Audi Q3 : pick of the SUV coupe movement in looks alone

Declan Colley, not a fan of the SUV coupe segment, is enamoured by Audi's Q3 Sportback and says it is actually an eye-catching and attractive thing
Audi Q3 : pick of the SUV coupe movement in looks alone

The Audi Q3 Sportback is very much the sophisticate both in terms of delivering a smooth passage and terribly stylish looks.

AUDI Q3

Rating

★★★★☆

Price

€46,450 — €54,849 as tested

Engine

A decent turbo petrol with mild hybrid

The Spec

Decent enough but add-ons are costly

Verdict

A good-looking coupe SUV? What next?

We have asserted very recently — rather hotly, it has to be said — that the whole concept of a SUV coupe is one that doesn’t sit we’ll here at Examiner Motoring, the whole idea being somewhat equivalent to a question which was never asked.

It is easy to point the finger of blame at quite who thought such a thing was a good wheeze in the first place — it was BMW. The original X6 was the progenitor of the whole coupe SUV idea and when we reviewed the latest version of that car in these columns recently, we applauded the car’s on-road behaviour as top class.

When it came to the styling, however, words such as ‘hulking’, ‘gross’ and ‘ugly,’ were to the fore and the phrase ‘stylistic crime’ was mentioned.

BMW went on to make such as the X2 and the X4, two other examples of the genre and, of course with the motor industry being even more of a copy-cat business than the fashion industry, that meant that anyone else with a brand to push has gone down the same road too.

The Audi Q3 Sportback roofline is typical of the genre, but the designers have ‘muscled-up’ the look with a huge front grille, a lower shoulder line and beefed-up wheel arches.
The Audi Q3 Sportback roofline is typical of the genre, but the designers have ‘muscled-up’ the look with a huge front grille, a lower shoulder line and beefed-up wheel arches.

These are polarising vehicles, those in the SUV coupe segment, and that basically means that each and every one of them are pug ugly. Do an online search of this breed of beast and you will come across descriptions of the genre as being ‘hunchback-like’ or ‘a niche going nowhere’. 

These epithets are not quite true as the segment is going somewhere and sales figures illustrate that a very sizeable cross-section of buyers is completely enamoured with the idea. BMW, after all have sold nearly half-a-million X6s since it was first launched in 2008.

According to research on the subject, typical buyers are four to five years younger than typical SUV buyers, are typically more image conscious and are less price sensitive. This means that manufacturers can charge more for these things without feeling a pinch. The thing is that if people like ugly, then manufacturers will make ugly for them — and charge them for it.

But does it really have to be like this? Well, no.

And our tester this week is testament to that fact. The Audi Q3 Sportback is an SUV coupe and, truth be known, it is actually an eye-catching and attractive thing.

That the tester came in a lurid orange (Pulse Orange on the Audi colour card) which is actually quite similar to the papaya orange which decorated the first of Bruce McLaren’s F1 and Can-Am race cars and is this year the primary colour of the McLaren F1 team which still bears the name of the legendary New Zealand driver/designer and while the vivid hue certainly made it stand out, the car is still good looking anyway.

Colour aside, the car’s handsome demeanour is underlined by a design which is actually intended to make the car a lot more sporty looking than it actually is. You have the sloping roofline typical of the genre, but Audi’s designers have ‘muscled-up’ the look with a huge front grille, a lower shoulder line and beefed-up wheel arches.

In reality this car is smaller than the regular Q3, what with the roofline being 49mm lower and overall width some 6mm less. The length is 16mm longer than the standard car, which is not much, but this adds to the trompe l’oeil deal here which makes you think the car is actually much bigger than it is.

The smaller interior space manifests itself particularly in terms of rear seat passengers who have to cope with less head and leg room. For families with smaller children this will not impact much, but if you got leggy friends, they will be entitled to moan. The ability of the rear bench to slide fore/aft will ease leg room issues.

That said, the boot is some 530 litres in size — not much less than the regular Q3 — and generous at that and, all told, this is one of the roomier coupe SUVs we have encountered.

On the road it is a decent whirl as well. 

As a former Audi owner and long-time fan, I would naturally lean towards having the quattro 4WD version by preference, but this thing was quite impressive for a big-ish car with front wheel drive only.

There were only minimal displays of understeer or torque steer and grip levels were generally excellent; the ride was firm but very comfortable (even on the many surfaces that masquerade as roads in this country) and the handling was predictable and secure.

On the engine front the car was fitted with a petrol 1.5 litre turbocharged petrol engine (that’s the 35 TSI version in Audi’s new and incomprehensible nomenclature regime) which is bolstered by a 48V mild hybrid system.

Now, we are familiar with this engine for some time as it is a standard in the VW parts bin by now. It outputs 150 bhp and 250 Nm of torque and will propel the car to 100 kph in 9.6 seconds and see a top speed of 204 kph. It is not terribly economical — 6.8 l/100m or 41.1 mpg — and will cost €280 annually to tax. The seven-speed auto ‘box is also really nice to live with.

The Q3 Sportback is bang up to Audi standards in terms of finish and build quality.
The Q3 Sportback is bang up to Audi standards in terms of finish and build quality.

Combined with the hybrid system and some effectively sophisticated electronics, the Q3 Sportback can, if you adapt your driving style even a little, make the engine shut down for short periods, whereupon the battery powers everything. 

Similarly, the engine will shut down at lights or junctions, but, using the same technology which runs the adaptive cruise control, will restart when the car in front moves away.

Being essentially a city dweller, this is not a car you will be off-roading in, but it is very much the sophisticate both in terms of delivering a smooth passage and terribly stylish looks. Throw in a cabin which is bang up to Audi standards in terms of finish and build quality and you have a car which is decent to drive, lovely to be in and appealing to look at.

Without doubt the Q3 Sportback is the pick of the SUV coupe movement in looks alone, but it is also — albeit with lessened practicality than the regular car and a higher price tag — a stable and secure drive without being terribly thrilling. Others in the genre will do better driving thrills, but few look as good.

Others in the class (Volvo XC40, Range Rover Evoque and BMW X2) will do certain things much better, but there is no shame here at the sheer competence of the Audi in almost every area of endeavour.

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