Audi has focused the visual differences for the Q3 Sportback externally, so you’ll forget you’re not in a standard Q3 as soon as you hop inside, save for the shrunken viewing angle through the rear-view mirror.
That may put off some hoping for a more bespoke feel, but there’s little actively wrong with the interior. Far from it, in fact, because it's mostly up to Audi’s usually lofty standards of fit, finish, ergonomic simplicity and technology.
The Q3 Sportback doesn’t get the dual-touchscreen layout adopted by its larger siblings, and it’s all the better for it; knobs and buttons will always be far simpler to operate on the move. What has changed on the most recent Audis, however, is that it's easier to find cheaper bits of trim than it is on outgoing models such as the A3. In the Q3 Sportback, it’s the bland, flimsy and plasticky air vents that will disappoint nitpickers.
Nevertheless, Audi has done a decent job retaining the Q3’s practicality with the Sportback. The increased length means it can claim the same 530-litre boot as its sibling, while leg room is decent. Those up to and slightly over six feet tall won’t have too much complaint with the rear head room, but this 6ft 3in frame found it difficult to sit upright in the seat without a tilt of the head. Reclining the backrests goes some way to solving this, but the Range Rover Evoque is more accommodating in the back.
Audi’s clear priority for the Q3 Sportback was to offer something more visually enticing, but it hasn’t totally neglected the ‘sport’ element of the name. To that end, the steering features a specific tune, while sports suspension is also thrown in (not a cost option here as it is in some markets). Our test car featured cost-option adaptive dampers, too.
By and large, the non-enthusiast driver most likely to buy this kind of thing wouldn’t notice a marked difference between the way this and the standard Q3 drives. Perhaps the steering is a bit keener to react to inputs, but it’s difficult to tell without driving the two cars back to back. Regardless, if it’s a composed and vice-free driving experience you’re after, the Q3 Sportback doesn’t disappoint.
What becomes more noticeable as a passenger compared to being behind the wheel is a firmer edge to the ride. It’s controlled and doesn’t thump or crash into imperfections, but there’s more of a constant fidget that's presumably intended to make the driver feel more aware of what’s going on beneath them. This tester prefers SUVs to isolate the surface, but others may welcome the more tied-down feel.
More of a disappointment was the powertrain we tried. With power and acceleration figures in the same ballpark as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, you might expect it to feel pretty perky, but it never feels as urgent as those figures suggest. It seems to have been tuned for smoothness rather than outright response: fine in essence but a bit underwhelming for what is a range flagship.
As noted in our European first drive, Audi seems to have calibrated the throttle to react lazily to inputs, while even the usually snappy dual-clutch automatic gearbox seems like it’s hungover, hesitating away from a standstill and showing a reluctance to kick down unless you stamp on the right pedal. Switching the driving modes goes some way to improve this, but it’s certainly no warm-up for the upcoming RS Q3 Sportback in any respect.