The recent hype over the Playstation 5 got me reminiscing about my own video games of old. A considerable part of my youth was spent collecting rings and spinning through vertical loops as a little blue fellow named Sonic the Hedgehog. Created by SEGA to compete with Nintendo’s wildly popular Italian plumber, the blue hedgehog was a huge success, with a feature film released this year. The journey from game console to the silver screen always carries the burden of heavy expectations though, as the producers of the movie discovered in an expensive way. Fortunately, the blue exterior and (four) rings are the only similarities between Audi’s first ever compact SUV Sportback and SEGA’s mascot.
Painted in Turbo Blue, the press car is instantly recognisable in a crowd but looks good on its own too. With the S Line trim, there are a few visual enhancements up front like the brushed silver trim around the octagonal black Singleframe grille and trapezoidal ‘air inlets’.
The rear half is where the Sportback’s design comes to life. The most striking differences are the low sloping roofline featuring a longer roof edge spoiler and a lower window height to accommodate the Sportback’s 49mm height reduction. The roof rails are gone, the accent and shoulder lines are crisper, the roof edge spoiler is longer, and extended overhangs add 16mm to the Q3 Sportback’s overall length.
But the pièce de résistance of the Q3 Sportback is its rear 3/4 view. Audi’s first go at applying the coupé-style treatment to its small SUV continues the company’s successful line of Sportbacks. The masterful application of creases on sheet metal give it a chiselled appearance, while the lowered stance hints at its athletic potential; in contrast, the regular Q3 looks like an off-season bodybuilder.
Even with the sharper rear and coupé-like styling, the Sportback’s rear seats offer enough headroom for passengers. Legroom is adequate for the average Singaporean adult, although the one sitting in the middle will suffer the indignity of straddling the transmission tunnel. The Sportback has the same boot capacity as its SUV sibling at 530 litres; the rear seats can be eased forward or folded down completely to increase the space, affording up to 1,400 litres.
Although the Sportback’s interior is similar to the Q3’s, it doesn’t feel disconnected from its sharp exterior lines. Whether it’s supple leather, tactile Alcantara or hard plastic, the entire cabin is characteristically Audi. A flat-bottomed steering wheel and aluminium pedals add to the sporty expectations, but while this Sportback may be powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with quattro permanent all-wheel drive, the car’s 177 hp and 320 Nm output is delivered in a competent but unhurried manner that belies its ability to accelerate from rest to 100 km/h in 7.4 seconds.
Gear shifts from the 7-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission are practically imperceptible, seamlessly delivering the desired power to the four driven wheels. The Sportback’s progressive steering helped tighten its turning circle and made the car feel smaller – particularly handy in more confined spaces. On my first night reviewing the Q3 Sportback, I easily weaved the car through several narrow streets in a landed housing estate, deftly avoiding parked vehicles on both sides of the road.
Despite its size, and considering my daily driver is a compact hatchback, I could easily park the Q3 Sportback with the help of the 360-degree camera and a split-screen interface on the 10.1-inch touch display. The MMI navigation plus works with Audi connect to provide additional traffic information such as parking spaces near my destination, hazard areas and speed limits. The flat menu structure sets the standard for a great user experience – a permanent column of commonly-used icons on the right allowed me to easily (and safely) switch between Audi’s native apps and Apple CarPlay while on the move.
I’m no audiophile, but the stock sound system in this car seemed quite competent as it played the Spotify tracks from my phone through the wireless Apple CarPlay connection – all the better to drown out the engine note, which I found to wear on my nerves whenever I pushed the car out of its comfort zone. Its slightly hesitant nature caused occasional delays between my throttle input and the desired forward acceleration, which was annoying as I waited to make discretionary right turns.
Aside from these minor grumbles, the Q3 Sportback is a good-looking and accomplished newcomer to the segment. I can’t think of a better looking rival in its class as its main competitors’ designers continue to trip over themselves. Its greatest competition, then, might well be its 1.4-litre sibling with a sticker price that’s about $30,000 lower. The less-expensive Sportback may only be front-wheel driven and concedes 2.1 seconds in the century sprint, but the 2.0-litre quattro Q3 Sportback’s preference for easy driving won’t get hearts racing either. Besides, there’s the devilish RS variant if one is so inclined. You also lose the S Line trim, but the ‘basic’ Q3 Sportback is already a handsome set of wheels to begin with and I don’t think I’ll tire of its looks for quite a while.
So as Audi enjoys a much better reception with its first-ever compact SUV Sportback than Paramount did with Sonic the Hedgehog’s first trailer for the big screen, I reckon if Ingolstadt pushes the right buttons, the Q3 Sportback could be on its way to building a community of proud owners for years to come.
Special thanks to Audi Singapore for this opportunity.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Audi Q3 Sportback is a head-turner and I can’t get over how good it looks.
Handling - 7/10
Performance - 7/10
Design - 9/10
Comfort - 8/10
Practicality - 8/10
Value - 7/10