MORE THE STYLE LEADER THAN THE JOCK. AUDI Q3 SPORTBACK TESTED

Audi Q3 40 TFSI Sportback

This fastback sports utility celebrates its style better than its dynamic heritage

This turtle on stilts thing is getting out of hand. Now every man and his dog is offing all sorts of sleek ‘coupe-SUVs’ and this Audi Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI S Line is another recent arrival worthy of a look see. So here we go.

I PREFER TO CALL IT A FASTBACK SUV

First and foremost, a coupe and a SUV all in one? No, they just don’t go! Sure, it’s sleek and sexy, but a coupe has two doors. Not five. Here’s another genre looking for a name — I prefer fastback SUV. So Sportback is actually a pretty dope name for it after all.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand — the Audi Q3 Sportback 40TFSI quattro S line. Said to shake off the booming SUV stereotype in many more ways than one, this is a sleek new version of the good old Q3 wagon we’ve come to know over time. Our baby blue fastback SUV here certainly brings a wedge of style to old faithful — we say its way better looking than its wagon sibling — never mind one of the cooler looking of all SUVs out there right now. Agree?

Everything from that honeycomb grille to its aggressive bumpers, shiny 20-inch alloys, chunky side skirts and even chunkier haunches looks the part. Hell, Audi’s come a long way from its bold move to the Mickey Mouse schnoz way back when! Practically its on the large side for a small SUV. Its still 29 mm lower, 16 mm longer and half a mil narrower than its wagon kin. All thanks to its ‘coupe’ aspirations.

IT’S PROPERLY AUDI COOL INSIDE

Step aboard and its just as Audi-cool. Basically identical to the wagon inside, that’s all good because the Q3 sets the segment standard anyway. With Audi’s splendid 10.1-inch voice controlled haptic touchscreen MMI multimedia centre stage on the soft-touch plastic dash. And that brilliant multi-faced 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster nestled behind the chunky and racy flat-bottomed paddle-shifter multifunction steering wheel.

The Infotainment packs Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth; real-time traffic satellite navigation and 180W 10-speaker digital radio sound. We really enjoyed the haptic touch which eases, but does not eliminate our abhorration for touch screen system sysetms. Like the touchscreen the gloss-black air-vent surrounds, which are easily also fingerprinted and scratched.

Audi has however happily resisted the temptation to integrate the dual-zone climate controls into this one’s multimedia system in favour of user-friendly knobs. The Sportback gets leather upholstered heated lumbar power sports seats and unique Steel Grey Alcantara dashboard and armrest inserts. There are SD and SIM card readers in the glove box, USB-A and a C ports at the centre console, two USB-C ports in the rear and two 12-volt outlets too.

OPTION-PACKED LUXURY

This car packed in keyless entry and start, adaptive dusk-sensing LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, power, heated auto-dimming folding wing mirrors, a hands-free power tailgate, a space-saver spare wheel and rear privacy glass too.

Safety is also high on the Q3 Sportback agenda. An impressive array of advanced driver-assist systems extends to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist and blind-spot monitoring. Add rear cross-traffic alert, stop and go adaptive cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-descent and hill-start assist, driver attention and high-beam assistants, surround-view cameras and front and rear parking sensors.

There are six front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction controls, ABS anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, among others.

A MOST PRACTICAL CABIN

Its practical too. There’s a decently sized cubby, central storage and handy centre wireless charger binnacles up front and two spaces alongside the rear seats. There are two cupholders in the front row and two more in the adequately spacious second row’s fold-down armrest. The bucket-like outer rear seats however make the Q3 Sportback more of a four-seater than five, while this car’s optional panoramic sunroof steals both headroom and rearward visibility.

Q3 Sportback’s generous 530-litre cargo capacity is however impressively identical to the wagon’s. It grows to 1400 litres with the 40/60 split-fold rear bench, which can also slide 130 mm forward, folded down. The boot’s false floor can be lowered to accommodate bulkier items, or stow the parcel shelf if need be. And two handy bag hooks and four tie-down points make for a most practical trunk.

The Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI powered by a 132 kW 320 Nm 2-litre turbo-petrol four-pot mated to a sporty seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic automatic and quattro all-wheel drive. It stopped our clocks at an enthusiastic and close to claimed 7.78 seconds to 100 km/h while sipping quite acceptable 9.5 /100km in mixed driving. That compares to its claimed 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres at 188 grams per kilometre.

GOOD TO DRIVE. BUT NOT CLASS LEADING

The Q3 Sportback is good to drive. But not class-leading. Surprisingly punchy from just above the idle, there’s a smidge of turbo lag, but power is pleasingly peaky and gear changes rapid. Engaging Dynamic drive doesn’t make a huge difference, but it does respond to throttle inputs and shifts gears more aggressively. I quite preferred it standard.

Packing MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with passive dampers and speed-sensitive variable ratio electric power steering, the car seemed a tad compromised by its S Line 20-inch alloys. Some bumps and ruts perhaps even felt a little amplified. That’s of course offset by improved handling, which may not really be what tickles the average owner in this neck of the woods’ fancy.

It’s taller than an A3 Sportback and has a higher centre of gravity, which means it does not handle as well, even with its firm suspension. The Q3 Sportback leans a little into corners when pressed, where its considerable 1750 kg driving mass also comes into play too. But it’s not bad. Just not everything we have come to expect from a sports-oriented Audi quattro.

BUT IT’S THE DOUBTLESS STYLE LEADER

In fact we’d go as far to say that this Q3 Sportback blurs the lines between a rough roading warm hatchback rather than actually being a SUV. That said, there’s no doubt that this Audi Q3 Sportback is more of its class style leader than the jock. And it’s that slick practicality and value that truly sets it apart among the burgeoning choice of fastback SUVs out there. And it really now has us yearning to drive that new RS… — Michele Lupini

Images — Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Audi Q3 Sportback 40TFSI quattro S line
Engine: 132 kW 320 Nm 2-litre turbo petrol I4
Drive: 7-speed automatic AWD
TESTED:
0-60 km/h:        3.27 sec
0-100 km/h:       7.78 sec
0-120 km/h:       11.07 sec
0-160 km/h:       21.31 sec
400m:             15.6 sec @ 142 km/h
80-120 km/h:      5.77 sec
120-160 km/h:     10.25 sec
CLAIMED:
VMax:             220 km/h
Fuel:             8.3 l/100 km
CO2:              188 g/km
Warranty/Service: 1y unl./5y 100K km
LIST PRICE:       R758K
RATED:            8
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