(Audi Q2 1.4 TSI) The Audi Q2, says Audi, is the first premium small SUV. Possibly it’s splitting hairs here – consciously avoiding the term crossover despite the Q2’s low-slung looks, and thus differentiating this A3-sized addition to its ever-expanding range from the likes of the Mini Countryman and the Mercedes GLA. Especially since it also acknowledges benchmarking the cheaper Mini when developing the Q2, and admits its customers are already making the comparison to the more expensive Mercedes.
Either way, Audi thinks it’s on to a winner. Which is possibly how it’s justified flying us all the way to Cuba to try the thing for the first time.
How small is the new Audi Q2?
It’s 13cm shorter than the A3 Sportback. As you’ve probably already guessed, it’s based on the same MQB platform as well, albeit with a wider track in order to compensate for its taller height in the corners. Audi is hoping for 70% conquest sales, given this is an all-new model feeding the ferocious appetite of the SUV market; we suspect the aforementioned Sportback needs to be looking over its shoulder, as the Q2’s seat-up bootspace is greater, and its upright packaging means there’s also just as much space for passengers inside.
MQB helps make the Q2 light – with the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol starting at just 1205kg – which is good for handling and efficiency. It’s also spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel, resulting in an impressive drag coefficient of 0.30.
Not exactly pretty is it?
It’s better in the metal, but that tapering roofline and the pronounced corners do somehow conspire to give it a gangling, ever so slightly awkward look. See it for real, however, and you do start to appreciate the intricacies of the design a little more.
The wheelarches are prominent not because they’re exaggerated but because part of the shoulder line has been chamfered away between them, visually lowering the cabin in the process. The tail-lights are much squarer than the usual Audi affairs, and the extended roof spoiler and raised bumper insert serve to compress the appearance of the back of the car.
The idea is to give the Q2 its own personality, though the front end is also stage one of a plan to make the difference between A and Q family Audis more distinct. It’s a design you come to admire, if not fall in love with, and one that also offers more than Audi’s usual levels of personalisation; the panels on the C-pillar are available in different colours, and can even be changed at the dealership.
Is the Audi Q2 also admirable to drive?
When it launches in the UK in November 2016 you’ll be able to pick from two petrol and two diesel engines with power outputs matched at 114bhp and 148bhp – though naturally the diesels will be torquier, more economical and more expensive. In Cuba, however, we were only able to sample the 148bhp 1.4 TSI turbo petrol.
Not that this was a particular hardship. With cylinder on demand imperceptibly cutting it from four to two cylinders to save fuel under light load, yet enough oomph to easily overtake the meandering diesel-converted 1950s Americana that dominates the roadscapes around Havana, this works very well in the Q2. As does the new, friction-reduced seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission. Paddle-shifting rarely comes snappier.
The test cars were front-wheel-drive. This is probably all most people will ever need, but Quattro all-wheel drive will be available in time.
And in the corners?
There wasn’t a great deal of opportunity to really fling the Q2 about around Havana, but with standard-fit progressive steering and a wide, square stance, it did a nimble job of dodging the numerous – and often massive – local potholes. There’s not a great deal of feel through the steering, but the front end is as pointy and positive around town as you’d expect of a car that’s been benchmarked against a Mini.
The combination of Cuba’s roads and 18in wheels ought to have been extremely bad news for the ride quality, but in fact this was pleasingly tolerable on both the standard passive and optional active suspension setups. Bodes well for the UK, though we fear the 19s you can spec are likely best left to the aesthetically obsessed; these are so big you actually get little extensions to the wheel arches to keep them legal.
Anything innovative about the Q2’s interior?
It looks largely A3-derived at first glance, but in reality the Q2’s cabin design is subtly different, with chunkier elements – like the door handles – different materials and the ability to option coloured sections of trim, not to mention ambient lighting. Audi is also cramming in the technology, with much of the same safety and connectivity tech offered as you’ll find much further up the Audi range.
You won’t have much to quibble about in terms of quality, and there’s plenty of passenger space for a vehicle of this size. But overall this is still a very safe design, only likely to turn Mini buyers’ heads if they’re looking for greater maturity.
Audi Q2: verdict
A limited first encounter, but a positive one: the new Q2 has the presence, the badge power and enough fundamental ability to do well. But if you’re in no hurry to buy, it may be worth waiting until we can make a proper comparison with Countryman Mk2 later this year, because pleasant though it is, the Q2 doesn’t immediately feel like a total sector-dominating superstar.
Price when new: £25,500
On sale in the UK: November 2016
Engine: 1395cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 148bhp @ 5000rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500rpm
Performance: 8.4sec 0-62mph, 129mph, 55mpg, 139g/km (all est)
Weight / material: 1250kg (est) / steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4190/1790/1510 (approx)