Audi Q3 Sportback SUV review
“Showing you can have a coupe shape and a big boot at the same time, the Audi Q3 Sportback is one of the most impressive coupe-SUVs”
- More stylish than Q3
- Boot size unchanged
- Mild-hybrid model due
- Rear headroom a little tight
- BMW X2 more fun
- Costlier than the Q3
A ‘coupe-SUV’ might seem like a contradiction in terms but the concept has proved popular enough for several companies to produce sleeker, sportier versions of their best-selling SUVs. Audi is the latest manufacturer to have a crack at it; buoyed by the BMW X2 and Mercedes GLC Coupe, it has taken the Audi Q3 and turned it into the Q3 Sportback. Both are sold side-by-side, so you can take your pick between conventional SUV and coupe-SUV.
The original Q3 was one of Audi’s most important models, even late into its life, as it was intended to give many buyers their first experience of owning an Audi. The current model takes much of the luxury from the Q5 and Q7 and puts it into a smaller, more attainable package, and the Q3 Sportback brings extra style to the mix.
While the BMW X1 and X2 are styled very differently, the Audi Q3 Sportback is designed to look similar to the Q3. The familiarity is clear from the front, as the headlights, grille, bumper and air intakes are all carried over. From the windscreen backwards, however, most of the parts are new. The roof shape is sleek and curved instead of straight, and the bootlid, rear bumper and rear wings are all unique to the Q3 Sportback.
You’d think that the coupe shape would massively affect practicality but, in most respects, the Q3 Sportback is very impressive in that department. The boot size is the same as the normal Q3 at 530 litres but it’s a different shape due to the Sportback’s extra length and lower ride height. As the rear seats are mounted lower, rear headroom should be sufficient for most but the regular Q3 does feel a bit more spacious in that regard. With the rear seats folded down, the Q3 Sportback does lose some boot space compared with the Q3 but the difference isn’t big enough to rule out the coupe.
Up front, the Sportback is nearly all borrowed from the Q3; Audi was unlikely to mess around with a well-designed layout for the new car. In the centre of the dashboard is a large touchscreen display that can mirror Apple and Android phones and, if you download an app, you can preset the sat nav directions and unlock the car from your phone. The Q3 Sportback is the first Audi to offer the ability to show you where free parking spaces are and whether traffic lights are about to change, thanks to data shared by other users.
The engines are familiar from the Q3 and other VW Group cars, and there are currently three to choose from. Two diesels, badged 35 TDI and 40 TDI, produce 148 and 197bhp respectively from the same 2.0-litre engine, while the petrol choices offer 148, 187, or 242bhp and are known as the 35 TFSI , 40 TFSI or 45 TFSI respectively. The entry-level petrol comes with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive as standard, while the other choices are fitted with Audi's quattro four-wheel drive and/or an automatic gearbox as standard.
The cheapest petrol joined the range in late 2019, and it’s a 1.5-litre with mild-hybrid technology (on the automatic version) to allow the engine to cut off when coasting to save fuel. The system has been borrowed from more expensive Audis but it works just as well in the Q3 Sportback and it could end up as the best-selling model.
You won’t be having as much fun as a BMW driver on a twisty road but the Audi Q3 Sportback makes up for that by offering a very polished driving experience. For the most part, it’s exactly what you’d expect from an Audi - it’s relaxing, quiet and deceptively quick - although the seven-speed automatic gearbox certainly needs some tweaking. There’s a noticeable pause when you put your foot down as the gearbox realises you want more power, and it’s very slow to change down a gear. We suspect this is to make it as economical as possible but it makes the Q3 Sportback feel a bit sluggish on occasion and taints how it drives as a result.
At least its safety credentials are excellent; when the Audi Q3 was tested by Euro NCAP in 2018, it received the maximum five-star score with impressive scores across the board. The Q3 Sportback may not be tested as the two cars are so similar - both have the same safety kit.
Audi finished 21st out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, which was a few places ahead of BMW and Mercedes. Around 20% of buyers reported a fault in the first year of ownership, and owners weren’t too keen on the running costs of their cars.