Audi has launched its first ever compact crossover, and if the 2020 Q3 Sportback is the shape of things to come then consider us interested. Sign us up and tell us when to clear our driveway. A small SUV, with crossover dimensions and a coupe-like sloping roofline at the rear, the Q3 Sportback promises driving dynamics to match, too. Oh boy does it deliver.
Not only is it the fastest growing major premium segment, but buyers picking up an entry premium SUV overwhelmingly come from non-premium vehicles. They’ve got plenty to choose from, too, with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Toyota (if you must), and others all eyeing a new generation of drivers and hoping to make them brand-loyalists. To succeed you need a small SUV that’s not just good, but exceed expectations.
It’s fair to say that the standard Q3 couldn’t really be described that way. Too staid, not flexible enough in the cabin or in the boot, and lagging in driving refinement and comfort. That simply wasn’t good enough and so, six long months after we drove the new Q3, its Sportback cousin has arrived to right those wrongs.
Outside, it’s clearly related to Audi’s other small SUVs like the Q3 and Q5. At the front, there’s the octagonal Singleframe grille, picking up on the three-dimensional design cues we’ve seen most recently on the Q8 and Audi e-tron SUV. Here, it’s finished in black, with trapezoidal air inlets and a flat blade bumper.
It’s at the back, of course, where things get interesting. With a more sloping roofline the Q3 Sportback looks longer than its Q3 sibling. It very much reminds me of the Audi Q8. Flat D-pillars and a roof edge spoiler add some visual interest, too, while oversized contouring above the wheels emphasize the quattro all-wheel drive. The reversing lights are particularly unusual, with an inward-taper.
At the front, three different types of headlamps are on offer. There’s also an option to get Audi’s Matrix LED lights.
Under the bonnet is a familiar engine, Audi’s 1.4 TFSI in the Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI delivers 110 kW and 250 Nm of torque from a four-cylinder direct injection unit with turbocharging. It uses a six speed S tronic transmission and produces a 0-100 km claim of 9.3 seconds. Meanwhile the 2.0-liter TFSI turbo with 132 kW, 320 Nm of torque and a seven speed S tronic. More important, I’d say, is that Quattro all-wheel drive is standard: BMW, Mercedes, and Volvo will charge you extra for that on their rival compact crossovers.
Quattro comes standard on the top engines, Audi says, with wheel-selective torque control that uses targeted braking to tighten up turns and make them more stable. There’s a hydraulic multi-plate clutch on the rear axle for power transition.
There’s no air suspension option, but luckily Audi made up for that by offering adaptive dampers, and that means Dynamic mode is something to look forward to. Here, shifts are more aggressive, and the steering feels a little tighter, but the Q3’s soft ride doesn’t really encourage you to push hard. Don’t get us wrong, it will bring out your adventurous side though.
Step inside, there’s seating for five. A 8.8-inch centre display is standard. MMI navigation plus includes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit on higher spec cars while Audi virtual cockpit plus comes with a 12.3-inch screen diagonal. Natural language recognition is supported, and there’s adaptive navigation that can suggest where you might want to go based on previous patterns.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, with wireless CarPlay an option. That also comes with a special “phone box” in the centre console, which can wirelessly charge your phone and allow it to tap into the better antenna on the Q3’s roof. You can also have a Bang & Olufsen 3D audio system, if you wish.
Pricing is aggressive. The 2020 Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S tronic starts at R693 000, while the 2020 Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S tronic starts at R737 000. The majority of the 2020 Audi Q3 Sportback audience won’t, I suspect, be too upset. As an entry point into the automaker’s range, it’s competitively priced and checks off plenty of tech and active safety boxes. In a fiendishly competitive category, Audi’s laser-focus on getting the Q3 Sportback recipe right is almost as bright as its dashboard.
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