REVIEW | Is the 2021 Audi Q3 Sportback worth the premium?

REVIEW | Is the 2021 Audi Q3 Sportback worth the premium?

The evolution of the Audi Sportback moniker is an interesting one. It used to denote the more practical, five-door configurations of products such as the A3 and later, the A1. You may remember there was a time when both those nameplates were served in three-door format by default.

Nowadays, that is not the case, with the more practical configuration being standard issue.

So the Sportback title has been reinvented, now adorning Audi products with a coupé-esque roofline. Case in point, the Q3 Sportback: just like a regular Q3, but with less headroom for your rear passengers.

The upside to that is a more distinctive silhouette, one that stands out from the sea of generic sport-utility vehicle styling templates. You could tell that passers-by understood that this was something a little different. They might have gleaned that the Sportback is narrower (6mm); longer (16mm) and flatter (29mm) than the other vehicle. No change to the wheelbase length: it remains at 2,680mm.

The inclusion of a progressive steering system and sportier suspension fettling lends the Audi a greater measure of athleticism over its sibling. The former works by reducing the amount of steering input required to change direction – it is more responsive.

But the biggest change to the character of the Q3 comes courtesy of a new engine choice. Joining the 35 TFSI (110kW and 250Nm) is the 40 TFSI, which packs a 2.0-litre displacement and is good for 132kW and 320Nm.

Back in December 2019 we spent an extended period with the Q3 35 TFSI and lamented the gutlessness of its 1.4-litre engine. This is a unit fit for application in smaller vehicles, like the A1, A3 and even A4. But tasked with moving a heavier body, it was just not up to scratch.

The 40 TFSI totally remedies those gripes. It delivers sprightlier acceleration (0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds) and feels considerably more effortless in its reflexes around town. The seven-speed S-Tronic transmission makes light work of power on tap. Quattro gives the Q3 an expectedly planted character, a benefit that was especially clear in the recent rainy spell that gripped Johannesburg.

Though there is a trade-off with headroom, as alluded to earlier, the compromise is negligible. Hat-wearing passengers of average height will still be able to sit comfortably in the rear, with seats that can be adjusted fore and aft. The luggage compartment capacity is 530l (1,400l with the seats folded); while an electrically-operated tailgate (optional) made life that much easier.

There is one caveat – you pay more for the look. A regular Q3 starts off at R629,000 (35 TFSI), but if you want the equivalent Sportback, that will be R693,000. Stylistic statements always carry a premium.