When Audi launched the Q2, the latest and smallest in its Russian doll line-up of Q cars, a few month’s ago, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a junior SUV, something like the size of the original Subaru Forester, but with Audi’s classy cockpit and styling pazazz. I’ve long been a fan of the lumberjack Scooby (see last month’s review), though cockpit ambience and styling pazazz were perhaps not highest on the otherwise long list of its attributes. But Audi making a genuinely compact occasional off-roader: this suggested a classy car of niche usefulness when the general entropy amongst all such machines is for them to get bigger with each successive incarnation.
From the Cold War Lada 4×4, to the now insanely popular Skoda Yeti, there has always been a buoyant demand for small, rurally-inclined motors, though all thus far have been aimed at the more basic end of the market. Perhaps that is the nature of the beast: a run-about for hay and dogs needn’t be too classy up front. But with Range Rovers and Q7s latter-day carriages of distinction, surely there is room for a compact version?
And indeed there may well be a specification of the new Q2 that would fit that bill (basic SE with 16-inch wheels and a sober colour?), but the moment I clapped eyes on the almost solar YELLOW of the Q2 delivered to my house in north Norfolk, I knew I was going to have to drive it straight back to London. To review the machine in its home terrain, if nothing else, but also so that no-one I knew saw me driving it. At the age of 52, pottering about the rural by-ways of Norfolk in this car would have announced a mid-life crisis more completely than a gym subscription and teeth whitening.
The niche Audi has aimed for, and hit squarely in the bull with the Q2 and especially the Bling-Ring model they delivered to me, is not exactly rural. This Audi is aimed at computer-savvy, digital natives who spend 99% of their time on tarmac in a city, but might occasionally want to drive over someone’s lawn … so that they can plug the car in to the swimming pool stereo. Only the word stereo probably dates me too. The Q2 is a youthful, urban oriented machine to say the least. It’s like driving a computer to kick off with, a car for digital natives, not hay-and-muck natives. The Technology Pack with which my Q2 was fitted (a £1595 option) equips the car with a 4G SIM card and online connection to live traffic information, to Google Earth and Street View, Twitter and email. The car has Apple Carplay too, so you can hook up your playlists to the car’s gramophone. Audi’s virtual cockpit gives you a customisable dashboard, the SatNav map right there in front of your eyeballs, signalling every nuance in the road ahead for the spirited driver on their annual rural excursion to Glastonbury.
And they’d be having a good time driving there too. By the outskirts of London (via what passes for the hill country of East Anglia, followed by the Fens, followed by the A1, followed by the North Circular) I had rather fallen for the charms of this off-road computer, not just because actually the Street View is really cool, the Bang and Olufsen sound system a veritable concert-hall, the cockpit as classy and cosseting as any other Audi, but most of all because of how well it drove. The 1.4TFSi petrol engine of the test car, which at 148bhp I suspected might be a bit wheezy and gruff when pressed, was smooth and had oomph a plenty. The S tronic gearbox was great too: taut and accurate. And the handling was skateboard flat without being uncomfortably fidgety, as often happens when a top-heavy SUV is tamed by firm suspension. Interior space is good too: there was room for an adult behind the driver’s seat and the boot is hatchback plus spacey. Audi says the dimensions are comparable to their A3 but it feels bigger on the inside, even if from the outside it does basically looked like a pumped-up hatchback in a tight tee-shirt.
As a practical, compact SUV … well maybe the Q2 is more penthouse than paddock but for all that it is still a very neat machine. I had the car for a week in all, and had to return to Norfolk eventually, where with a cap pulled down hard over my forehead, I thoroughly enjoyed driving it.
Audi Q2 1.4 TFSi S-Line S-Tronic OTR from £27,515
Annual Road Fund Licence £0.
Combined fuel consumption; 54.3 mpg.
Power: 150 bhp.
0-60 mph: 8.5 seconds.
Top Speed: 131 mph.