Last weekend saw NZ take a huge step on its road to post COVID recovery, with sport (and in particular, the nation’s favourite sport Rugby), allowing fans to attend live games. And support they did. The Blues vs the Hurricanes boasted record attendance at the Eden Park game while similar numbers impressed at the gates of other venues throughout the country – Sport is Back and it’s a big win for all involved.
Admittedly I’m not a big fan of the ‘odd-shaped ball’ sport but I truly appreciated our new-found freedom, however, Audi NZ gave me another Sport to enjoy some freedom with, their new Q3 Sportback, and boy did it put a smile on my face.
I’ve been behind the wheel of the new Q3 before and was impressed with its increased size and in many ways it’s maturity, but the Sportback adds a whole new dimension to this ‘compact’ SUV.
Audi has added an extra 97mm in length and widened it by 25mm, this puts its overall size at the upper end of compact, but they’ve also reduced the SUV’s height a tad giving it a very tidy road presence. Its wheelbase has been increased too (77mm) which results in a more spacious interior, but I’ll get to that soon as it’s the exterior that I really want to talk about.
My review model was the ‘top of the line’ 45 TFSI S line and it came it an eye-catching red. The new Audi family single frame octagon grille was gloss black with a gloss back frame, and the large side air inlets emphasised the more masculine front-end. The new Q3 displays more sculpting to its profile and the 19-alloys on my model looked substantial in the Quattro inspired wheel-arches. Now comes the best bit, the rear quarter ‘Sportback’.
The SUV’s roofline tapers down towards the back where the roofline spoiler meets a raking D-pillar that sits above the vehicle’s athletic wheel arch. The design combination produces the effect of motion (even while standing still). In my opinion, it transforms the entire look of the SUV, it looks sporty, looks more agile, looks more in keeping with the brand’s performance side.
While on the subject of performance, being the ‘45’ my review model came with a peppy 2L (169kW/350Nm) under the bonnet that gets you from zero to 100km/h in 6.3s while offering 7.6L/100km in fuel economy. It’s not the fastest in the overall line-up (have to wait for the RS version for that) but it shifts well off the line and has plenty of energy for the highway.
Fixtures and fitting inside the cabin remain the same and that’s a good thing. Softer materials cover the dashboard while chrome and brushed aluminium effects add to the area’s tactile-ness. My 10.25-inch instrument cluster was the ever-involving ‘virtual cockpit’ and the infotainment MMI is displayed on an 8.8-inch touchscreen. Some of the switchgear could be updated and I’m not a fan of cruise-control being on a stalk behind the wheel, but I’m just being picky.
The seating is comfortable and supportive and even though the roofline is tapered, there’s plenty of head and knee room in the rear.
Then there’s the drive. With six drive modes that range from Comfort to Dynamic, each of which changes things like steering and throttle response times and suspension characteristics, I of course, spent much/most of my time in Dynamic. The Q3 Sportback gave me Quattro sure footing and a 7-speed S tronic box to play with and I used them wisely.
The compact SUV holds itself well in the corners and the engine pick up is great (not RS great but certainly enough to keep this guy entertained). The steering is well-weighted and there’s a nice balance to the way it drives.
I will say that on some of our ‘open-pored’ tarmac there’s a fair amount of road noise that enters the cabin, but again I’m being picky and the sound-system can always be turned up a notch.
With its raking D-pillar and more Athletic stance, the Sportback is definitely the looker in the family and if you squint a bit, it has a profile that’s akin to one of its bullish cousins. As I said in the outset, the return of live Sport has been welcomed with open arms by Kiwi’s and across the globe too, it’s a real morale boost, but I must say that the new Audi Q3 Sportback 45 S Line is a sight for sore eyes too.