When you get a thumbs up from a stranger in the school parking lot, you know that the designers of whatever you're driving have hit the nail flat on the head.

WHAT IS IT?

A premium compact coupe SUV, the Audi Q3 Sportback is on point in terms of what's trendy these days. It is an outstanding, very upmarket offering that is perfect for the upwardly mobile young couple who enjoy roadtripping, as well as a safe and sexy commuter for the executive who needs nothing bigger.

WHY THIS?

The Q3 Sportback is a complete package, as long as you don't need huge volumes of boot space – the more svelte profile of the Sportback version cuts into the vertical boot volume. It combines an edgy but handsome countenance with a great engine that provides pace and efficiency, as well as the Audi levels of comfort and finish that we have become used to. The elevated ground clearance and commanding seating position round off an extremely desirable SUV.

OUTSIDE

When you get a thumbs up from a stranger in the school parking lot, you know that the designers of whatever you're driving have hit the nail flat on the head. The Q3 Sportback is that sort of car, thanks to a very modern iteration of the Audi family face and the racier profile. The big grille (we seem to say that about most cars these days!) might be a bit too much, but from there back everything is beautifully sculpted and in proportion, and the lowered roofline makes it one of the most handsome SUVs out there.

INSIDE

Modern design and technology is blended with traditionally premium materials for a cabin that soothes you after the pandemonium of life outside your car. One thing that Audi does so well is make sure of the tactile qualities of every surface that you regularly touch – little stainless switches, leather steering wheels, soft-touch dash. It just makes the interior feel as classy as it looks.

The 40 TFSI quattro comes standard with an 8.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, rear parking aid, light and rain sensor, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel and seats with an upholstery combination of leather and synthetic leather. That said, the Audi options list is long and full of zeroes, so you can easily jack up the kit (and the price!) of your Q3 Sportback to stellar levels.

Because the roof is lower than that of the standard Q3, there isn't quite as much headroom in the back, but it is adequate.

THE DRIVE

There's nothing particularly new about the drivetrain of the Q3 – it's a familiar turbocharged 2-litre petrol engine coupled with a DSG transmission with 7 cogs – but it remains a great piece of engineering. 140kW of power, 320Nm of torque and a seven-speed automatic gearbox, with the option of changing gears manually, makes this car so entertaining to drive. It's not far off from being a hot hatch, but you can still conquer that rough track to your weekend retreat without scuffing body panels or cringing every time you approach a bump. In Sport mode, the suspension is firmer than that of a normal SUV, which makes for great handling on tar, while Comfort mode enables it to smooth out the corrugations a little more effectively. I have always been a fan of Audi's quattro system, which makes the handling safer in low-traction situations and gives you a bit more confidence behind the wheel.

FINAL WORD

Easy to live with and look at, the Q3 Sportback is a hard car to fault. Personally, I would take the edgier looks of this over the standard Q3 any day, and the 40 TSFI engine is the perfect everyday pairing for the design.

GO GET IT

This is a car that competes with other premium SUVs and coupe SUVs, so the price is not insubstantial. While the Q3 Sportback range starts at R614 000, the S Line 40 TFSI Quattro is R758 500. Included in the price are a 5-year/100 000km maintenance plan and warranty. Visit www.audi.co.za for more information.

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