This quirky crossover SUV reeks of class, style and versatility, says Y’s motoring expert Alvin Thomas.
If I had a dime for every time a manufacturer took its flagship SUV and put it on shrink through their scanner (figuratively) to reveal a smaller version of the same, I would be worth – at the very least – a couple of dollars.
There really is no other way of putting it: motor manufacturers love recycling and eking out every inch of potential from their designs before finally laying them to rest. And undoubtedly, Audi has been involved in this wheeze – alongside most other European manufacturers – for a while now without blotting its copybook.
Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; right?
Mind you, Audi’s Q7, Q5 and Q3 are still all SUVs that have their own perks and their own signatures despite sharing roughly analogous designs.
But you know what? People adore them all. Just take a look at the individual sales figures of the vehicles against their rivals on the market. As a matter of fact, Audi’s Q5 was ranked in second place in sales in the premium SUV segment in 2016. That’s pretty darned impressive.
Little wonder then that the lineup has grown by one; and that too by an SUV that comes as a complete surprise to us motoring journosaurs here in the Middle East.
Yes, folks. It’s the Audi Q2, and it’s here to steal the “smallest Audi” title from the Audi Q3.
And you remember all those statements I made about Audi SUVs sharing similar designs? Well, take them out and throw them in the woodchipper. Because, the Q2 is as exclusive as an Audi SUV can ever look.
Boy, does it look fantastic, or what?
Granted, the Q2 is unmistakeably an Audi, with its large octagonal grille and gaping air intake scoops. But, it looks more amusing than its larger siblings; more exciting, even.
Why, though? For starters, the Q2 is well-proportioned. The lights are larger, and even the daytime-running LED lamps look disparate from what you would customarily find on another Audi product.
Apart from that, Audi has also strategically-used plastic panels to give the Q2 its laddish charm.
My tester, which came in red, and with blacked-out panels looked especially stunning in person.
The side profile of the Q2 is far from boring, too. The low roofline and ride height, combined with the length of the SUV, gives it a unique and sporty appeal. There’s also a horizontal line that runs across the doors of the SUV, which splits into two and then conjoins again. This is not a typical Audi design, but it’s definitely beguiling for a sub-compact SUV.
The rear, thanks to its sloping roofline, small rear window, and plastic-covered bumper panels also enhance the distinct look of the SUV. Oh, and for that added touch, Audi throws in dual-exhausts, too. Thankfully, regarding the latter, there’s none of that usual design malarkey, either. The exhausts are rounded, and fit into the posterior rather well.
If I had to nitpick, though, I’m not a big fan of the grey blade plastic panel on the C-pillar of the SUV. But, ask Audi and they will chuck in a black C-pillar.
Overall, the Q2 still has the same Audi DNA but the subtle changes distinguish it from the other ‘Q’ crossovers, with efficacy.
For the first time, Audi has also chucked in a funky interior into the mix. The dashboard is simple but can be ordered in many different colours (for the inlays, sections of the seats and contrasting stitching). You can also opt for white plastic or brushed aluminium as you see fit.
The interior is simple and the buttons are all well placed. You get your usual physical buttons for all controls, including the AC, music controls, 18cm infotainment screen and even the vehicle dynamic controls). I’m grateful Audi hasn’t gone the way of other manufacturers in eliminating buttons from the cabin.
Surprisingly, only the top half of the interior and the door armrests are wrapped in soft-touch padding. But, even then, the rest of the cabin is covered in hard – but premium –plastics.
The seats, meanwhile, are very supportive and bolstered, too. The knee and head room upfront is top-notch, but things get a bit sketchy in the rear. With the seat pushed back into my driving position, rear knee room was a bit scarce. But that’s a characteristic of vehicles in this class. Competing SUVs really do not offer much more in terms of space, either.
Meanwhile, headroom is above-average, despite the sloping roof.
The boot is sizeable, and is perfect for your transporting of eight to ten shopping bags or even a small mountain bike. However, if the going gets tough, you can always fold the rear seats down to make more space for cargo. Mind you, even then, the floor is quite high, thereby resulting in a shallower boot.
Underneath the hood lies a 1.4-litre in-line four-cylinder turbocharged engine. While the engine may be puny, there’s nothing frail about the performance of the Q2. Power and torque figures are rated at 150hp and 250Nm, respectively. The engine is furthermore mated to Audi’s legendary seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which sends power to the front wheels.
The engine is torquey at low rpm, resulting in excellent pull from the get-go. It makes the car a breeze to drive in the city. Even on the highway, the Q2 holds its own. However, the engine does suffer from a slight hint of turbo-lag, especially when you slam the throttle at speeds above 100kph.
Even then, the Q2 is extremely brisk. It completed the 0-100kph run in a mere 8.9 seconds, making it faster than its nearest rivals.
Predictably, there’s a lot of wheelspin upon take-off despite my test-car being fitted with large tyres wrapped in 46cm alloys. The traction control will eliminate any unwanted understeer, though.
However, the Q2 stands out from all other entry-level Audis, in one single aspect: it’s extremely peppy to drive. The Q2 is based on Volkswagen’s ‘MQB’ platform, and it gives the SUV a different character.
While a handful of Audis understeer, the Q2 likes to oversteer into corners like a hot hatchback. Driving this reminded me of the previous iteration of the Volkwagen Golf GTi.
The oversteer comes courtesy of a stiff (and extremely well-tuned) chassis, which flexes ever-so-slightly when cornering hard. This aids in lifting the rear wheels, thereby resulting in a graceful power slide. Of course, the computer nannies will keep the oversteer in check if you leave them on.
The steering, like that of most Audis, is sharp and precise yet lacks feel. Still, the steering rack is responsive and incredibly fun to play around with.
Meanwhile, the brakes are well-weighted and progressive, making it easy to drive in and around the city. This, coupled with the slick-shifting double-clutch gearbox makes for a very special driving experience.
The gearbox is quick-witted and remains in the right gears for most of my drive. Sadly, my tester did not come with paddle-shifters. But, I’m sure that will be an optional extra in the future 2.0-litre variant, which will debut, soon.
In all, the Q2 is an excellent offering by Audi for the young hipster audience in the region. It’s got everything: the looks, power and even the character to gain cult status; and above all, it is one of the most engaging SUVs that you can currently drive from the German stable.
Don’t buy it because you want a premium SUV that is relatively inexpensive to buy. Buy this because it’s a fantastic vehicle to own. For the duration of my drive, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat; and that’s something its competitors have yet to match.