Agreed but I think the game should just autosave when changing areas & when completing quests. I'm playing the Witcher 2 and find the autosaves are way too frequent; if anyone has played that they will know what I mean.
I'm fine with autosave being available for those who want to use it - as long as there is also an option in the menu to switch it off.
Personally I will switch autosave off whenever I can, I would rather do my saves manually, without having to put up with the stutter and pause that autosave often creates in the game, also in my experience relying on just one save is a good way to loose all progress if that file gets corrupted.
With the combat being as difficult as it is it might indeed be good to have a save before you enter combat so that you can reload just before if it all goes pearshaped.
No, before battle is not the best way for an autosave. Imagine, when reloading an autosave game, you're deadlocked on fighting a very powerful mob that you can't escape from.