What are you driving?
Looking surprisingly good in its Pulse Orange paint, this Audi Q3 Sportback is the sloping roofed version of its more conventional namesake, and continues the increase in SUV derivatives in the brand's portfolio. Audi avoids some flack by using the Sportback name rather than using the 'coupe' term, but to all intents and purposes, this is a Q3 coupe. Ideal to go up against rivals like the BMW X2 and Volvo XC40.
This particular version of the Q3 Sportback features a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that is augmented with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. That means no plugging in to charge it up; you drive it just like you would any other petrol car.
Name its best bits
When you see an Audi with the S line badging it usually means firmer suspension, and the addition of 20-inch wheels on this car should leave you questioning the security of the fillings in your mouth. Yet, Audi's suspension engineers have done a truly superb job at setting up the Q3 Sportback to ride far better than it ought to given its composition. It rounds off larger bumps with ease and avoids the 'patter' that can make a car feel busy or jiggly over uneven surfaces.
Complementing that ride quality is a light steering setup. Although it doesn't deliver spades of feedback to the driver, it has at least moved on from the numb and decoupled feeling that earlier Audis had when the company began introducing electrically assisted steering setups. You can weight it up by switching to the Dynamic drive mode, but for almost every occasion it's fine when left in the default setting. Better still is the 1.5-litre petrol engine that provides enough responsiveness to ensure the Audi keeps up with its sporty appearance. It may only have 150hp on tap, but that is sufficient for the car's size and weight. If you desire more performance, there is a 230hp 2.0-litre petrol engine that wears the '45 TFSI' badge.
The gains offered by the mild hybrid system are small. However, it should add up over time and, fuel consumption figures aside, if you only slightly adjust your driving style, it becomes an even more refined car. Thanks to the automatic transmission, when you lift off the throttle and coast, in certain scenarios the engine can shut off for brief periods. During this time, the small additional battery powers everything in the car, and when the engine does restart, you will hardly notice. It's a similar story when you're in traffic, as the start-stop function is a good deal smoother. By using the sensors in the front of the Q3 (which are also utilised by the adaptive cruise control), when the vehicle in front moves away, the engine automatically restarts, thus eliminating any delay in you proceeding. That's smart.
Anything that bugs you?
Surprisingly, despite its sloping roofline, this is a car with little compromise. Yes, there is less boot space - down 125 litres over the regular Audi Q3 - and headroom is reduced a little, but not by as much as you might think from looking at it from the exterior. That said, as is so often the case with models like these, the middle rear seat is quite limited for space both in terms of width and foot space, the latter on account of the transmission tunnel hump. Most of the main touchpoints carry a decent quality to the finish and materials used, but some parts do feel a little on the cheap side.
And why have you given it this rating?
Not only does the Audi Q3 Sportback look great, but it drives with a real sense of quality. Just bear in mind that it is very much an SUV for the urban dweller rather than a rugged off-roader, so you'll not mind the lack of all-wheel drive (in this specific version) or those 20-inch wheels. If you're looking for style and refinement without much of a compromise then this could be the one for you.
What do the rest of the team think?
Given that there's only a modest reduction in practicality, I reckon the Sportback is the choice of the Audi Q3 line-up right now, as it looks significantly better. Indeed, it's one of the better resolved coupe-SUVs on the market. The interior is of lovely quality, too, and there's plenty of space. Sorry to say, though, that I found that the larger alloy wheels, stylish as they are, detracted from the comfort by enough for me to consider sticking with smaller rims.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor