LORRACH, Germany – The reveal of the Audi Q3 Sportback in July 2019 wasn’t entirely unexpected since many automakers are diversifying their crossover and SUV ranges by adding coupé-styled offerings. So, why didn’t the Ingolstadt-based firm stick with the current naming convention and plaster the Q4 badge to the rear of this latest offering? Well, this moniker has already been reserved for an electric model which is scheduled to go into production by the end of 2020.

So, Audi opted to instead hand the Q3 the “Sportback” suffix. And it’s entirely appropriate considering the majority of the (largely subtle) changes over the standard Q3 are to the exterior design and packaging.

In profile, the Q3 Sportback adopts a coupé-like line complete with a dramatically angled C-pillar and a cheeky rear roof spoiler. The flowing line that connects the front and rear fenders on the ordinary body style has been lowered to the door handles while the standard alloy wheel size has been upped by an inch. Since the Sportback is some 30 mm shorter than its sibling, it possesses more of an athletic stance, too. In addition, the roof racks have been deleted, although attachment points remain on the inside of the door arches for those who wish to attach a set.

At the front, the newcomer’s dynamic persona is accentuated by a black honeycomb grille (as opposed to the vertical slats found on the Q3). Adding to the sense of aggression is a slight increase in width, which lends the Q3 Sportback a more muscular appearance. Of course, the most distinctive changes have been affected round back, where rear bumper gains a chunky faux-diffuser. Interestingly, though, the taillamp design is identical to that of the Q3.

Inside, the Q3 Sportback adopts virtually everything from the run-of-the-mill Q3, including the comprehensive touchscreen infotainment system. Thanks to that sloping roofline, the rear row loses a bit of headroom but the difference really is slight. Boot space, meanwhile, is not compromised as there have been no changes below the parcel shelf but it’s worth noting overall utility space does take a bit of a hit.

And on the road? Well, there is a slight difference in ride quality as the Q3 Sportback features a sports suspension with a lowered ride height. Endowed with a 169 kW turbocharged 2,0-litre engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, I was expecting the 45 TFSI to feel somewhat similar in character to the Golf GTI (thanks to the shared powertrain and underpinnings), however, I’d wager the Audi is quieter and more composed.

In addition, the all-paw Audi offers more grip. Thanks to the company’s Quattro system, the narrow and tight roads of Lörrach’s Black Forest were no challenge for the Q3 Sportback. Power delivery from the EA888 is as prompt as ever, with the four-pot working fluidly with the all-wheel-drive system. Interestingly, there are no cheeky pops or bangs as you would experience in the GTI. This, however, makes sense considering any added aural drama will be reserved for the inevitable Audi Sport variant.

The 35 TFSI variant, which adopts the same turbocharged 1,4-litre engine used in the local Q3 range, is set to arrive in South Africa at the beginning of 2020. Interestingly, in most global markets, this derivative employs VAG’s turbocharged 1,5-litre petrol engine with a 48 V mild-hybrid system.

And the 45 TFSI? Well, turns out this variant won't be offered in South Africa, replaced instead by a model badged as the 40 TFSI (which will arrive locally some time after the 35 TFSI). Its peak outputs will be detuned to 132 kW and 320 N.m of torque, ostensibly thanks to South Africa’s fuel quality. So, when it finally reaches our shores, the flagship Q3 Sportback (ahead of the arrival of the Audi Sport derivative, at least) unfortunately won’t be quite as potent as this 45 TFSI.

Insights from the designer

The woman responsible for penning the design of the new Audi Q3 Sportback is 33-year-old Seulah Park from South Korea. Having had some experience working on the Audi TT facelift project, this car was her first major project. Seulah explained to us the changes she made to the Q3 design were intended to incorporate a sense of style and athleticism by delivering a sleek silhouette with muscular details. By lowering and widening certain lines she was able to create more of a hunkered-down stance without infringing on the car’s crossover characteristics.

Answering the question of why the Q3 Sportback doesn’t incorporate the Q8’s full-width taillamp arrangement, Seulah said that although certain elements of the design resembled that of the Q8, the new vehicle needed to be both identifiable as a Q3 and recognisable as a Sportback. We can expect similar design cues to make their way into the road-going Audi Q4 e-tron, too.



FAST FACTS

Model: Audi Q3 Sportback 45 TFSI S tronic S line
Price:  TBC
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl, turbopetrol
Power: 169 kW
Torque:  350 N.m
0-100 km/h:  6,5 seconds
Top Speed:  233 km/h
Fuel Consumption:  7,3 L/100 km
CO2:  166 g/km
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Maintenance Plan: Five-year/100 000 km