First impressions are almost always dangerous, especially in the automotive world – a hard fact we discovered after taking the all-new Audi Q2 for a spin in Europe recently.
After all, several new parents in our own CarAdvice team had previously raised concerns around the haulage capacity of the Q3, specifically in relation to those oversize, three-wheel monster strollers that fitness fanatic types seem so bent on lugging around suburbia these days.
So it was with some surprise that I realised the world can indeed benefit from the diminutive Q2, after I spent the best part of a day with Audi’s newest and smallest Sports Utility Vehicle.
Apart from a thoroughly fresh approach to design and its inherently decent driveability, which we’ll get to later, it’s charm comes down to the Q2’s cleverly devised cabin architecture.
At 4190mm long, the Q2 is 120mm shorter than the A3 Sportback with which it shares the same MQB platform. Cleverly, though, it’s got more boot space behind the rear seats.
Passenger space is better than expected too, as it’s also taller and wider than its A3 sibling. But while rear seat headroom is good, even for tallish adults, I’d suggest legroom in the back row is less so – and more kid friendly in that regard.
Right from the outset, Audi was keen to differentiate its smallest Q car from the rest of its SUV line-up, and while that’s clearly evident from the outside design, it’s less apparent inside. In fact at first glance, the cabin looks like a carbon copy of the A3, but on closer inspection you’ll discover some not-so-subtle differences that clearly point towards a younger buyer for the Q2.
There are some different materials used (and some cheaper plastics), like the properly chunky door grabs and brilliant ambient lighting, which floods the cockpit like the opening night of Sydney’s spectacular Vivid light festival.
Buyers can also option coloured sections of trim, including the door handles, dash and centre console to colour-match the seat upholstery. According to Audi’s Design Colour and Trim specialists, there are up to five million colour combinations possible with the Q2 – all key features for the younger demographic the Q2 is hoping to target.
Don’t get me wrong, Audi is still the gold standard when it comes to crafting automotive interiors and the Q2 is no exception. It’s still a premium class cabin, despite its entry-level positioning in the brand’s SUV stable. It’s a claim that’s backed up by Audi’s decision to open up its technology store to the Q2, making available all the latest high-tech gadgetry as well as a suite of advanced driver assistance systems previously offered only in its larger, more expensive models.
Standard equipment across the entire Q2 line-up includes Audi Connect, Progressive Steering, Bluetooth and voice control, Dual-zone climate control, MMI Navigation with seven-inch screen, Audi smartphone interface, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera and Audi pre sense city (full auto braking).
As expected, buyers will also be able to choose from an extensive options list, which Audi says will likely be bundled into various reasonably priced packages. Highlights include Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, ambient lighting (10 colours), electric tailgate, LED headlamps with dynamic rear indicators, head-up display, MMI Navigation plus, adaptive dampers and Audi Drive Select.
Whereas the interior is visibly related to the A3, it’s the exterior design work that really sets the Q2 apart from Audi’s entire SUV range, or for that matter, any other Audi.
The Q2 isn’t just an important vehicle for the German luxury carmaker geared to attract conquest sales (winning over prospective buyers who are thinking about other brands), it’s also the first new model that Audi design boss Marc Lichte has played a hand in.
Like it or not, in the Q2 you are seeing the early phase of the next generation of Audi design. While it’s unmistakably Audi, there’s a lot going on here that we haven’t seen before. There’s a new-style octagonal grille and sharper edges all round, and a brand new LED light signature for the daytime running lamps.
The inspiration for the wider-than-usual hips comes from two sources, according to the designer who penned the feature. He’s the owner of an original Audi Quattro (the car with flared front and rear wheel arches) and wanted that same optic for the Q2. He also liked a particular image of an American gridiron player in full game dress, again, emphasising power and agility.
I wouldn’t call it pretty, but it’s definitely got character. Especially eye-catching is the low roof-line (not dissimilar to the Range Rover Evoque) that merges into the contrasting C-pillars. The extended roof spoiler works too, as it adds an essential dose of masculinity to this inherent urban dweller.
When it launches locally early in 2017 you’ll be able to choose between just three engines, two petrol and one diesel: a 1.4 TFSI front-wheel drive with 110kW and 250Nm with cylinder on demand (COD), a 2.0 TFSI quattro with 140kW and 320Nm and a 2.0 TDI quattro with 110kW and 340Nm of torque.
While both 2.0-litre powertrains are paired with Audi’s newly-developed seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (S tronic), which uses wet clutches and is said to be faster and more refined, the entry 1.4 TFSI Q2 gets the current seven-speed dual-clutch (dry) gearbox.
In terms of fuel consumption, Audi is yet to release any performance and economy data figures for the 2.0-litre powertrains, but claims as low as 5.2L/100km for the 1.4 TFSI COD – with standard wheels and tyres, with CO2 emissions down to 119g/km.
In Europe, however, we were only able to sample the front-drive 1.4 TFSI and 2.0 TDI Quattro, which was a shame, as the extra poke available with the 2.0 TFSI would have allowed more flexibility in these parts, especially as we carved our way up towards the spectacular Swiss Alps on one occasion.
That said, the 1.4 is likely to be the crowd favourite in Australia, for it’s a thoroughly good match with the lightweight Q2 – one made even better by the seamless cog-swapping of Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It’s a sweet engine that’s noticeably quiet and smooth revving, yet there’s ample punch when you need it, especially if you choose the optional Audi drive select system with Sport mode.
Cruising on the motorways is next to effortless, and I’d defy anyone to pinpoint the precise moment when the Q2 drops two of its four cylinders in its quest for ultimate economy.
Armed with 340Nm between 1750-3000 rpm, the 2.0 TDI quattro is the heavy lifter of the bunch, offering bucket loads of pull and strong throttle response throughout the entire rev range. There’s less of the standard diesel clatter than I remember with this engine, helped no less by the various friction-reducing technologies employed.
Audi is pushing ‘sportiness’ with the Q2, which is where its ‘progressive steering’ comes into play. It varies the steering gear ratio in concert with steering input and is quite effective, albeit without any real feedback through the steering wheel itself. It’s still an annoying trait with many Audi models, in my opinion.
It’s quite a nimble machine too, with surefooted road-holding (tried and tested on wet roads) and grip levels that make it mildly fun to drive.
Ride comfort though, is very good. Our tester was equipped with the optional adaptive dampers, which was able to soak up all manner of bumps we deliberately threw at it. But even in the Dynamic setting, the ride was suitably cushioned and comfortable – at least up front.
A more definitive verdict will need to wait until we assess the vehicle more thoroughly on local roads, but first impressions are indeed positive.
By breaking away from its usual design formula, Audi has skilfully created just what it intended with the Q2; a small, but practical SUV with enough tech, charm and badge appeal to tempt a new generation of Audi drivers.
Final pricing and specifications won't be revealed until closer to the local launch early next year, but click here for more details.