JOHANNESBURG – Purists can weep all they want, but the days when a coupe was only allowed to have two doors are long gone. On the upside, there are some interesting new shapes to look at nowadays in the form of sloping-tailed sedans and SUVs that are not only inspired by the coupes of yesteryear, but also named after them.
Interestingly though, Audi does not actually label its new Q3 Sportback as a coupe, although you will find that word if you dig deep enough in the marketing material. But indeed, the Sportback designation actually makes a lot of sense once you cast your eyes over this vehicle’s sharply sculpted, sloping tail.
It made me think of the Audi TT Offroad concept of 2014, which Audi never ended up building after it canned the plan for a TT family, but the aforementioned show car must have inspired the Q3 Sportback to some degree.
Subjectively speaking, I’m not too crazy about the Q3’s front end, as there is perhaps a bit too much grinning grille going on there, but the rest of it is absolutely gorgeous. What’s more, the standard S Line exterior package and 18-inch wheels ensure you don’t have to spec the car up to make it look the part.
This or the regular Q3?
The Q3 Sportback is, of course, a coupe-inspired version of the regular-bodied Q3 that was introduced in 2019, but whereas some carmakers charge a premium of R100 000 or more for the ‘coupe’ eye candy, Audi only asks an extra R29 500 for its Sportback body.
Sure, you’re still paying 30 grand for aesthetics, but with the range-topping 40 TFSI quattro Sportback model that we tested retailing at R758 500, it’s not much of a stretch in the greater scheme of things.
Is it less practical?
It’s worth noting that the sleek roofline does compromise headroom to a degree. I’m average sized and my head only just fit below the headliner. Sitting behind myself, legroom was more adequate than ample but a long-distance trip with this kind of space would certainly be doable.
As you would have guessed, that sexy shape is less accommodating when it comes to your luggage, with a claimed capacity of 410 litres versus the 550 litres offered by the regular Q3. That said, horizontally speaking the boot is actually quite spacious, the only catch being that you can’t stack your luggage up to the roof. But, like the ordinary Q3, you can vary the ratio between boot space and rear passenger room as the rear seats have a sliding function.
What’s it like to drive?
As with the taller-roofed Q3, you can order the Sportback in 35 TFSI front-wheel drive or 40 TFSI quattro all-wheel drive guises. The former has a 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine, good for 110kW and 250Nm, while the latter (as per our test car) gets a 2-litre turbo unit with 132kW on command, from 3900 to 6000rpm, and 320Nm from 1400 to 3950 revs. Both motors are paired with S Tronic dual-clutch gearboxes, but the 40 TFSI model gets seven forward gears while the 35 TFSI makes do with six.
The 2-litre version is a rather ‘unstressed’ motor, being the least powerful version of the VW Group’s TSI engine that also powers the GTI and the like, but in this package it delivers decent enough performance, with Audi claiming a 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds.
However, I wasn’t entirely impressed with the way that power was delivered. It’s a bit laggy off the mark, even if you have the gearbox and dynamic select systems dialled into the sportier modes, and the dual-clutch gearbox can be a little slow to respond at times. None of this would be a deal-breaker for me, as overall it’s a comfortable package that’s easy enough to live with in everyday conditions, but at this price point I’d prefer the performance and responsiveness on offer to be enticing rather than just adequate.
There’s no faulting the chassis dynamics of this quattro-equipped model, which also has sport suspension as standard, as it’s both safe and agile through sharp corners. While the suspension is a touch firm, the ride is comfortable enough, and drivers can vary the vehicle’s characteristics through six driving modes.
The cabin and spec levels
The cockpit design is as per the regular Q3, and that’s a really good thing given the sharp lines, premium textures and digital interfaces that are on offer here.
Although digital instrumentation comes standard, you will have to pay extra for the fancier ‘virtual cockpit’ screen, which has multiple view options. Same story with the central infotainment system, which can be upgraded to MMI Navigation Plus, in which case you also get a map view in the instrument cluster. Overall, the Q3’s digital cockpit systems are both stylish and user-friendly, and unlike many modern digitised systems you don’t have to dig through screen menus to operate the ventilation system as Audi has provided conventional dials and buttons for this.
As standard the 40 TFSI quattro comes with MMI Radio Plus as well as dual-zone climate control, cruise control, rear parking aid, Ambient Lighting Package, light and rain sensor, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel and seats with an upholstery combination of leather and synthetic leather.
There is a list of options too long to mention, but Audi has simplified your life (and its life) to a degree by offering six options packs, these being: Comfort, Technology, Sport, Parking, S Line Interior and Black Styling.
As mentioned, the Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S Tronic is priced at R758 500, and comes with a five-year/100 000km Audi Freeway Plan as standard.
The Audi Q3 Sportback is a stylish alternative to the regular-bodied SUV and the R30 000 premium doesn’t feel too unreasonable at the price.
It’s stylish inside and out, and the tech is impressive. However, the drivetrain is a little laggy.
At R758 500, this Q3 is by no means cheap. However, it’s worth noting that the equivalent BMW X2 only costs a few grand less and doesn’t have the Audi’s all-wheel drive advantage. It also undercuts the Jaguar E-Pace models by a huge margin. Also consider that the Q3 Sportback is still half the price of the much larger Q8, and do you really need all that extra size?