German carmaker Audi has been so successful at addressing every conceivable gap in the market, it seems a month doesn’t go by without at least one new car launched with the famed four-ring badge.
By last count, Audi had no fewer than 19 different models and an eye-watering 182 variants to choose from – and there’s no sign Audi’s roots will stop spreading anytime soon.
Audi is on a mission to right this product imbalance as quickly as possible by announcing more SUVs to its stable; the Q4 will arrive in 2019 and the Q-topping Q8 a tad earlier. For now though, Audi has released the all-new Audi Q2, a smaller and sportier compact SUV that sits under the Q3.
The Q2 presents a whole new proposition to Audi buyers, employing a brand-new design language that’s quite unlike that of its larger siblings. It’s actually part of a grand plan that will see even-numbered models from Audi adopt the same sportier approach to design, while odd-numbered models will continue with more traditional SUV styling.
No doubt about it, the Q2 has got presence. At least, it certainly turns heads. This is a design influenced by the original and beloved Audi quattro and, more bizarrely, by an American Gridiron player.
You see, Audi is banking on the Q2 to attract an entirely new buyer. A younger, hipper crowd. The type who are looking for a cheaper entry point into a premium brand, but without sacrificing any of the usual luxury kit found in more expensive German models.
It might be small, but inside it’s still very much a premium class cabin with a few cheaper plastics here and there – to help make the numbers work, I suspect.
The new design direction on the outside is less obvious in the cabin, where it’s pretty much standard A3 fare, except for a few not-so-Audi things like the chunky door handles and different flavoured trim in a multitude of colour combinations.
Personalisation is clearly the name of the game with the Q2, with buyers able to choose between different trim lines, as well as change the colour of the add-on bits like the lower edge of the front bumper, the underbody protection, the single frame and air-inlet grilles, wheel arches and the sill trims. Even the C-pillar blades are interchangeable depending on which trim you choose.
Better still, Audi has opened the doors to its tech store for the Q2, so you can get stuff like Virtual Cockpit Display, ambient lighting, electric tailgate, LED headlamps, head-up display, adaptive dampers and Audi Drive Select. But for the most part, all the good stuff is optional, either individually or as part of the various packages on offer.
Unless of course, you get one of these, the Q2 Edition 1. It comes with a special package that includes this unique Quantum Grey paint job, LED headlights and rear taillights with dynamic indicators, sports front seats in plush Milano leather and privacy glass.
But those extra goodies come at a price – $47,800 plus on-roads, instead of the entry-level $41,100.
But either way, even the base model isn’t short on standard kit. For starters, you get Audi Connect, which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, Google search, Google Street View and Google Earth.
Whichever way you look at it, though, the Q2 is well equipped, even in entry-level spec. You get Audi Connect, progressive steering, dual-zone climate control and MMI Navigation with 7.0-inch screen and a thoroughly decent audio system. So, still, plenty to get excited about.
But what about space? After all, the Q2 is still a sports utility vehicle, despite its baby-size status. We’ve got some good news on that front. Even though it’s shorter than the A3 Sportback (by 120mm), it has more boot space behind the rear seats. It’s also taller and wider than the A3, meaning there’s a surprising amount of legroom for rear passengers.
Its A3 pedigree means it drives well, too. Under the bonnet is a high-tech 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol making 110kW and 250Nm, with power going to the front wheels via Audi’s seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.
That’s right, you don’t get Audi’s legendary four-wheel drive quattro system, at least not in this guise. Only the top-shelf diesel gets the all-wheel drive system – at least for now. Later on, you’ll be able to get a 2.0-litre turbo petrol with 140kW/320Nm, and quattro.
It’s hardly a deal breaker, though, as there’s nothing wrong with front-wheel drive, especially if you’re going to going to be doing mostly local driving. Better traction in the wet, too, and generally better fuel economy because it’s lighter, and it has COD – cylinder on demand.
It’s also a sweet engine and noticeably refined, despite its relatively small displacement, though, it’s not without low-down lag if you’re a little too eager with the throttle out of the gate.
That’s not to say it doesn’t perform on the open road. Gliding along at 110km/h is truly effortless, and if you need to overtake, well, there’s plenty more for those manoeuvres, too.
And even at this pace, it’s quiet and doesn’t feel under stress, with plenty more under the right foot if needed.
Audi is pushing sportiness with the Q2, which is where ‘progressive steering’ comes into play. It varies the steering gear ratio in concert with steering input – it’s effective, as the Q2 feels light and agile – perfect for tight city streets and those nerve-wracking underground carparks.
We really do like the quick steering, but again, this is another Audi that fails to put any driver-friendly feedback into the steering – so it’s just like a video game console in that regard. It could be so much more fun with a steering system that added more life and feel.
And even without quattro, it’s still a sure-footed thing with solid roadholding and grip credentials. You can pretty much throw it from corner to corner without any negative chassis reaction. In some ways, it feels underpowered, but then on the other hand, it’s well suited to a variety of driving styles and terrain.
Unfortunately, ride comfort is a bit of a mixed bag on Sydney roads, at least with our front-wheel drive tester. While quattro versions get a four-link rear suspension system, front drive variants make do with a lightweight torsion-beam rear axle. While bumps and compressions are generally absorbed, broken road with sharp edges are well and truly felt by those all those on board.
So, by breaking away from its usual design formula, Audi has created just what it intended with the Q2; a small, but largely practical SUV with enough tech, charm and badge appeal to tempt the Millennials into handing over 40-odd grand.
We’re also thinking the yet-to-arrive 2.0-litre TSFI with quattro drive might well be the sweet spot in the Q2 range, given the uprated power and suspension gains.
We’ll keep you posted.