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Audi Q3 2020 review: Sportback 35 TFSI Launch Edition

Audi's Q3 really lives the brand's 'vorsprung durch technik' mantra, and looks good while doing it.
EXPERT RATING
7.9
The mantra 'progress through technology' is a hard sell if your cars aren't drenched in the latest gizmos. It's a good thing then, that Audi's new Q3 is ahead of the game.

I’ve said it before: I don’t get coupe SUVs.

What’s the point? The concept is to take an already debatably practical car shape, and then file down its roofline so that it’s… even less practical?

I can’t think of a more vain concept. Have we really fallen so far into SUV obsession that cars like this need to exist?

Audi says yes with the Q3, and I hate to admit it, but this particular coupe SUV has me questioning my thoughts on the topic. I can’t help but admit this is one of the best-looking small SUV’s I’ve ever seen.

But is it skin-deep? Does the Q3 formula still work with a cropped roofline? Is it still nice to drive and packed with tech? Read on to find out.

Audi Q3 2020: 35 TFSI S TRONIC LAUNCH EDIT.
Safety rating
Engine Type1.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$52,750

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Our test car is the 35 TFSI (which means it has the least powerful Q3 engine) in Launch Edition trim. In Sportback form, I think it looks a million bucks, but was surprised and taken aback by how affordable it is by premium car standards.

Wearing an MSRP of $56,450, this Q3 isn’t bad value. Wearing an MSRP of $56,450, this Q3 isn’t bad value.

Wearing an MSRP of $56,450, this Q3 isn’t bad value, especially when lined up against similar spec competitors like Volvo’s XC40 (Design - $56,990). BMW’s ageing X1 sDrive 20i is significantly cheaper up-front ($48,500) but will require a fair few option packs to be on-par with this Audi. And even then there are some tech items which the Q3 will have over it.

19-inch alloy wheels come standard. 19-inch alloy wheels come standard.

We don’t know how much Mercedes-Benz’ GLB will cost yet, although it’s a different small SUV beast with a chunky backside and seven seats.

Standard spec includes 19-inch alloy wheels, an impressive 10.1-inch multimedia touchscreen, Android Auto and digital radio with wireless Apple CarPlay (!), wireless charging, 10-speaker audio system, Wi-Fi hotspot, built-in nav (with online traffic and other services), 10.25-inch ‘virtual cockpit’ digital dash, dual-zone climate control, leather seating, heated and powered front seats with heated steering wheel, auto dimming rear view mirror, keyless entry with push-start, LED headlights, as well as surround parking sensors and cameras.

The options list is surpisingly short and affordable at this end of the market, consisting of a Bang & Olufsen surround speaker system ($900), full paint finish bumpers ($450), park assist ($300), ‘Matrix’ LED headlights ($1300 – why? The standard ones are fine), panoramic opening sunroof ($2080), and electronic dampers ($1700). You’ll note all are luxuries and won’t make or break a sale for anyone.

There's an impressive 10.1-inch multimedia touchscreen with Android Auto and digital radio with wireless Apple CarPlay. There's an impressive 10.1-inch multimedia touchscreen with Android Auto and digital radio with wireless Apple CarPlay.

It’s also worth noting the Q3’s relatively high standard spec complements its almost segment-bending dimensions, which will have some considering whether they really need something slightly larger again like an X3, GLC, or Audi’s own Q5.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

This is the best-looking coupe SUV I’ve seen. Do you agree?

You could argue the Porsche Macan is up there alongside it, and I’d agree, but it’s also at least $20K more expensive.

This is the best-looking coupe SUV I’ve seen. This is the best-looking coupe SUV I’ve seen.

Volvo’s XC40 maybe comes close in terms of exterior appeal, but it isn’t a coupe.

You can see elements of Lamborghini Urus (an Audi subsidiary) in the air dams and roofline, and there’s a complexity to it which hints at the tech within.

In fact, I’d say this Audi is so swish I kind of understand now. This is what coupe SUVs are meant to be about. Redefining the ‘SUV look’, inside and out.

This is what coupe SUVs are meant to be about. This is what coupe SUVs are meant to be about.

Why pretend SUVs are about off-roading anymore? They’re really about comfort and convenience in the confines of a city.

Of course, the ‘inside’ bit comes naturally to the Q3, which has a swish, simplistic, but wonderfully advanced cockpit.

The design is upright, but not imposing, spacious, but not barren. The slight driver focus of the vents, touchscreen, and controls is noted and appreciated.

The Virtual Cockpit is still unrivaled for its aesthetics and ease of use, too. The Virtual Cockpit is still unrivaled for its aesthetics and ease of use, too.

Both screens are ultra-high resolution, sharp and crisp to look at, and it adds so much to the lustre of everything you use, fitting seamlessly with the sharp and detailed lines in the dash. The fully adjustable LED interior ambient lighting is wholly unnecessary but does make it a nice place to be at night, and changing the colours entertained my family members no end.

Virtual Cockpit is still unrivalled for its aesthetics and ease of use, too. The wheel is even notable for its neat proportions and comfortable shape.

What don’t I like? The tall plasticky shift-knob still looks like it belongs in a base-model VW Polo, and some padding around the centre tunnel for the knees would be appreciated.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

We like the practicality in the regular Q3, but is the Sportback too compromised? Let’s take a look

The front two passengers are treated to a spacious and airy cabin, with loads of glass and space for your elbows. You can adjust the height of the centre box to suit your driving position, and there are no complaints when it comes to leg- or headroom.

Tech spills out of the dash and into your hands. USB-A, USB-C and wireless connectivity are available to you. In fact, wireless Apple CarPlay is as revolutionary as keyless entry.

The front two passengers are treated to a spacious and airy cabin. The front two passengers are treated to a spacious and airy cabin.

You set it up once and that’s it. Just turn the car on, leave the phone in your pocket and the media system does the rest. The cost is a slight input lag, but the payoff of just being able to throw your phone in the charging bay or simply leave it in your pocket and forget about it is well worth it.

Storage areas are abundant for front passengers with big cupholders with a large centre slot for a phone or wallet perhaps, the large wireless charging bay and a small but useful centre console box.

There are also small bottle holders in the doors and a decently-sized glove box.

A small annoyance comes from the high-resolution screen. Some items become too fine to accurately jab at without taking your eyes off the road, particularly in Apple CarPlay mode. Thankfully all essentials, like the climate and volume controls have physical dials.

Visibility out the front and sides for the driver is fantastic, although there’s no denying the smaller rear aperture in the Sportback’s design makes seeing out the rear a bit more difficult.

 The rear seats are on rails, and I found my legroom to be more than adequate in the standard, furthest-back position. The rear seats are on rails, and I found my legroom to be more than adequate in the standard, furthest-back position.

Rear passengers are treated to a customizable area. The rear seats are on rails, and I found my legroom to be more than adequate in the standard, furthest-back position. I could have moved the seat about 20 per cent further forward without running into issues.

Height is a different story. I’m 182cm (6.0ft) tall and fit okay with maybe a couple of centimetres space above my head. My slightly taller brother (around 185cm) had his head pretty much up against the roof. The standard Q3 had no such issues, but it’s worth considering if you plan to regularly transport taller family or friends.

Boot space comes in at 530 litres (VDA) with all seats in their default positions. Boot space comes in at 530 litres (VDA) with all seats in their default positions.

The back of the rear seats are clad in plastic which looks nasty but will be good for those with kids, and rear passengers can make use of two USB-C ports, a 12V outlet and dual adjustable air vents on the back of the centre stack.

Boot space comes in at 530 litres (VDA) with all seats in their default positions which proved more than enough for our largest CarsGuide suitcase, some duffel bags, and camera equipment.

It can be adjusted up to 1400L with all the seats stowed. Apparently, this is no less than the regular Q3, which would make sense as the space is meant to be measured to the parcel shelf, before the more aggressive roofline starts to cut its shape.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Powering 35 TFSI variants is a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 110kW/250Nm. It’s mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and powers the front wheels only.

An all-wheel drive version with a 2.0-litre engine is available further up the range.

It has a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. It has a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The 35 TFSI has a claimed/combined fuel consumption figure of 7.3L/100km, against which I scored 8.4L/100km on my weekly test.

That number's very good for something this size, probably helped along by the 35 TFSI's relatively light 1545kg kerb weight.

The 35 TFSI requires 95 RON premium unleaded petrol and has a 60-litre fuel tank. The 35 TFSI requires 95 RON premium unleaded petrol and has a 60-litre fuel tank.

Oddly, and unlike most VW Group vehicles with similar drivetrains, the Q3 35 TFSI does not have a stop/start system.

The 35 TFSI requires 95 RON premium unleaded petrol and has a 60-litre fuel tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Q3 has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (awarded in 2018) which covers all variants.

There's a decent amount of driver assist tech in the Q3. There's a decent amount of driver assist tech in the Q3.

The advanced safety systems standard on the Launch Edition include auto emergency braking (up to 250km/h, detects pedestrians and cyclists up to 85km/h), lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control (with stop and go function), and driver attention alert.

Several of these items, like the adaptive cruise are not standard on the base car and require an optional ‘Comfort Package’. Tick that box if the Launch Edition is sold out by the time you’re reading this.

Expected safety inclusions are six airbags, electronic stability and brake controls, and hill assist systems..

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Audi’s standard warranty offer of three years and unlimited kilometres is annoyingly short, but not unexpected from a premium brand.

The pressure is on though, with Mercedes-Benz and newcomer, Genesis, now offering five years of warranty coverage, as well as Japanese stalwart Lexus offering four years.

Audi was even considering making a promotional five-year unlimited kilometre warranty permanent at the time of writing, so hopefully that has come to pass by the time you’re reading this review. Time will tell.

Where Audi makes ground back though is its very competitive service pricing. We’d strongly recommend bundling in an Audi ‘Genuine Care’ service plan at the time of purchase which will make your servicing much cheaper.

Three years of servicing for the Q3 under this scheme is $1610, while five years is $2630 it’s worth it. All Q3s require servicing once every 12 months or 15,000km.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The Q3 offers a slick, modern, and comfortable drive, but not one without its flaws.

The ride is superb. The ride is superb.

The ride is superb. A great balance of sportiness and damping, the Q3 keeps it stable in the corners, but comfortable over bumps. This was helped along by comfort-spec Hankook tyres on our car, and the 19-inch wheels proved to be a sensible size.

The only thing which seemed to transmit unpleasantness into the cabin was the dampers going out of frequency on rutted roads. I couldn’t help but note the similarity of the Q3’s ride characteristics to those of the new VW T-Roc, a size under.

Inside is quiet and refined, and all of the Q3’s features are ergonomic and easy to use to the point where you take it for granted. But with the Sportback’s cropped rear window, seeing out the rear isn’t as easy as it is in the regular Q3.

The engine has sufficient power when the boost, and subsequently peak torque, sets in, the trouble is this can all happen very suddenly.

There’s a delay when stomping on the go-pedal, which is replaced a full second thereafter with a surge of torque. It takes a bit of getting used to working in a moment of restraint while you wait for power to arrive.

Get impatient, and the Q3 will simply spin its wheels off the line. It’s not a problem isolated to this car, but one I also found in other VW Group vehicles with similar drivetrains. The Tiguan comes to mind.

A neat trick is setting the Q3 into the sportier ‘Dynamic’ mode and then switching the transmission from ‘S’ to the regular Drive. This gives you the best of a more responsive powertrain without having the transmission hang around in gears for too long.

The six-speed can still be caught out fairly easily as it tries to be ‘smart’ about its changes to a fault. I wonder how well its computer would go about learning your driving patterns long-term.

All up, the Q3 offers a nice balance of SUV comfort and hatch-like sportiness thanks to its light frame. The turbo engine has its small issues, but there are no red flags here for urban commuters.

Verdict

I hate how this car has challenged my long-held belief that coupe SUVs are silly. Even more so than other notable examples I’ve driven, like Mercedes’ GLC 53.

It’s so sleek and stylish, drives beautifully, and is so packed with immersive technology that I had to triple check the price. The Sportback takes everything good about the Q3 and makes it even better looking with barely a penalty to practicality. Bravo.

Pricing guides

$54,150
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$46,400
Highest Price
$61,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
35 TFSI S LINE 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $49,900 2020 Audi Q3 2020 35 TFSI S LINE Pricing and Specs
35 TFSI S LINE LAUNCH EDITION 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $56,450 2020 Audi Q3 2020 35 TFSI S LINE LAUNCH EDITION Pricing and Specs
35 TFSI S TRONIC 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $46,400 2020 Audi Q3 2020 35 TFSI S TRONIC Pricing and Specs
35 TFSI S TRONIC LAUNCH EDIT. 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $52,750 2020 Audi Q3 2020 35 TFSI S TRONIC LAUNCH EDIT. Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design9
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving8
Tom White
Journalist

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