Review: the new Audi Q2

What do we have here?

The newest and smallest member of Audi’s rapidly expanding ‘Q’ family. A mildly jacked-up mini SUV designed specifically to live in the city, it’s Audi’s attempt to attract younger buyers by hitting the small SUV sweet spot, breaking from its Russian doll design philosophy and offering a level of customisation that’s a must these days. If we were being cynical we would call the Q2 a fractionally raised A3 Sportback – it shares the same MQB platform, engines and safety systems after all – but more thought has gone into it than that.

And why on earth are you driving it in Cuba?

Erm, we’re still not entirely sure, although the weather was lovely. What it did highlight though was in a city stuck in time and mobilised by very well used American 50s classics, a bright red, brand new Audi gets a lot of attention. Locals weren’t just staring, they were gawping, totally confused as to how and why a futuristic craft like this could have landed in their town. We stuck out like a sore thumb. The Q2 won’t even be sold there, on account of the few foreign cars the government allows in being subjected to an 800 per cent import tax, but there is a reason we’re here to drive it – Audi has found the only country in world with worse roads than the UK.

So it was in its element then?

To an extent, but there’s nothing particularly rugged or sporty about the Q2 – it’s very much of the soft-roader variety. Adaptive dampers are optional and in their softest setting offer a more supple ride than the passive setup, but let’s be honest here, when you spend most of the day smashing through potholes the size of France even a hovercraft would have a hard time maintaining comfort levels. That the jolts and crashes remained manageable, and things smoothed out significantly when the road surface improved, bodes well for the Q2 coping with the UK.

How big actually is it?

The hard facts are this: it is 200mm shorter than a Q3 and 130mm shorter than an A3 Sportback, but slightly taller and wider than the five-door A3. Its obvious rival is the soon-to-be-replaced MINI Countryman, although with prices for the Q2 expected to start from around £20,000 it’s a few grand dearer. So far so Audi, but where the Q2 sets itself apart is its design, which actually takes a few risks. The scalloped-out shoulder line, for example, gives the Q2 its visual signature, while the new octagonal grille will be applied to all future ‘Q’ models as Audi seeks to draw clearer lines between its ‘A’ and ‘Q’ ranges, and the R8.

So it’s a looker then?

It’s certainly more interesting than most of Audi’s most recent designs. It’s a squat shape up close: short overhangs and with a real sense of width when you see it dead on from the front or back, but the basic proportions aren’t wildly different to an A3.

The personalisation options aren’t on the same plane as a MINI or Vauxhall Adam, but include wheels ranging from 16in to 19in (17s are likely to be the best compromise between style and comfort), a selection of colours for the interior trim and ambient lighting and contrast-coloured panel on the C-pillar – for now available in three shades of silver or body-coloured, but not black.

Any bold styling moves on the inside?

Not particularly, but then Audi’s interiors are already top of the pile, so more of the same will do nicely. It’s space that matters here and the Q2 has a seriously deep 405-litre boot (more than the A3), but because of the slightly raised rear seats the maximum 1,050-litre space is a little less than the A3. Rear legroom is limited for anyone over six foot, but there’s headroom to spare. What you don’t get from the inside is (terrible phrase, I know) a commanding driving position – it just feels like a standard hatch, again bringing into question the Q2’s real value over an A3, other than it’s jauntier styling.

Does it drive like a regular hatch, too?

Yep, without having the visual reference of the wider and squarer bonnet in front of you, you’d be hard pushed to tell this apart from an A3. Progressive steering, where the ratio increases the more you twirl the wheel, is standard on every model and actually gives the Q2 decent agility when weaving between craters and broken down American classics. Beyond that, it’s a package finished with the usual Audi polish, so exceptional refinement, an interior of peerless quality and surefooted, if a little uninspiring, handling in the few meaningful corners we encountered.

And then there’s the technology, Audi’s full arsenal of optional safety and infotainment technology is offered, ranging from adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, to the virtual cockpit digital display and a 705W B&O stereo. The only surprise is a slimline screen that looks fantastic, but doesn’t retract into the dash like the A3.

Any surprises under the bonnet?

Not if you’re up to date with Audi’s small car family. From launch you can have a 113bhp three-cylinder 1.0 TFSI or a 148bhp 1.4 TFSI, plus 113bhp 1.6 and 148bhp 2.0 TDI engines. Next year a quattro-only 187bhp 2.0 TFSI will be introduced, while there’s a choice of six-speed manual and seven speed S tronic gearboxes. We tested a front-drive 1.4 TFSI S tronic (no diesels were available given the shocking quality of Cuba’s fuel) but as luck would have it, it’s a fine match – punching hard enough when you need it, fading out at a cruise and slipping into two-cylinder mode when you really feather your right foot. The engineers we spoke to denied a plug-in hybrid Q2 e-tron was under development, but hinted that both an SQ2 and RS Q2 are in the pipeline.

Another polished effort from Audi, then?

All in all, the Q2 feels like a subtle repackaging of the A3 Sportback – a new ‘top hat’ if you like, perched on the versatile MQB box of bits, rather than something new from the ground up. It’s not revolutionary in any particular area, but it is executed masterfully and precisely what customers are clambering for. Most importantly for the fashion conscious youngsters Audi is targeting, it’s different enough to make you stand out in a crowd.