2021 Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line review

The entry-level Q3 Sportback puts style as top priority, with enough technology and practicality to make it an appealing alternative to the wagon.

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James Wong
James Wong
Production Editor
PROS
  • Eye-catching looks
  • Decent value for money
  • Sportback doesn't sacrifice Q3's practicality... much
CONS
  • Full suite of driver assists still optional
  • Old 1.4 TSI and six-speed DCT
  • $3500 premium over standard Q3
Manufacturer Links

Audi was pretty late to the coupe-SUV trend, but it’s now begun spinning swoopy Sportback models off its Q-badged SUV line-up.

First was the Q8, a style-focused companion to the Q7 seven-seater. Now there’s the Q3 Sportback tested here and the all-electric E-Tron Sportback, while 2021 will see the launch of the Q5 Sportback. In the coming years we’ll also get a Q4 E-Tron Sportback.

The latest Q3 has been a sales hit in Australia, continuing the success of the original by quickly becoming the top-selling vehicle in the premium compact SUV world. Audi last year sold 4090 Q3s and Q3 Sportbacks, accounting for more than one in five premium small SUV sales.

Is the base version of the style-focused Q3 Sportback any good, or is the 40 TFSI quattro S line worth the extra $12,000? Let’s find out.

How much does the Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line cost?

The Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line opens the coupe-styled range at $50,450 plus on-road costs. At the time of writing, just two engine variants are available in Australia if you discount the flagship RSQ3 Sportback – the 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI quattro.

If you want to spend less, the standard Q3 wagon can be had in 35 TFSI guise sans the S line exterior package fitted at no cost on Sportback models from $46,950 before on-roads.

Direct rivals are few and far between at this end of the market, but if you’re looking for a premium compact crossover the Mercedes-Benz GLA200 starts at $55,100 and the base Lexus UX200 Luxury is listed at $44,445 both excluding on-roads.

There’s also the BMW X2 (from $47,900) and Jaguar E-Pace (from $63,900), though the latter is priced against the higher-grade Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S line (from $62,350).

If you are looking for a more accurate idea of pricing, you can use Audi’s stock-locator to find cars available around your area and get drive-away pricing.

What do you get?

Quite a bit, despite being an entry-level premium vehicle.

Audi has done a great job lately of breaking the stereotype that luxury cars – particularly base ones – are poorly equipped.

Standard equipment on the Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line includes:

  • 19-inch alloy wheels
  • S line exterior styling (hence the name)
  • Adaptive LED headlights with dynamic rear indicators
  • Electric tailgate with gesture control
  • High gloss styling package (painted contrast bumpers)
  • Keyless entry and start
  • LED ambient interior lighting
  • MMI navigation plus with 10.1-inch touchscreen
  • Audi connect plus online functions
  • Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto (wired)
  • Wireless smartphone charging
  • DAB+ radio
  • Audi virtual cockpit with 10.25-inch display
  • Leather-appointed upholstery
  • Rear seat bench with slide and backrest adjustment
  • 4 x USB ports (2 x front and 2 x rear)

All versions of the Q3 and Q3 Sportback also come with the following safety and assistance systems:

  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Lane departure warning and lane keep assist
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Reversing camera

Our test car was optioned with Pulse orange “solid special paint” which adds $600 to the price, as well as alternate 19-inch alloys in 20-spoke V design ($500). But otherwise, the car you see here is pretty much bog-standard.

A range of other cost options and packages are available to further personalise your Q3 Sportback, including the Comfort Package ($2600) which adds adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, heated and powered front seats as well as power-folding and auto-dipping side mirrors, along with the Parking Package ($900) bringing 360-degree cameras and an automated parking assistant.

Compared to other premium small SUV rivals, the Q3 Sportback is competitively priced and equipped.

To see a side-by-side comparison of all the standard features and options offered between each of the variants download the specifications sheet from the official Audi Q3 website.

Is the Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line safe?

All non-RS Q3 and Q3 Sportback models wear a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2018 testing.

That’s based on category scores of 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 76 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and 85 per cent for safety assist.

Autonomous emergency braking (City, Interurban and Vulnerable Road User) and a lane support system with lane keep assist, lane departure warning and emergency lane keeping are standard on all variants.

There’s also Dual frontal, side chest-protecting and side head-protecting (curtain) airbags as standard.

You can find further information on these safety systems within the official Audi Q3 website.

What is the Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line like on the inside?

Hop into the Q3 Sportback and you’ll be pressed to find any differences to the Q3 wagon.

Our tester’s black-on-black colour scheme maintains the clean, uncluttered, if slightly austere vibe Audi’s latest interiors are known for. Build quality feels rock solid though some of the materials used on the centre console feel like they would belong on an entry-level Skoda or Volkswagen than an Audi.

You are, however, greeted by the lovely 10.1-inch high-res touchscreen and 10.25-inch virtual cockpit up front, which look and feel upmarket and a cut above similar vehicles in the Volkswagen Group.

The MMI navigation unit is well placed and I personally don’t mind the switch back to touch inputs, especially given smartphone mirroring means most functions can be performed with Siri or Google Assistant voice commands anyway.

Audi’s latest infotainment interface is really easy to use and looks attractive, plus it’s snappy to respond and load while also offering haptic feedback in the form of ‘clicks’ to confirm inputs.

The native satellite navigation with Google Maps is a nice touch, but I found myself using Apple Maps and Google Maps via wireless Apple CarPlay. It’s worth considering, unlike with the inbuilt mapping, you can’t project maps and navigation prompts from smartphone software into the virtual cockpit.

Audi has retained physical climate controls in its lower models rather than subbing in a touchscreen, which many will appreciate, and the standard dual-zone climate controls are nicely familiar.

Below the centre stack there’s a wireless phone charger that comfortably holds my iPhone 12 Pro Max, and there’s decent storage in the first row to store your cups, bottles, keys and wallet.

All the touch points are quality items, with the leather-trimmed steering wheel feeling nice in the hand, while padded areas in the doors and on top of the centre cubby mean your elbows are catered for.

Speaking of touch points, like the touchscreen all the switchgear has a satisfying ‘click’ to its operation, from the steering wheel buttons to the climate control knobs and toggle-style switches ahead of the shifter.

I’d perhaps like a bit more weight or damping for some of the buttons, but that’s a matter of personal preference. Everything looks and feels pretty damn good, if a little boring in this colour scheme.

Passenger space up front is great too. The driver and front passenger get plenty of head and legroom and it’s quite airy. There’s good (manual) adjustment in the front seats too so you can easily find a comfortable driving position.

Moving into the second row, I was surprised at how much bigger the new Q3 is than the old one. I’d not sat in the current-generation Q3 until now, and my cousin had the original model when it first came out.

Legroom is borderline capacious compared to the predecessor, and also compared to smaller rivals like the Lexus UX. Rear air vents and a pair of USB-C ports also are nice touches though they’re mounted quite low.

Even with the sloping Sportback roofline, my six-foot-one-ish frame could sit comfortably behind my own driving position – I’d just have to recline the rear-seat backrest a bit. Keep in mind our test car didn’t have the optional panoramic sunroof fitted, which would eat into headroom even more.

Other second-row amenities include a fold-down armrest with cup holders, bottle holders in the doors, and the aforementioned slide and recline adjustment for the rear bench. Oddly, there’s no map pockets or nets on the backs of the front seats.

There’s also a cubby beside the outer rear seats that can hold loose items or a small handbag. Parents will like the ISOFIX points on the outer rear seats, too.

Usually SUV-coupes have significantly reduced boot volume and aperture due to the sportier roofline, but Audi has cleverly retained the new Q3’s load-lugging abilities for the Sportback.

Luggage volume with the second row in place is rated at 530 litres, the same as the Q3 wagon, while stowing the rear seatback liberates 1400L – down on the regular Q3 by 125L.

There’s an adjustable boot floor that can be raised to minimise load lip or lowered to maximise volume, and there’s a space saver spare underneath along with cubbies on either side for loose items. Additionally, the rear seats fold 40:20:40.

The only real disadvantage about the Q3 Sportback in terms of boot area is that tapered roofline and tailgate meaning you may have difficulties with tall, square items.

If you’re looking for more details on the interior design and features, you can find official pictures and commentary on the Audi Q3 website.

What’s under the bonnet?

Power in the 35 TFSI comes from a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine driving the front wheels via a six-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Unfortunately, Australia misses out on the more efficient 1.5-litre TFSI and seven-speed S tronic combination offered in overseas markets.

Outputs are rated at 110kW (@5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm (@1500-3500rpm). Audi quotes a 0-100 time of 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 207km/h.

If those engine stats sound familiar, it’s a very similar drivetrain to that used in the entry-level Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI, which is no surprise given the Q3 and Tiguan ride on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform.

Fuel consumption is rated at 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle, with 95 RON premium unleaded required as a minimum. We saw an indicated 7.4L/100km over 550 kilometres with the car, and that’s despite the fact the base Q3 doesn’t feature idle stop/start – not bad.

It’s worth noting that week included a return trip to Geelong with next to no traffic mixed with running about the ‘burbs, but it’s still an impressive result nonetheless.

The fuel tank is rated for 58L, so with our indicated fuel consumption figure you can expect 650-700 kilometres between fills with mixed driving.

You can find further technical specifications on the engine within the official Audi Q3 specifications sheet, as well as a side-by-side comparison with the other engines offered.

How does the Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line drive?

The latest-generation Q3 is a huge step forward from the previous generation, and its MQB architecture means it strikes a fantastic balance between comfort and engagement.

As is typical with Audis, the steering is light and bordering on numb, but there’s a directness and natural feeling to its operation that makes this thing a pleasure to pilot. The Sportback’s standard variable-ratio rack adds extra weight as you pile on lock, which should cater to more sporting tastes.

Being virtually stock, our test car wasn’t fitted with optional adaptive dampers, though the standard setup is more than good enough for most uses. Like most Volkswagen Group models based on this platform, the Q3 Sportback errs on the side of firm with enough give in the springs to iron out the various lumps and bumps of inner-city Melbourne.

Sharper hits are definitely felt, but they don’t overwhelm the cabin with noise or movement, and overall refinement is very good in town and on the highway.

Performance from the 1.4-litre turbo four and six-speed dual-clutch is more than enough for the target demographic. It won’t set your pants on fire but with peak torque available from just 1500rpm, the base Q3 gets up to city speeds effortlessly and the transmission is seamless once you’re up and running.

Off the line there’s a hint of hesitation and elasticity that’s common for transmissions of this type, but the lack of idle stop/start tech means there’s one less thing to worry about when launching from the lights, and is good news for those who would usually switch it off.

At 1545kg unladen, the Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI is no lightweight, and when you’re asking for a little more oomph getting up to freeway speeds you can be left wanting. You reach the limits of the 1.4-litre engine’s talents at the top end and at 100km/h it’s spinning at well over 2000rpm.

While a seventh ratio would likely address the latter, we’d recommend looking at the 132kW/320Nm 40 TFSI quattro if you’re planning on hitting the highway and/or carrying three or more passengers regularly.

Once you’re at speed though, the Q3 is a comfortable, refined place to be. Road and wind noise are impressively suppressed, although at times some wind whistle was noticeable off the driver’s side mirror.

Hit the twisty stuff and the Q3 exhibits the better traits of its family DNA. The predictable steering and measured body control mean it’ll handle a winding back round with little fuss, though the lack of paddle shifters means you can only control the transmission by flicking the selector into its manual mode and shifting up and down that way. Just leave it in Drive.

If you’re interested in getting into the driver’s seat, you can book a test drive via the official Audi website, or reach out to your local Audi dealer to arrange one.

How much does the Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line cost to run?

The Audi Q3 Sportback is covered by the brand’s three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance for the same 36-month period.

Unlike parent Volkswagen, as well as arch-nemesis Mercedes-Benz, the four-ringed marque doesn’t appear to have any plans to extend its new car warranty to five years.

Scheduled maintenance, meanwhile, is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres (whichever comes first). Audi offers an all-inclusive five-year service plan for $2630 upfront for Q3 petrol models, averaging $526 per year.

You can find more details on the Audi Service Plans on the official Audi website.

CarExpert’s Take on the Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI S line

The entry-level Audi Q3 Sportback offers an attainable, value-packed pathway into premium European ownership with a splash of design flair.

Its distinctive looks and bright colours stand out from the usual suspects in the class, and it offers enough equipment and personalisation options inside and out to allow buyers to make their Q3 Sportback their own.

I’m critical of the base powertrain choice though. The ageing 1.4 turbo four and six-speed DSG feels a generation old in performance and usability compared to newer options offered by rivals and other Volkswagen Group members, despite being ‘fine’ for mostly urban commuting.

A premium badge and spend should translate to a premium high-tech engine and transmission – Europe’s newer 1.5-litre donk with cylinder deactivation and seven-speed S tronic DCT would be a far better all-rounder.

If that’s not an issue for you, and you’re a fan of the coupe-inspired styling, definitely have a look. We’d recommend considering the Comfort and Parking packages given their desirable add-ons.

Click the images for the full gallery

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James Wong
James Wong
James Wong is the Production Editor at CarExpert.
Learn about CarExpert or contact CarExpert.
Ratings
Overall7.9
Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 7.5
Ride Comfort 8
Safety 9
Fit for Purpose 7.5
Handling Dynamics 8
Interior Practicality and Space 8
Fuel Efficiency 8
Value for Money 7.5
Performance 7
Technology Infotainment 8
Top Line Specs
7.3L
110kW
166g
5 ★
View all specifications

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