The Q2 SUV is hardly a surprise new model - Audi is filling every available niche with as many SUVs and crossovers as it can create. But it's a better car by far than just a mere marketing and sales exercise. Here we review the 1.0-litre petrol version.
In the Metal:
We so often say that cars never look as good in the photos as they do in real life, and the Q2 seems emblematic of that. In photos it looks far more plain and simple than it does in reality. Get up close and personal with the Q2 and you soon start to appreciate just how complex and pleasing its various shapes and lines are. Yes, it's as familiar as any Audi, but in the lights, in the deep scallops taken out of the body's sides and in the bigger, broader single-frame grille, there are new touches to be found. Less sure is the rear pillar, which is covered by a sheet of coloured plastic that can be, for a fee, changed according to the owner's whim. It's a nice enough idea, but less good in execution - it's too easy, depending on the colour, for it too look jarring or out of place. Besides, has anyone ever actually taken advantage of an option such as this? Doubtful...
Inside, things are much better, and this is a cabin of superior quality and layout. OK, so this was a highly specified car, with just about every option from the full-width digital 'Virtual Cockpit' display panel to dual-zone climate control and such niceties as the wireless phone charging pad. Even so, and assuming that a bog-basic cabin would not look quite so inspiring, there's a lot to like. Great quality, great surface textures and neat touches such as the dash and door trim that's actually backlit, in a variety of colours, from behind.
There are some flaws though. The back seats are short on both legroom and headroom (though the 405-litre boot is actually pretty generous) and while the front seats are very comfortable and supportive, the driving position is a little offset, and when you're sitting right for the wheel and pedals, the manual gearshift feels set about two inches too far back.
Audi could have been forgiven for just not bothering with this bit. Create a funky, fashionable exterior, a high-quality cabin and then sit back and let the deposit dollars roll in. Chassis tuning? That's for proper cars, lad...
So there are kudos to be handed out for the suspension and steering development teams who have made the Q2 surprisingly engaging to drive. All Q2s get Audi's progressive steering, which alters the steering ratio depending on the car's speed, and it works really rather well. You're never actually aware of the changing rack speed and in fact the steering feels nicely balanced and weighted and points that square nose into corners with no little verve. There's not a lot of feedback and feel, but considering that Audis in general are not great communicators, there's a lot to like here and, overall, the Q2 feels closer to the rival MINI Countryman in driver engagement terms than you might have expected.
The chassis feels stiff, rigid and pretty well poised, and hammering up the side of a Swiss Alp felt as natural to it as loafing around town. Arguably more so actually, which is a surprise. The only down side is the ride quality. While the Q2 is one of those cars that seems to ride more smoothly the faster you go, the fact is it felt quite firmly sprung and damped even on the glassy, rolled-flat roads in the Zurich hinterland. That doesn't bode well for Irish roads.
What does bode well though is the 1.0-litre TFSI three-cylinder engine. Those assuming that a diesel Q2 would be the pick of the range may be surprised by just how good this eager little engine is, and I reckon it's the one to have in your Q2. It has the same power (116hp) as the market-leading 1.6-litre diesel and not far off the same torque. It's also rather wonderfully smooth and enjoyable to drive, revving eagerly on the fast uphill stretches in low gears, but also being able to pick up easy pace on the motorway when cruising in sixth. It's by far the engine that suits the Q2 the best.
What you get for your Money:
The short answer is that we don't yet know how much the Audi Q2 is going to cost in Ireland so we don't yet know how much you're actually going to get for your money. What we can assume is a starting price at around the €27-29k ballpark, and for that you'll get lots of standard safety toys (including autonomous emergency braking), but most of the choicer items (Virtual Cockpit, the full-fat MMI infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the active cruise control with autonomous traffic driving, the self-parking and active lane departure steering etc. etc.) will all be on the options list and all will be expensive.
Fashion should really not the be thing you look for in a car. You should look for function, practicality and quality. The thing is that the Audi Q2 actually manages to transcend the limitations of the class it's entering - yes, it's fashionable and trendy, but those qualities are backed up by some rigorous engineering.