Audi Q2 is a cynical marketing ploy, but it won’t stop you wanting one
The new Q2 is hardly innovative, but Audi has made it too good for us to dislike it
Audi Q2’s arrival is as predictable as the coming in of the tides.
Audi’s Q2: The levels of quality are simply brilliant, space in the front is good, seat comfort is fine, and the big, bright, useful ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital display panel is just fantastic, albeit and expensive option.
Audi’s new Q2: Photos don’t do it justice at all, making it look pinched and tall.
Date Reviewed: June 30, 2016
I thought I would hate this car. I had expected to break open a splenetic jar of undiluted bile and start pouring it all over Audi’s new small crossover, complaining that it’s just too fashionable for its own good. That it’s an over-priced bauble in a market where people really ought to be buying something more sensible, by gum, if only they knew what was good for them.
I just didn’t want to find my grumpy, ageing, too-sensible self getting sucked into its trendy orbit.
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The Q2’s arrival is as predictable as the coming in of the tides. Audi has long since committed itself to being the world’s biggest seller of luxury cars by 2020 (a title also coveted by BMW and Mercedes) and has, for an equally long time, identified crossovers and SUVs as the primary route to dominance. Build them high, sell them not-cheap, you might say. The Q2, although it looks close to the dinky A1 hatchback in size terms, is actually based on the same MQB component set as virtually every other Audi and VW Group product these days, so there’s actually more A3 in its bones and structure than A1.
It looks, and we may as well start peeling back the layers of my grumpiness here, really quite terrific. Photos don’t do it justice at all, making it look pinched and tall. Actually, it’s quite low-slung for a crossover, with an impressively tight roofline, and the jewellery of those chunky headlights and tail-lights, as well as the big, broad, wide grille give the Q2 presence beyond its physical dimensions.
Inside, you get exactly what you expect - an Audi cabin. Now normally we’d say at this point that that’s too predictable, seen-it-all-before, next-please… But again, we can’t. Yes, every surface, texture, button and (digital) dial are familiar, but they cohere into a generally excellent whole. The levels of quality are simply brilliant, space in the front is good, seat comfort is fine, and the big, bright, useful ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital display panel is just fantastic, albeit and expensive option. In the middle there’s a slender infotainment screen which, sadly, doesn’t fold away as it does in the A3, but which is pretty gorgeous and easy to use nonetheless. There’s even a wireless charging pad for your Samsung phone, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As with all new Audis, it’s also fully connected, coming with a built-in SIM card that brings t’internet to the dashboard, and which for an extra fee you can also uses as a wifi hotspot.
That’s not our favourite part of the interior though. No, our favourite bit is the lightly textured trim you’ll find on the dash and doors, which looks pleasant enough in the day but which in the dark is actually backlit from below, in a choice of colours. A silly touch, but a rather endearing one.
At least it might take your mind off the space in the back, because there isn’t much. Knee-room for anyone over five-feet tall is going to be tight, and headroom, thanks to that vacuum-packed roofline, is also a little snug, certainly if you’re tall. The 405-litre boot is, though, some compensation, although rivals such as the Mini Clubman do definitely offer more rear seat space.
The Countryman also has the legs of the Q2 when it comes to driving, although the gap isn’t as wide as you might expect. True, the Q2 lack’s the tall Mini’s steering sharpness, but it’s significantly more refined, and the Q2 gets standard variable-rack steering, which means less effort at low speeds. Through corners it fells tight and well-balanced, with that steering sending a seamless flow of instructions from your palms to the wheels, albeit with not all that much chatter going in the other direction. Damping is excellent, but the car did feel a little fidgety on the mirror-smooth Swiss roads of our test route, even on the smaller 17” wheels, so it may well prove to be too stiffly sprung for comfort on Irish tarmac.
Of the engines, the 1.6-litre, 116hp four-cylinder diesel will undoubtedly be the best seller when the Q2 arrives here in November. It has 110g/km Co2 emissions (which seems oddly high, doesn’t it?) but 50mpg should be easily do-able in daily driving. It’s a little grumbly at low speeds, and blares tunelessly like most diesels at higher efforts, but it’s fine.
Much better than fine is the entry-level three-cylinder petrol turbo. It matches the diesel with 116hp, has only a 50Nm torque deficit and is genuinely lovely to drive, pulling strongly even on the motorway in sixth gear and with a sweet, refined nature. It’s also only €10 a year worse off in the motor tax stakes, so unless you have an unquenchable hatred for petrol engines, it’s definitely the Q2 for which I’d go.
I hate fashion, I hate trendiness and I hate thinking of myself bending to the marketing man’s rule. I also abhor cars that are less practical and more expensive than an equivalent other, and those are both categories into which the Q2 falls. Yet I don’t hate it. In fact, whisper it, I think I actually quite like it…
The lowdown: Audi Q2 1.0 TFSI S-Line.
Top speed: 190kmh.
Claimed economy: TBA.
CO2 emissions: 120g/km.
Motor tax: €200.
Verdict: A car this fashion-forward doesn’t need to be this good, as people would likely buy it anyway. Kudos to Audi for making it this good.
Our rating: 4/5