► Slinkier-suited Q3 driven
► Barely any practicality sacrifice
► No sportier to drive
We live in a world where there’s much to be angry about, but seemingly few things can simmer the blood of erstwhile placid folk like the existence of a crossover coupe. Want to distract yourself from the outrage of plastics suffocating Earth’s oceans? Then clap your eyes around this – the Audi Q3 Sportback.
What even is the Q3 Sportback?
If you appreciate the neat convention of Avant meaning estate and Allroad equating to a jacked-up soft-roader, then prepare for discomfort. In Audispeak, Sportback-titled models have previously delivered a greater degree of practicality over the cars they’re based on – think of the original A1, the last two generations of A3 and the A5 and you get the idea. This isn’t the case with the Q3 where the newcomer is slightly less roomy and practical than the conventional SUV-bodied version that appeared in 2018.
Naming quirk aside, the latest member of the Q3 range has a 49mm lower roofline than its sibling – that’s sufficiently coupe-like in our book – as well as being 6mm narrower and 16mm longer. Not enormous differences, but the changes in the bodywork are more substantial, with the Sportback wearing an almost entirely fresh wardrobe.
Cleverly, the front wings are shared with the conventional Q3, but the blisters meld into a much lower shoulder line that begins near the leading edge of the front doors. Visually, it looks far more elongated than it is in reality and it wears bolder, brighter hues rather well.
So it’s tighter on space inside?
It is, but for the most part it’s not something that’s as obvious as you might imagine. Up front it’s exactly the same as the more upright Q3, meaning an upmarket dashboard, with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit glitzy instruments as standard – 10.25-in or 12.3-in depending on spec – flanked by the MMI Touch multimedia screen angled towards the driver. Below that are conventional knobs and buttons, not the secondary screen fitted to pricier Audis.
Material and build quality are hard to fault, while there’s plenty of tactile delight, with squidgy slush-mouldings, glossy surfaces and even fillets of Alcantara to caress.
However, it’s in the back where the differences are more apparent – that faster-angled tail had to have an impact and it’s taller adults that will feel it, specifically where the roof lining will brush the back of their heads. Families with younger kids are far less likely to be impacted by this, of course, and for a dose of practicality the Sportback retains the SUV’s adjustable rear bench that both reclines and slides fore and aft.
There’s barely a deficit in bootspace for opting for the more rakish Q3 either: the 530-litre tally with the rear seats in place is identical, while the Sportback only loses out slightly at 1400 litres when the backrests are tumbled over in their 40:20:40 formation. It remains one of the roomier compact crossovers you can buy.
Do I need to be a member of Mensa to understand the range?
Well, it’s a tad easier to get your bonce around than the regular Q3, but the Sportback’s line-up is still broad. Trim level hierarchy starts at Sport, progresses through what’s expected to the big-selling S Line and up to a limited availability Edition 1. Topping the range is Vorsprung, which is appearing across Audi’s vast array of models.
Powertrains almost mirror the Q3 SUV save for there being no 190hp 40 TFSI meaning you’ve a choice of the following in order of appearance before the end of 2019:
- 35 TDI – 2.0-litre, 148bhp diesel, manual or S Tronic, front-wheel drive
- 45 TFSI – 2.0-litre. 227bhp petrol, S Tronic, Quattro four-wheel drive
- 40 TDI– 2.0-litre, 187bhp diesel, S Tronic, Quattro four-wheel drive
- 35 TFSI – 1.5-litre, 148bhp petrol, manual or S Tronic, front-wheel drive
It’s at the lower echelons of the range where things get more interesting, as those 35 TFSI models use cylinder-on-demand technology to fuel-save when under lighter loads, but S Tronic-equipped models go a stage further.
Here Audi’s introduced a 48-volt mild-hybrid system which increases efficiency even further by shutting the engine off complete during off-throttle moments between speeds of 24mph and 99mph, while also permitting the stop-start engine function to be operational up to 13mph.
Positively, that additional shove of electrical energy dials-out the lethargy often experienced when pulling away from a standing start in models fitted with that 1.5/S Tronic combo, but overall the performance on tap is decidedly lacking in lustre and the rest of the driving experience is as per the conventional Q3 anyway. No extra sportiness for the Sportback.
Audi Q3 Sportback (2019): verdict
Assuming you’ve got this far without grinding your teeth down to the gums in exasperation about our confirmation that the Q3 Sportback is a coupe, then prepare to now: based on the prices released for the initial range it appears the cost of upgrading to the slinkier silhouette is around £1600. Does it do anything fundamentally better than the SUV version? No.
No, you’re paying extra for slightly less space and arguably slightly prettier looks. If the latter floats your boat, that’s fair enough, but both the not-quite-so-rakish BMW X2 and Range Rover Evoque are both better to drive.
You could, of course, throw convention further to the wind and plump for a compact crossover coupe without the razzmatazz of a premium badge: a top-flight Kia XCeed will set you back less than the entry level Q3 Sportback.
Regardless, in Sportback guise the Q3’s still vanilla, albeit it a Flake in it.