What is it like to drive?
Two engines are available from launch - the 2.0-litre ‘45 TFSI’ petrol and 2.0-litre ‘40 TDI’ diesel. The former makes 227bhp and 258lb ft, and the latter 187bhp and 295lb ft. Both get Quattro four-wheel drive and seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearboxes, while the 1.5-litre ‘35 TFSI’ petrol, which is coming at the end of 2019, can be had with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual.
Do that, though, and you miss out on the mild-hybrid system - a first for Audi (and indeed the VW Group) in such a small car, though similar systems are fitted to the A6, A7, A8 and so-on.
The 35 TFSI with the seven-speed auto’ is the only Q3 Sportback to get this 48-volt mild-hybrid setup, which uses a belt-alternator starter to recover energy lost while braking and coasting. It also means the stop/start system, which is active from 13mph, feels super-smooth, and that the car can coast with the engine switched off at speeds of between 24 and 99mph to save fuel.
It is possibly the best Q3 Sportback, at least of the three we’ve tried, though the engine itself doesn’t feel quite as pleasant as it does in a Golf.
The powertrain responds more keenly than either of the 2.0-litres’ (thanks to the small e-boost) and it feels more agile because there’s less weight over the nose. The 45 TFSI and 40 TDI’s engines are fine in isolation - quiet and smooth. But neither feels as quick as Audi’s figures - 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and 8.3 seconds respectively - suggest.
The gearbox is to blame. The seven-speed dual-clutch auto’ changes gear smoothly and swiftly, but it’s so reluctant and slow to kick down that opportunistic overtakes and merging onto motorways require real forward planning. It feels like it’s always looking to shift into the highest-possible gear, rather than the correct one. Sixth happens at a little over 30mph. So you’re always three gears and a couple of seconds away from the power. Manual mode, using the paddles on the back of the wheel, allows for much smoother progress.
All Q3 Sportbacks get sportier suspension than the regular Q3, and you can spec adaptive dampers should you wish. Cars so equipped are more comfortable - retaining their composure over broken surfaces where the standard setup gets a bit bobbly. But no Sportback is especially good to drive - they handle accurately and make the most of their relatively compact dimensions, but there is no interaction and thus, limited fun to be had. At least they’re quiet and composed on the motorway.
Oh, and you can have an off-road mode that adds hill-descent control. We’re not sure why either.