The SUV and CUV segments are bursting at the seams. Almost every carmaker offers at least one and that is because you, the car-buying public, are demanding them. You’ve been snapping them up like they’re going out of fashion – not that there’s any risk of that happening anytime soon. In fact, the segment is so popular that the ubiquitous saloon is in danger of extinction.
Audi used to have three SUVs in its line-up, but that’s just grown to four with its latest entry, the Q2, which will go up against the likes of the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA. In two years from now, Ingolstadt will have added the Q4 to rival the upcoming Range Rover Velar and then the Q8 will scare the X6 and GLE coupé. But it doesn’t end there; it’ll be taking Tesla head-on with the e-tron Sportback by the year 2019, bringing the tally to seven family-friendly high-riders.
If you think that’s too many, I’ve got news for you; having wheeled this little beastie, all I can say is I want more! It’s small but has a lot of presence; those broad shoulders and angular styling give it a bit of panache and the low roofline – with a long spoiler – adds to its sporty demeanour. You can’t miss the large single-frame grille, below which sit a pair of air inlets that are even bigger than the wedge-shaped headlights. The exterior sure has a lot of character (our S Line tester had even more thanks to those 19in five-arm rotor design alloys) and the cabin tries to match it with a dash of red trim (ours also had the optional LED interior lighting package, flat-bottom steering wheel and panoramic glass roof).
But a little more effort could have been paid in dressing up the plain-looking dash. The speedometer and tachometer glow in the fully digital Audi virtual cockpit and the 12.3in screen, which displays highly detailed and brilliant graphics, is one of the many highlights of the Q2. It also has MMI navigation plus with an 8.3in monitor, head-up display, packs an emergency braking assistant as standard, and if you can’t do it yourself it’ll even steer into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces in either reverse or forward direction. Not impressed? You will be when I tell you it can exit parking spaces. All you need to do is set the right gear, accelerate and brake, but it won’t be long before you don’t have to do even that…
It offers ample headroom (1,029mm) and generous shoulder room (1,390mm) and in fact it feels so big on the inside that you’d be fooled into thinking that you’re driving a Q5 instead of this diminutive Q2. Given that it only measures 4,191mm long, 1,508mm high and 2,009mm wide, it still gives you a ‘big car’ feel. And it’s big on performance too.
Audi borrowed a phrase from Mini saying it offers a ‘go-kart feel’, and there’s no better way of putting it. Show it a long straight and the 150-horsepower 1.4-litre TFSI engine devours the road with the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission snapping away, but offer it a corner and it gleefully jumps in like a playful puppy and is eager to dart left or right. It remains stable and poised and is backed by the progressive steering offering good feedback, which makes this compact crossover agile and fun to fling around. Part of that is down to the low curb weight and the torque vectoring system working its magic in the background, allowing you to push this Audi way past what you perceive to be its limit.
The suspension’s a touch on the firm side and that’s good as it keeps the Q2 from rolling too much in the bends. The wide rear track helps in this regard too, and it’s almost like being in a hot hatch. OK, a warm one (it shares the same platform as the A3) but it grips really well, you always feel connected to the road and although the springs are stiff, the ride isn’t harsh. Opt for Dynamic in Audi Drive Select (you get five modes) and it sharpens the steering and gearbox and firms up the shocks, making it very enjoyable to chuck around, but when you just want to cruise with your four passengers in tow, stick it in Comfort for a serene ride.
If you were growing concerned about the sheer number of crossovers and SUVs entering the market, Audi is here to put those worries to rest. The Q2 is Audi’s smallest and cheapest SUV – but it sure isn’t the least interesting. If they’re all like this – stylish, practical and blessed with impressive driving dynamics – it’ll be a case of the more the merrier.