You’ll know by now what happens when a manufacturer tacks a suffix like ‘Sportback’ on to the tailgate of one of its SUVs.
There’s a shift that occurs; one that sees focus move ever so slightly away from functionality (which is surely what an SUV is all about, even a compact one) and towards a more abstract concept altogether: the aesthetic.
So you get some sporty new design traits that are intended to make the car look even more athletic than it really is. The Q3 Sportback, for instance, has a lower shoulder line and slightly swollen arches for a more muscular, assertive look. There’s also an octagonal grille so large it’d probably work as a regulation UFC arena. And finally, there’s the trademark roofline that slopes away towards the top of the rear light housing in a fashion not unlike that of an overbred Alsatian’s spine.
Usually the resulting product isn’t a particularly pretty one. But credit to Audi, the Q3 Sportback’s styling is rather well executed - by the standards of the class, at least. Still, it’s tricky to shake the feeling that it’s yet another car designed to answer a question nobody was really asking in the first place.
Audi will, of course, tell you otherwise, and no doubt has plenty of market research to back its claims up. And to be fair, at least it’s a shade more interesting to behold than yet another derivative, identikit compact SUV.
Much like the regular Q3, the Sportback’s cabin is finished with an appealing blend of tasteful materials. Soft-touch moulded plastics cover the dash top, while sophisticated gloss black and chrome elements draw the eye and lend the Audi a well-deserved upmarket ambience. The 10.1in MMI touch infotainment screen and optional 12.3in Virtual Cockpit (you get a 10.25in digital display as standard) are impressively slick, too.
You sit a little too bent-legged at the pedals, but otherwise adjustability up front is fine. So, too, is passenger space, though the same compliment doesn’t extend to the second row. Leg room back here is okay at best, but that coupe roofline means head room is really pretty mean. Boot space, meanwhile, stands at 530 litres, which isn’t bad at all.
How does the Q3 Sportback perform on the road?
Our test car made use of the current range-topping 227bhp four-cylinder petrol, which is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box to direct drive to all four-wheels. Straight line performance is commendable enough, if not quite as brisk as its 6.5sec 0-62mph suggests it might be. But it’s not a lack of pace that’s the Q3’s biggest issue.