Better looking than an Q3 – but is it less practical?

The Audi Q3 Sportback is a sleeker, sportier looking version of the Q3 family SUV – you could go as far as to describe the Sportback as a Crossover rather than a SUV. The coupe-like profile reveals bulging flanks that give it a more meatier and muscular stance. It looks bigger than a Q3, but while it is indeed slightly longer, it’s actually, somewhat surprisingly, narrower. However lowering the roofline by nearly five centimetres appears to have done the trick of radically altering its visual presence and certainly enhancing its appeal.

Is the power unit under the bonnet able to cash the cheques its looks are cashing? Well on this 45 TFSI test car there’s a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder  putting out about 230bhp and 258lb ft (350Nm) of torque. This is mated to Quattro all-wheel drive and a 7-speed S Tronic dual clutch automatic. It accelerates from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and reaches a top speed of 145mph. Official combined fuel consumption is about 32mpg with CO2 emissions up to 204g/km.

There are lesser petrol variants available and diesel versions too of course, but if you’re after real muscle you want the RS Q3 Sportback which starts at around £54k.

This model lines up at just over £39k initially, but as with most German cars, once you start speccing them up to desirable levels, a different cost transpires. In the case of the test car, adding metallic Chronos grey paint (£575), sports seats (£400), driver assistance pack (£800), adaptive suspension (£750), comfort and sound pack (£1195), panoramic sunroof – which isn’t really – (£1150), 19-inch 7-spoke alloys (£975) plus advance key, matrix LED headlights, electrically adjustable front seats, park assist and loads more takes the total price to £51,115.

By that point, you’re thinking a 400bhp RS Q3 Sportback that’s two seconds quicker to 62mph and looks even tastier is a better prospect – of course you haven’t specced that one up yet! You’d probably end up spending £55-60k on it at the least. Still… makes you think though.

Back to the Q3 Sportback 45 TFSI, it is undoubtedly a better looking car than its more mumsy sibling, but are you compromising practicality for looks with the Q3 Sportback? Click open the powered tailgate and you’re greeted by a pretty generous amount of boot space, drop the seats and trips to IKEA wouldn’t be an issue at all.

In the rear the immediate concern for a tall lanky individual like me trying to sit behind myself, would be headroom, given the sloping roofline. In fact decent knee-room, foot space and overall comfort is complemented by adequate headroom, though if you’re tall you might just find the top of your head occasionally brushing the roof lining.

Moving to the front and it has a great seating position in an inviting cabin that presents the usual high standard and supreme quality dashboard design and detail you expect from an Audi. Plus there’s the Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument panel and the intuitive and logical dash layout. Apart from that odd blank space at the base of the centre console that bridges between the lonely looking starter button and the volume control. It seems at odds with the rest of the well conceived and designed dashboard, like there’s something missing. Similarly the light switch buttons on the right of the steering wheel, also appear to have a strange expanse of empty space around them, and oddly remind me of the taillight arrangement on a Lamborghini Countach!

In terms of technology, it’s got the lot, as you’d demand after having divested over a grand on the comfort and sound pack. Interestingly Apple CarPlay, and I’m therefore assuming Android Auto, work as soon as you Bluetooth your phone, and a physical wired connection is not required. And as there is a wireless charging plate for your phone, that too is logical.

With reassuring Quattro grip, even in frequently wet weather, the acceleration is more than enough for most needs, although there is a slight pause, dare I mention lag, as the turbo spools up and the transmission kicks down its numerous gears should you be overtaking. There are no paddleshifts, but you can go ‘manual’ through the lever if you must.

There are the usual Audi Driver Select modes plus the individual setting which is my preferred mode with the drivetrain tailored to dynamic, the suspension to comfort and the steering to dynamic. Even with the helm in the ‘heavy’ setting, it’s still light and easy to manage. The response is accurate if  not sharp, with faithful turn-in if not the eagerness of something that’s truly engaging.

The ride is very well composed and keeps you cosseted, though things do get a little livelier in sports mode, and of course the brakes and grip are beyond reproach. It initially feels like a wide car from behind the wheel (even though we’ve already established it’s narrower than a Q3) but you soon adapt to it and find it manageable on our tight roads. It’s somewhat easy to forget you’re in an SUV, until you realise that visibility ahead is excellent because of your higher perch, but that’s down to how stable its composure is.

The gear changes are imperceptible and it has superb momentum for motorway cruising and making time across town, though performance freaks will definitely want to consider that RS version I keep going on about (which probably says a lot about me). It is just perhaps that the looks of this Sportback makes one hanker for a little more oomph and spirit. In any case, style wins this argument and this would definitely be a more desirable choice over the regular Q3 with hardly much compromise.

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