BY BRIAN BYRNE
GIVEN that the Audi Q3 was one of my favourite new cars of 2019, when it came to reviewing the latest Sportback version, it was starting well.
The main differences are cosmetic, with a sleeker rear-end treatment giving the original a less-SUV look. Sometimes doing this can look like a patchwork job, but they got this one right. Very.
A lot in the current Q3 had been right anyway. I remember talking with the designer at one point, in depth, about the details of the bodywork, which had subtly but substantially brought the model forward from its previous incarnation.
Small things make big differences. Like the dip in the upper character line in the doors, emphasising lifts over the wheel arches and giving a quietly muscular impression to the vehicle.
Similarly in the Q3 Sportback, that relatively small sloping of the C-pillar, and removing of the roof rails, quite changed the design direction. It successfully created a coupé, but without impinging on the car’s space or comfort for passengers.
The review car in S-Line also came with less chrome around the front than does the standard SUV version. That added to the sporty sense and, to my eyes, made it a car that I smiled at every time I walked by.
The interior is familiar current Q3, the overall dashboard area bring one of the best thought-out in the segment. It looks and feels high tech, but with class. As it should have, given where Audi is these days in the premium space.
The centre screen is set low in that dashboard instead of the usual on-top style of these days. I liked that, as it didn’t tempt me so much to be looking at it. I didn’t need to anyhow, as most of the information and controls it provided could be replicated in the ‘digital cockpit’ in front of me, with the usual steering wheel buttons navigation. Full marks too for the climate controls, real ones.
The Q3 is a full five-seater, and that remains so in the Sportback. The coupé back cuts down on a full cargo space, but nobody fills that space to the roof anyhow.
My review car was powered by the 150hp turbo petrol 1.5, with the brand’s S-Tronic automatic — a seven-speed dual-clutch unit, which makes for very good efficiency and all the advantages of an auto. As far as I can see from the pricing, it’s not standard, but I’d be specifying it for any car in this price range.
There are also options in the Sportback range of 150hp diesel and 230hp petrol but the 1.5 in the review car remains my favourite for this application.
It’s hard these days to differentiate ride and handling between any cars in the same segment. Suffice to say that in this one they were right up where they should be. The Q3 Sportback is commendably quiet too, again to be expected.
It has to be said that the car came with some €8,300 of extra options. The highest-priced were the panoramic roof and the 20" alloys at €1,905 and €1,890, respectively. The Orange Pulse paint costs €503 more, and probably most owners would prefer something a little less bright for their money? Though I liked it.
Liked the overall car too. It’s still up there in my favourites list, an achievement as there have been lots of good new competition parked outside my home even in this strange year.