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First drive: Audi Q3 Sportback. Image by Audi UK.

First drive: Audi Q3 Sportback
Audi splashes more glamour on the Q3 family with the addition of the coupe-shaped Sportback.

 



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Audi Q3 Sportback TFSI MHEV S line

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Audi goes and 'does a BMW' (sorry, Ingolstadt...) on us, coupe-ifying the current Q3 SUV to create the Sportback. Designed to compete with the sort of fashion-conscious rivals like the BMW X2 and Volvo XC40, what's the Q3 Sportback like to drive?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line
Pricing: Q3 Sportback range from 32,440
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with CoD and 48-volt MHEV technology
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door coupe-SUV
CO2 emissions: tbc
Combined economy: tbc
Top speed: tbc
0-62mph: tbc
Power: 150hp at 5,000-6,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,500-3,500rpm
Boot space: 530-1,400 litres

What's this?

An Audi Q3 with a swoopier roofline. This is the Q3 Sportback and, if you're wondering what the flippin' 'eck is going on with Audi's crossover naming policies lately, we haven't got the foggiest either. For instance, an offroad-themed Audi A1 is announced and does the German company call it allroad? No, it does not; instead, it christens it Citycarver. And now we've got a vehicle which should patently be called a Q4, given a coupe Q7 is a Q8, only instead Audi confers the epithet 'Sportback' onto the Q3 badge and, in doing so, makes the old SB moniker something which applies to a coupe-SUV, a five-door hatch and a racy-looking executive fastback, all at the same time. Honestly!

Anyway, not to worry. Because the saving grace for this misnomer-bearing newcomer is that it looks great. Yep, we said it: great. Coupe-SUVs hardly meet universal approval from the motoring public, either in terms of concept or aesthetics, but the Q3 Sportback might be the best example of the breed yet. Big, chunky wheel arches, those distinctive side details, lots of contrasting dark-grey plastic cladding and good proportions serve to make this an interesting addition to Audi's SUV canon. It can pull off bold colours and big wheels well, and at 4,500mm long, 1,567mm tall and 1,843mm wide, it's respectively +16mm, -49mm and -6mm (yes, six mill narrower - in your face, Slimming World!) dimensionally different than its source material. The wheelbase is identical to that of a Q3, at 2,680mm.

This last figure is to the benefit of practicality. Oh, sure, at a starting price of 32,440, it's some way ahead of an equivalent price of 29,880 for a comparable Q3, so once again you're paying more for less, if you get our drift. But the Q3 Sportback's boot matches up to a Q3's at 530 litres with all (five, count 'em) seats in place, while it only sacrifices 125 litres to its rakish rear with the seats folded down - outright carrying capacity standing at 1,400 litres, rather than 1,525. Better still, having actually sat in the rear seats of a Q3 Sportback, we can tell you they're properly useable; OK, taller people (6ft-plus) are going to start carping about the relative lack of headroom, but for most there's more than enough hair clearance up top and the same sort of legroom to play with, er, down below. Throw in the typically excellent Audi fascia at the front of the cabin, loads of high-end toys and infotainment tricks, and new graphics for the Virtual Cockpit (spoiler alert: we don't like the new digital rev counter and speed 'line graphics' in some of VC's views), and you've got all the best bits of the Q3 preserved for the Sportback.

How does it drive?

Rather well, in truth, although its coupe-apeing stance/shape does not translate into a quasi-epiphanic driving experience for the sporty motorist. The regular Q3 Mk2 is a much better thing to steer than the old Mk1, yet it's still not something to delight and titillate on a twisting road. The steering is good, but not massively feelsome, the body control is above average, but not jaw-dropping, and the grip levels are as all modern cars - incredibly high. Tie everything above together and you get a machine which can move reasonably quickly along a challenging, left-right-left-right road, but if the driver of the Q3 Sportback is smiling in such circumstances then it's unlikely to be the Audi's chassis dynamics which are making them grin. Maybe their passenger told a joke about parachute jumping or similar. Anyway, we suppose what we're saying is that the Sportback is admirably capable for handling, rather than strikingly involving.

Part of the issue with the dynamics is the engine which will be the big seller in the UK. At launch, Audi will equip the Q3 Sportback with 35 and 45 TFSI petrols, and a 35 TDI diesel. Soon after, a 40 TDI will bolster this line-up. So far, so Q3 - you're talking 150hp for the 35s, 190hp out of the 40 and a fulsome 230hp from the 45. However, the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder 35 TFSI is expected to cream the sales and it is different from the same application in a Q3, because now it has mild hybrid electric (MHEV) tech.

It's Audi's tried-and-tested 48-volt stuff, equipping a belt-alternator starter (BAS) and a small lithium-ion battery, in order to harvest up to 12kW of otherwise-lost kinetic energy. With a coasting function that operates between 24- and 99mph, the inclusion of Cylinder-on-Demand functionality (fitted to all VW Group 1.5 TFSIs anyway) and the employment of stop-start at anything less than 13mph, Audi reckons the MHEV will give you up to 5mpg of fuel savings. It'll also infill with torque at lower rpm, which should assist with performance, but (at the time of writing) Audi has not yet ratified any acceleration, top speed, economy or CO2 figures for the 35 TFSI.

In this application, it's a fine enough motor but it's not startlingly good. Having driven all of the launch trio, by far and away the nicest drivetrain/chassis was the punchy, zingy 45 TFSI; it makes the Q3 Sportback feel a bit, well... sporty, but it's almost 41,000 basic as it's an S tronic quattro only. The 35 TDI is take it or leave it, Audi seemingly offering a 150hp TDI because it thinks it is the done thing to do, even as consumers continue to flee the black fuel as quickly as they can. So it seems like the 35 TFSI is going to enjoy the lion's share of showroom sales, more by a process of elimination than out of a sense of sheer engineering prowess.

Oh, don't get us wrong, it's sweet in many ways. It stays smooth and vibration-free at all revs, while it doesn't even sound too harsh if you extend it right out. But fast, this Q3 Sportback is not. On part-throttle openings, the 35 TFSI feels lively enough, yet open the taps fully and the acceleration doesn't quite live up to the early promise. This is exacerbated by the seven-speed DSG, which lately seems to have become a gearbox beset by emissions concerns. It'll shuffle its way into seventh at the earliest given opportunity in any mode, including Sport, which often means the Q3 Sportback is about three gears higher than you want it to be for snaffling overtaking gaps in traffic, or powering out of tight bends cleanly. This makes the transmission feel slow-witted, so you use Audi's makeweight paddle shifts to control the 'box in manual mode a little more often... and it still doesn't feel that sparky. Also, on the subject of the MHEV kit, the brakes on the 35 are the worst of the Sportback's launch models; they feel overly firm at the top of the travel and they need a good slug of middle-pedal pressure to start exerting any real influence on decelerating the car to meaningful effect.

But unless you're going to the Q3 Sportback expecting a seminal driving experience, you won't be disappointed with it. Because it saves the day by being stupendously refined. On all manner of Sport-suspension equipped models with 19-inch wheels and the like, the tautly controlled ride never once deteriorated beneath the level of 'unremittingly excellent'. Firm, crashy Audis seem to be a footnote in history now, which can only be a good thing, and the Q3 Sportback bolsters its case further by backing up the plush ride quality with first-rate noise suppression. Tyre roar, wind noise, the engine's exertions; none of them make a significant impact on the cabin's volume levels. Thrown in the usual brilliantly executed and calibrated Audi controls and ergonomics - light, precise steering, good throttle judgment, fantastic visibility out in all directions, even to the rear - and the Q3 Sportback makes a good case for itself as a refined, urbane vehicle that's practical and yet alluring at the same time.

Verdict

No prizes for guessing that the Audi Q3 Sportback feels like a suitably premium product, and it's probably also not a shock to discover that the driving experience doesn't feel elevated from that of a Q3, despite the key detail of that sloping roofline. Nevertheless, as the Q3 is a pleasant thing to deal with anyway, then the Sportback only builds on that with a soupcon more desirability. And can you imagine this shape with even more blistered arches, larger alloys and a five-cylinder turbo engine? You can? Oh, good. So can we...

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 29 Aug 2019









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2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.

2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI MHEV S line. Image by Audi UK.








 

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