SPORT­ING CHANCE

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Shopper Picks Of The Week -

Just about ev­ery­one has an SUV th­ese days, but few folks have a “Sport­back”. Join­ing the likes of BMW’s X2 in a seg­ment tar­get­ing de­sign-con­scious cus­tomers, the new Audi Q3 Sport­back is a stylish spin-off of a pop­u­lar com­pact SUV. It looks sleeker and more co­he­sive than the hunch­backed sil­hou­ette of some com­peti­tors.

Rid­ing lower than the stan­dard car, the Sport­back trades roof rails and body cladding for 19-inch wheels and a more svelte pro­file.

Priced from $49,900 plus on-road costs (about $55,500 drive-away), the swoopy new op­tion costs about $3700 more than a reg­u­lar Q3. Stan­dard kit in­cludes LED lights, a pow­ered tailgate, smart keys, cli­mate con­trol and leather trim.

The en­try-level Q3 35 TFSI drives the front wheels with a 1.4-litre, 110kW/250Nm turbo petrol en­gine. A Q3 40 TFSI Qu­at­tro model adds all-wheel-drive trac­tion, plus a 2.0-litre mo­tor with punchier 132kW/320Nm num­bers for a fur­ther $12,000.

An ad­e­quate safety suite in­cludes au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing and lane keep­ing as­sis­tance in the stan­dard car. Adap­tive cruise con­trol, a 360-de­gree cam­era and other ele­ments in­clud­ing a 10-speaker stereo are stan­dard in the qu­at­tro but a $2250 op­tion for front-drive cus­tomers.

As ever the case for a new Audi, the in­te­rior is a bright point. A 12.3-inch dig­i­tal dash with high­res­o­lu­tion satel­lite-based map­ping is the best in the business, and a 10.1-inch cen­tral in­fo­tain­ment dis­play looks crisp and clear, backed by wire­less phone charg­ing and mir­ror­ing fea­tures.

With de­signs on fash­ion con­scious buy­ers, Audi has spiced up the pop­u­lar Q3 DAVID McCOWEN

A flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel with shift pad­dles hints at sport­ing in­tent, as do suede­like Al­can­tara and buffed alu­minium high­lights in a beau­ti­fully ren­dered space.

The seats and steer­ing wheel of­fer more ad­just­ment than most, and there are plenty of places to store odds and ends.

Larger than be­fore, the new Q3 is rea­son­ably prac­ti­cal thanks to 530 litres of boot space made pos­si­ble by a three-way spilt/fold rear seat with a re­clin­ing back­rest and the abil­ity to slide 130mm fore and aft to pri­ori­tise cargo or pas­sen­gers as re­quired.

We tested the Q3 40 TFSI qu­at­tro on a mix of high­ways, moun­tain passes and coun­try lanes south of Syd­ney. Im­pres­sively re­fined, the Q3 was quiet at mo­tor­way speeds while of­fer­ing dy­namic com­po­sure from taut sus­pen­sion. Re­cent time in cheaper SUVs on the same route showed that there’s more to lux­ury cars than their badges — the Q3 felt much more sta­ble and com­fort­able than bud­get al­ter­na­tives. It steers sweetly, has im­pres­sive brakes and re­sponds well when hus­tled along a favourite road.

Huge 20-inch wheels on the qu­at­tro vari­ant lend un­flap­pable trac­tion on dry tar­mac, and a choice of driv­ing modes helps tai­lor the car to your mood. It’s an im­pres­sive ma­chine, though there are short­com­ings.

Pre­mium fuel is a must, and of­fi­cial con­sump­tion of 8.2L/100km in the 2.0-litre car isn’t par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive. The coupe-like sil­hou­ette cuts re­duces head­room and cargo ca­pac­ity com­pared to the reg­u­lar Q3, and BMW’s ba­sic X2 is about $3000 cheaper.

Audi is con­vinced those fac­tors won’t be a deal-breaker among fash­ion-for­ward cus­tomers, for whom only a Sport­back will do.

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