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Audi Q3 2020 review: Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S Line

The Q3 Sportback could very well be the exception to the rule when it comes to coupe-style SUVs.
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Coupe-style SUVs are the bane of the automotive industry's existence, right? Well, Audi has created the Q3 Sportback to discredit that claim. Yep, it's a sequel that's better than the original.

Brace yourselves for yet another coupe-style SUV. But first a word of warning: this could be the first one that’s truly not a case of style over substance.

The Audi Q3 Sportback is here, and it’s ready to shake off the stereotype of this booming SUV segment in more ways than one.

The Q3 Sportback is, of course, a sleeker version of the Audi Q3 wagon we’ve come to know and love over two generations.

But is it actually better? We put the Q3 Sportback’s volume-selling 40 TFSI S Line variant to test to find out.

Audi Q3 2020: 40 TFSI QUATTRO S LINE
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.2L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$59,500

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

Let’s face it: the automotive world has gone mad when it comes to coupe-style SUVs. We’d even go as far to say they seldom look better than their wagon siblings, despite being the most ‘fashionable’ member of the family.

That said, Audi has just made us eat a big, old slice of humble pie, because the Q3 Sportback is the exception to the rule.

Make no mistake, when it comes to exterior design, this coupe-style SUV knocks it out of the park. Not only does it look better than its wagon sibling, but we reckon it’s one of the most attractive new vehicles on the market today.

The 40 TFSI S Line variant tested here is the pick of the lot thanks to its sports body kit, which includes a honeycomb grille insert, aggressive bumpers and chunky side skirts, and then there’s its 20-inch alloy wheels, which also look ace.

Compared to the wagon equivilent, the Q3 Sportback is 29mm lower (thanks to its sloping roofline), 16mm longer, and 6.0mm narrower.

The results speak for themselves, with the small SUV not looking the slightest bit awkward due to its ‘coupe’ aspirations.

The styling is, of course, helped by the blistered haunches and purposeful character lines. Needless to say, we’re in love.

When it comes to exterior design, this coupe-style SUV knocks it out of the park. When it comes to exterior design, this coupe-style SUV knocks it out of the park.

Inside, the similarities between the Q3 Sportback and its wagon sibling are more apparent, mainly because their interior designs are more or less identical.

Thankfully, that’s a good thing, because the Q3 reset the segment standard with the second-generation model’s release.

Your eyes are immediately drawn to the technological tour de force up front, with the 10.1-inch touchscreen multimedia system and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster the stars of the show.

The former is amazing, and even supports natural voice control, while we’ve long said the latter is the gold standard across all segments.

The Q3 Sportback separates itself from the wagon version with 'Steel Grey' Alcantara inserts for its dashboard and door armrests. The Q3 Sportback separates itself from the wagon version with 'Steel Grey' Alcantara inserts for its dashboard and door armrests.

Interestingly, Audi resisted the temptation to integrate the dual-zone climate controls into the multimedia system, as per its other new-generation models.

Instead, the Q3 Sportback gets physicals knobs and buttons in the centre stack, which serve as welcome, user-friendly throwbacks.

The 40 TFSI S Line’s front sports seats and flat-bottom steering wheel (with paddle-shifters) give the cabin a suitably sporty edge alongside matte brushed dark aluminium trim.

Predictably, the materials used throughout are premium, with leather-appointed upholstery covering the seats and steering wheel as well as the gear selector and central armrest, while soft-touch plastic adorns the dashboard and door shoulders.

The front seats are power-adjustable and come with heating and lumbar support. The front seats are power-adjustable and come with heating and lumbar support.

The Q3 Sportback separates itself from the wagon version with 'Steel Grey' Alcantara inserts for its dashboard and door armrests, which let you know it means business.

Mercifully, gloss-black accents are limited to the touchscreen and front air-vent surrounds. Why the hate, you ask? They scratch easily and are fingerprint magnets.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Measuring 4500mm longer, 1843mm wide and 1567mm tall, the Q3 Sportback is on the large side for a small SUV and that’s a good thing when it comes to practicality.

Remarkably, cargo capacity is unchanged over the wagon, at a generous 530L, although the storage space available with the 40/60 split-fold rear bench stowed is down 125L, to 1400L.

The boot itself even has a false floor that can be lowered to accommodate bulkier items. Alternatively, the parcel shelf can be stored under it when not in use. Handy. 

And there are also two bag hooks and four tie-down points on hand, although you will have to contend with a small load lip.

  • With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 530-litres. With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 530-litres.
  • Fold the rear seats down and cargo capcity grows to 1400L. Fold the rear seats down and cargo capcity grows to 1400L.

Up front, the glove box and central storage bin are decently sized, while there’s also a wedge-shaped cut-out at the front of the centre console, although it’s primarily occupied by a wireless smartphone charger. And two long but narrow cut-outs flank the outer rear seats.

Two cupholders are positioned centrally in the front row, while another two are located in the second row’s fold-down armrest.

Alternatively, the front door bins can accommodate one large and one regular bottle each, while their counterparts in the rear can take one large bottle apiece.

The second row is relatively roomy, with acres of toe-room and around 6.0cm between my knees and the front seat (set for my 184cm driving position).

And if you want to sacrifice some of the former for more storage space, the rear bench can slide forward up to 130mm.

It’s also worth noting the Q3 Sportback is more of a four-seater as its outer rear seats are of the bucket variety. It’s also worth noting the Q3 Sportback is more of a four-seater as its outer rear seats are of the bucket variety.

That said, you do pay an obvious price to look good, with only millimetres of headroom available in our test vehicle with the optional panoramic sunroof fitted, while rear visibility is compromised by the steeply raked tailgate.

It’s also worth noting the Q3 Sportback is more of a four-seater as its outer rear seats are of the bucket variety, meaning only small children can make use of the middle position.

There’s also a prominent transmission tunnel to contend with, so footwell space is compromised with three occupants abreast.

Child seats can still be fitted in the second row, though, but only over the outer seats, using top tether and ISOFIX anchorage points.

Connectivity-wise, one USB-A port and one USB-C port can be found at the front of the centre console, while a two USB-C ports are located at the rear of the centre console, below the central air vents.

Two 12-volt power outlets are split between the front and rear centre console, while SD and SIM card readers are hidden in the glove box.

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

Priced from $61,900, plus on-road costs, the 40 TFSI S Line commands a $12,000 premium over the Q3 Sportback’s entry-level 35 TFSI S Line variant.

Standard equipment not already mentioned in the 40 TFSI S Line includes adaptive LED headlights, dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, a space-saver spare wheel, power-folding side mirrors with heating and auto-dimming, rear privacy glass and a hands-free power-operated tailgate.

Inside, satellite navigation with real-time traffic, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay support, dual Bluetooth connectivity, digital radio, a 180W sound system with 10 speakers, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating and lumbar support, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror feature.

Inside is a large a 10.1-inch touchscreen multimedia system. Inside is a large a 10.1-inch touchscreen multimedia system.

Fitted to our test vehicle, the $3900 'Premium Plus' options package is available for 40 TFSI S Line buyers, bundling in Matrix LED headlights, black exterior trim, a panoramic sunroof, a 680W Bang & Olufsen sound system with 15 speakers, and LED ambient lighting.

The Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI S Line’s only direct rival is the BMW X2 sDrive20i ($56,400), which, while more affordable, lacks all-wheel drive and much of the aforementioned kit, so it’s actually the former that offers the best value.

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

The 40 TFSI S Line is motivated by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces a reasonable 132kW of power from 3900-6000rpm and a punchy 320Nm of torque from 1400-3940rpm.

This unit is mated to a sporty seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, which drives all four wheels via Audi’s signature quattro system.

The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder punches out 132kW/ 320Nm. The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder punches out 132kW/ 320Nm.

For reference, the 35 TFSI S Line uses a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder petrol, which develops 110kW at 5000rpm and 250Nm from 1500-3500rpm. It’s mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic driving the front wheels.

The 40 TFSI S Line sprints from a standstill to 100km/h in warm-hatch-like 7.8 seconds, while the 35 TFSI S Line is 1.5 seconds adrift, making the former the obvious pick for driving enthusiasts.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The 40 TFSI S Line’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres, while its claimed carbon dioxide emissions are 188 grams per kilometre. Comparatively, the 35 TFSI S Line manages 7.3L/100km and 167g/km.

During our week of testing the 40 TFSI S Line, we averaged 10.6L/100km with driving heavily skewed towards urban commutes over highway stints, which is a decent result.

Naturally, longer journeys will help to bring that figure closer to Audi's claim.

For reference, the 60L fuel tank takes 95RON petrol at minimum.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

ANCAP awarded the Q3 range (excluding RS versions) a maximum five-star safety rating in 2018.

Advanced driver-assist systems in the 40 TFSI S Line extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, driver attention alert, high-beam assist, surround-view cameras and front and rear parking sensors. Impressive.

Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, among others.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

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

All Q3 Sportback variants come with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years behind the premium standard set by Mercedes-Benz and Genesis.

Three years of roadside assistance is also bundled in, although this term can be extended up to nine years if the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Audi dealership.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing plans are available, costing $1610 for three years or $2630 for five. Either way, they’re slightly on the pricier side to maintain.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Q3 Sportback is good to drive, albeit not class-leading by any measure.

For example, the 40 TFSI S Line’s engine is surprisingly punchy, with maximum torque available just above idle, although there is a fleeting moment of turbo lag.

And as nice as the off-the-line shove is, it isn’t until peak power kicks in towards of the end of the mid-range that business starts to pick up.

Once it does, though, the engine really shines, doing so deep into the top end, and so does the transmission, which serves up unsurprisingly quick gear changes.

And that’s a good thing, because at low speed, the dual-clutch unit can be stereotypically clunky, particularly when shuffling between its first few ratios.

Engaging the Dynamic drive mode doesn’t make a huge difference, with shift patterns a touch more aggressive and throttle response a tad sharper. Best to keep it regular, we say.

While 40 TFSI S Line’s engine-transmission combination performs better on the highway than in the city, the opposite is the case for its ride and handling.

The independent suspension consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with passive dampers, and that means its bandwidth is limited, which makes dealing with the 40 TFSI S Line’s 20-inch alloy wheels a little harder.

The Q3 wears 20-inch alloy wheels, which look ace. The Q3 wears 20-inch alloy wheels, which look ace.

Around town, this set-up’s firm tune is exposed, with all road imperfections felt. Is it bone-crunching? Absolutely not, but coarse-chip surfaces, potholes and the like are amplified.

So, why did Audi opt for a stiffer ride? Improved handling, of course. Was it worthwhile? No, not really.

We could spend all day debating whether the Q3 Sportback is more a jacked-up hatch than an actual SUV, but it's clear the lines have been blurred.

The point is you can’t defy physics. The centre of gravity is higher than an A3 Sportback's, and that means it just doesn’t handle as well, firmly tuned suspension or not.

Don’t get us wrong, the Q3 Sportback is not unwieldy, but it does lean into corners with purpose, and matters aren’t helped by the 40 TFSI S Line’s considerable 1620kg unladen weight (excluding 75kg driver and luggage).

That said, it’s not actually a bad steer, as the electric power steering is pretty good for the most part.

Due this car's sporty focus, it’s speed-sensitive and has a variable ratio, which mean good things at low and high speed.

In our experience, though, there’s a little too much resistance when applying full lock while parking or performing a U-turn, or a three-point turn.

Otherwise, this system is rather nice thanks to its direct nature and surprising amount of feel, and it’s otherwise well-weighted, too. Yep, there’s no real need for the Dynamic drive mode’s extra heft.

Verdict

Even though the Q3 Sportback doesn’t provide a class-leading drive, it would be unfair of us to suggest it’s yet another case of style over substance. In fact, it is the class leader for style… and practicality, and value. And it’s for these reasons we just can’t look past it, theoretically and literally.

As far as the dreaded ‘coupe-style’ SUV goes, the Q3 Sportback is the new gold standard, and the 40 TFSI S Line has us dreaming about the new RS.

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
7.8
Design9
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety9
Ownership7
Driving7
Justin Hilliard
Deputy News Editor

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