I like the Audi Q2. Really like it. You can throw all the brickbats you like at Audi, and for sure the Q2 falls into the usual ‘why is it so expensive and how much are all those extras?’ camp. But the Q2 is so very nice I defy you not to want one.
It’s a compact crossover, smaller than the similarly priced Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan, arguably more on a par with the über-successful Nissan Juke. Except, as Audi will immediately point out, the Juke isn’t ‘premium’. And the Q2 genuinely is.
Which means plenty of nice touches. A solid, round gearlever, the tactile switches, the impressive circular air vents and the window controls that feel so precisely engineered. None of these do their job any better than what you’d find in a Kia. They simply feel reassuringly expensive.
The styling of the Q2 sets it apart, too. Heavily sculpted sides, concave flanks around the doors, a low roofline and the contrasting paint on the rear pillars; it looks different.
Enough of the eulogy. Does the Q2 drive well?
Audi says it set out to make the Q2 go-kart-like to drive which, surely, must mean like a MINI. Except the extra height of the Q2 makes that target a bit more of a challenge.
Credit where it’s due then, for this small Audi really is entertaining, tackling tight corners with gusto, accuracy and stability. Most models get ‘Drive Select’ which lets you set steering and throttle responses to your liking. Higher up the range, this sets the suspension stiffness as well. Both the manual and the new automatic transmission are easy and satisfying to use, the only criticism being that the auto can be slightly jerky at lower speeds, although not very often.
Surprisingly, the cheapest Q2 comes with a tiny 1.0-litre petrol engine. In the past, that might have been worrying, but turbocharging means it’s pleasant enough – feisty even – if you are prepared to change gear frequently.
The 1.6 diesel and 1.4 petrol models, also both turbocharged, will be the best sellers. Even though the diesel has only 116hp (the same as the 1.0 petrol), it pulls strongly and quietly and could be the pick of the range. The 1.4 TFSI has 150hp and is a great balance between sportiness, economy and price.
Topping off the Q2 line-up are the 2.0-litre models, both petrol and diesel. I drove the 190hp diesel, which comes with Quattro four-wheel drive and a paddle-shift automatic transmission.
It was a great deal of fun in the mountains around Zurich. It steered and gripped like a good hot hatch, and, where the conditions allowed, was exceedingly quick. Somehow, you quickly overlook the more limited rev range of the diesel engine and simply use the torque to power swiftly along.
So it’s fast, but possibly compromised?
You’d think so. To stop tall cars leaning over in the corners, the usual ploy is to stiffen the suspension, with a consequential impact on ride comfort. But the reality is that the Audi Q2 isn’t really that tall, so the compromises are fewer and the suspension smoothness is as good as most hatchbacks. You can, if you choose, specify the adjustable suspension, but it’s not really necessary.
Whether or not the standard seats are any good remains to be seen, for all the test cars had the optional sports seats, which were very good indeed. Plenty of all-round support and posh car levels of comfort.
Posh car standards?
That’s the key to the Q2. You can specify much of the same equipment you see on an Audi A8. Just because it’s a small car, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in equipment or potential.
The simply delicious upscale ‘Virtual Cockpit’ sat nav system from the Audi TT is here as an option. Now it comes with Google Earth, which means you get a genuine satellite view of your route. There’s a head-up display above the dashboard, anti-crash technology, plus tons of features that, standard or optional, you simply can’t get in cars of a similar price.
Connectivity – it’s the way forward
Good news here. Plug your Android or iPhone into the USB port and you use Google Maps on screen for your navigation. There’s Spotify and other apps, too. On SE models it’s a killer feature, but as you move up the range the Q2 comes with an embedded SIM card of its own, and you get up to three years of European-wide data before you have to start paying.
But it’s tiny, right?
Certainly the Q2 is no giant. But from the front seat it feels fine, with lots of seat and steering wheel adjustability. You sit lower than in most crossovers, so unless you jack the seat right up, you don’t get that domineering SUV driving position. On the other hand, it does feel a bit sporty and anyway, Audi’s targeted buyers in the 30-40 year age range don’t want to feel they are sitting in something like a Qashqai.
Rear-seat space is helped by the high cushion, which means legs aren’t forced underneath the seat in front. Legroom isn’t generous, but there’s certainly room for four adults in the Q2 without compromises.
Boot space is Golf-sized and about average, although if you specify the top hi-fi system you lose space to the huge woofer. A divided rear-seat backrest is standard and these flop easily down onto the cushions to give an – almost flat floor. Floor width is a whole metre, which is impressive on any car. Spare wheel? Forget it.
So what about that pricing issue?
Audi Q2 prices start at £20k for the 1.0SE and run through to £31k for the top 2.0TFSI quattro with the seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission. Key models are the 1.4 TSI Sport at £23,930, and the equivalent 1.6 diesel at £24,030.
While these are premium prices for a small car, they are within the reach of many. Audi’s continuing sales success in the UK is on the back of buyers being prepared to pay a little more for a quality product, and there is every reason to expect the Q2 buyers will embrace this.
Your personalised Q2
Personalisation is a big deal for the Q2, but Audi is only doing what BMW has done with the MINI, Fiat with the 500 and Vauxhall with the Adam. Choose from a whole raft of options to make your Q2 unique. Favourites are likely to be the Virtual Cockpit, accent colours for the interior trim and LED lighting packs.
2016 Audi Q2: Early verdict
It’s hard to see the Q2 not being another Audi success story. There’s a call for a really nice car of this size, and the fact it drives so well broadens its appeal considerably.
The Q2 manages what the MINI Countryman fails so abjectly at: looking good. Inside, it has the premium feel of bigger Audis, rather than the Countryman’s small-car-got-bigger impression.
Yes, it’s a little pricey, but to our mind the Q2 is not that expensive for what it has to offer. This could be the new car buy of 2017.
It’s a style statement
Great quality interior
Engaging to drive
It will cost more than you first thought if you delve into the options
Not really a five-seater
S tronic automatic transmission can be jerky.
2016 Audi Q2 1.4 TSI Sport S tronic: Specification
Engine: 1.4-litre petrol turbo
Gearbox: 7-speed automatic
Torque: 184lb ft
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Top speed: 131mph
Fuel economy: 54.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km