Line - to simplify the process of throwing extra money on options.
Like the standard Q3, the Sportback is available in a 110kW 1.4l petrol turbo front-wheel-drive model called the 35 TFSI, or a 2.0l petrol turbo quattro all-wheel drive derivative bearing a 40 TFSI badge. They’re priced at R693,000 and R737,000 respectively.
It is the latter version on test here, which brings 132kW to the party along with 320Nm of torque. It’s well below hot-hatch territory but feels satisfyingly peppy when scooting about the suburbs, with easy-cruising open road ability and fairly punchy overtaking.
The seven-speed S tronic dual clutch auto offers the usual smooth and slick operation we’ve come to love, and the soft-voiced four-cylinder engine adds to the overall refined feel of this premium CUV.
Buyers tend to choose soft-roaders for the perceived safety of their elevated seating positions rather than their off road ability, and the Q3 Sportback has minimal donga-duelling ambitions. That said, the adventure doesn’t need to end just because the tar road does. The Audi’s very proficient on rough gravel, with suspension that nicely cushions bumps and quattro drive that provides confidence-inspiring traction.
It’s a neat handler too, one of the sportier SUVs when it comes to corners, making for a good all-round ride and handling balance.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Seven-speed S tronic automatic
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: 220km/h
0-100km/h: 7.8 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 8.3l/100km (claimed); 9.1l /100km (as tested)
ABS brakes, stability control, six airbags, electric mirrors, electric windows, climate control, touchscreen infotainment, multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, remote central locking, digital instrument cluster, LED headlamps with daytime running lights, leather/leatherette seats, rear park distance control.
Warranty: One year/unlimited distance
Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R15,753 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months, no deposit
BMW X2 sDrive 20i M Sport, 141kW/280Nm - R720,834
Mercedes GLC 220d Coupe 4Matic, 143Nm/400Nm - R1,073,080
Lexus NX 300 EX, 175kW/350Nm - R760,900
Audi Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S Line
Styling, ride and handling, respectable practicality
Limited rear head room for taller people
Style and space co-exist in an appealing SUV
****Value For Money