Audi Q2

Sub-compact SUV thatís big on charm and ability

JOHN CAREY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

WHOíS going to want a Q3 after the Q2 reaches Australia in Q1 next year? The angles-withattitude exterior of Audiís new small SUV looks Audiís new small SUV looks great. The interior, chassis and drivetrains arenít bad, either.

And Audi is aiming for a Q2 range entry point price thousands below the $42,900 tag worn by the least expensive Q3.

While it sells well, the dumpy and frumpy Q3 is the least attractive model in Audiís current line-up. The pert and poised Q2, on the other hand, is a charmer.

The name implies a full size step down from Q3, and the Q2 is smaller. Itís 200mm shorter (thanks mainly to small overhangs), lower and slightly narrower. But the newcomer is another mash-up of the VW Groupís MQB component set, and the 2600mm wheelbase it happens to share with the threedoor A3 Australia doesnít see is a scant 5mm shorter than the Q3ís.

That wheelbase is the foundation for an interior package thatís reasonably spacious.

Thereís sufficient knee, head and toe room for tall adults in the rear seat. The Q2ís long rear doors also improve rear-seat access ease compared to the Q3.

The Q2ís interior is a lively, high-quality and well-equipped environment. Fit and materials are Audi excellent, and the standard kit-out lacks for little; autonomous emergency braking, a rear-view camera combined with all-round parking sensors, and dual-zone climate are all there.

But the list of infotainment and connectivity features is even longer: MMI Navigation with 7.0-inch hi-res display; Audi Connect; smartphone interface, and Bluetooth plus voice control. Options Ė including MMI Navigation Plus with a larger screen; Audiís brilliant Virtual Cockpit instrument screen; a head-up display; adaptive cruise, and a bunch of other driver-aid systems Ė make it possible to go even further.

Audi Australia aims to price the Q2 from a little under $40,000. The range will open with the frontdrive 1.4 TFSI in Design trim line.

The 2.0 TDI quattro in Sport trim will go on sale at the same time in the first quarter of 2017. These will be followed, soon after, by a 2.0 TFSI quattro, again in Sport form.

Wheels tried the first two at the international intro in Switzerland.

The 2.0 TDI quattro has a 110kW turbo-diesel four, teamed with a new seven-speed (wet) dual-clutch íbox. No complaints about performance, shifting or traction, but the engine should be quieter and smoother.

The very direct (just 2.0 turns lock-to-lock) variable-ratio electric-assist steering rack used in all Q2 variants makes the Audi feel quite agile. But you can sense the effect of the 35mm extra ground clearance compared with an A3 when cornering, the feeling amplified by a driverís hip-point thatís 85mm higher.

Naturally enough, the cheaper 1.4 TFSI is expected to be the best-selling Q2. Although it has a rear torsion beam instead of the multi-link suspension of the quattro-equipped Q2s, itís a sweeter drive overall. The 110kW turbo-petrol four, which is combined with a seven-speed (dry) dual-clutch transmission, is a more refined engine, and the simple rear suspension has little negative effect on handling.

Ride could be another matter, but the smooth roads of Switzerland made it hard to tell.

Road noise levels seemed a little high, however. What was missed in the 1.4 TFSI was quattro-style grip. It sometimes scrabbled for traction out of tight hairpins.

But the mere fact that the Q2 encouraged a little cornering enthusiasm is further confirmation that itís a more characterful Audi SUV than the yawn-worthy Q3.

PLUS & MINUS

Road noise; front-driver sometimes scrabbles for traction Exterior design; interior package; quality; handling; equipment Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI 1395cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 110kW @ 5000-6000rpm 250Nm @ 1500-4500rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1280kg 8.5sec (claimed) 5.5L/100km (EU) $39,500 (estimated) Q1 2017

íBAG THE BOSS 01

Like other recent Audis, the Q2ís steering wheel features a compact airbag module in its centre. One big advantage is a less obstructed view of the instruments, especially important when the brilliant (but optional) Virtual Cockpit screen is installed.

STRAIGHT UP, PEOPLE 02

Audi developed a new steering column, different from any other MQB-based model from the VW Group, specifically for the Q2. Engineers wanted to make sure the steering wheel was close to vertical, like in a car, not tilted, as in a truck.

A CUT TO CARGO 03

Where the Q2ís more compact dimensions are most evident is the 405-litre cargo compartment, which is more than 50 litres smaller than the Q3ís.

Sailing the coast

ĎSailingí is a feature of the new seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission teamed with the 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines used in top-end, quattroequipped Q2 models.

With Efficiency mode selected, the transmission switches to neutral when coasting, for fuel-saving freewheeling. This technology also permits the Q2ís stop/start function to shut down the engine once speed drops below 7km/h.

OR TRY THESE...

Mercedes-Benz GLA180 $42,900

Added to the range in December 2015, the front-drive 180 became the least expensive GLA. The entry to the Q2 line-up, the front-drive 1.4 TFSI, will cost thousands less, has a more powerful engine, is probably better packaged and is arguably better looking.

Mini Countryman $37,155

Most basic automatic Countryman undercuts the probable $39,000 price of the cheapest Q2. Its non-turbo 1.6-litre four is easily outgunned by the Audiís 1.4-litre turbo for power and efficiency. The Q2ís less hysterical interior design are further reasons to prefer it.