Chris Price reviews the Q2, the German company’s foray into the fast-growing compact SUV ‘crossover’ arena. His verdict? A great addition to the growing line up…
Let’s face it, SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) can be a bit of pain. They take up a lot of space on the road, are difficult to park, and are often driven by the kind of people who believe they have the God given right to bully drivers in smaller cars. Or is that just me?
Having said that, there is something to be said for having a higher driving position and the more spacious interior that many SUVs offer over their conventional counterparts. The Audi Q2 is an attempt at producing something that is the best of both worlds, a vehicle that looks and feels like an SUV, but is compact enough to get around the streets of a big city like London where most SUVs are inevitably kept.
In other words a motor that’s quite likely to be driven by Yummy Mummies and Delicious Daddies, dropping off Tarquin and Jemima at the school gates of their private schools in Highgate!
With prices currently starting at a reasonable £22,380 (and with an entry level 1 litre £20K model due later this year) the Q2 isn’t so ridiculously expensive that you have to re-mortgage your house either. So it’s quite possible that the appeal will be much broader than the North London middle classes too!
For the car’s marketing campaign, Audi has used the hashtag ‘untaggable’ in order to suggest that you can’t easily put a label on the Q2. But while the Q2 represents Audi’s foray into the compact SUV, or ‘crossover’, arena it’s not exactly alone in this category.
As well as established motors like the Nissan Juke, there’s also Mercedes with its new-ish GLA series, Mini with its ridiculous un-Minilike Countryman and the downright ugly and overgrown bigger brother of the the Fiat 500, the Fiat 500X.
Out in the wilderness
For the official UK launch I was one of a handful of journalists to be invited to the amazing Wilderness Reserve in Sibton, near Yoxford in Suffolk (review to follow). It makes a pleasant change. Most car launches seem to take place in the Cotswolds – Clarkson’s County as I call it – so to head east to a part of the world I know well and love was something really special.
Just to be able to drive to beautiful coastal towns like Southwold and Aldeburgh on a crisp and cold Autumn day was a rare treat. But to be able to do so in a brand new car in the middle of the day when there were actually very few cars on the road made it that bit more enjoyable (I was careful not to break the speed limit of course – knowing just how many active speed cameras there are along the A12!)
Myself and my co-driver Dad blogger John Adams decided to go out in the seven speed S tronic, appropriately coloured canary yellow for the Norwich City fans who live the area (although officially referred to as Vegas Yellow). At least no one was going to miss us coming towards them!
Thankfully other colours are available, including black and white in solid colours and a whole host of metallic finishes including orange, grey, silver and red. There’s also a blue ‘crystal effect finish’ which is rather nice.
Interiors can be similarly customised with different types of seating and coloured aluminium. One interesting if slightly gimmicky feature are the interior LED lights which can be personalised to the colour you want (there are also LED headlights front and rear.)
Looks-wise, the Q2 is very pleasing I think, certainly more so than some Audis I see on the road which are a little, well, boring in comparison. There’s an unusual hexagonal strip in the body work under the windows, but this works well and echoes the shape of the rear headlights.
The only thing I really don’t like is the area above the rear wheels. Called the C-Pillar, this is configurable in white or various shades of grey unless you go for the special edition model called the Edition #1 which will set you back over £32,000.
The Edition #1 incorporates its own C-Pillar ‘blade finish’ in solid Brilliant black with the four rings logo which sounds a lot nicer. To me, the grey finish cheapens the look of the car – it’s rather like someone has smashed the window and you’ve just had to find a new temporary panel to cover the damage!
On the road with the Q2
Audi press events are, as you might expect, well organised affairs. After compulsory breath testing in the morning (there was a slightly boozy dinner the night before in the walled garden of the amazing Wilderness Reserve), we were given a series of suggested road routes for the test drive.
However, because I know the area very well I decided to ignore these completely and head off to the seaside instead! Had it have been warmer I would’ve gone for a swim in the sea too as I have in previous car trips. But it wasn’t and so we drove up the East coast taking in the scenic delights of Aldeburgh, Thorpeness and Southwold on land instead – even parking up and stopping for a coffee on the bracing Southwold pier (I think we were the youngest people there by about 30 years!)
The first model we took for a spin was an automatic, 7 speed 1.4 litre S tronic model (the TFSI Cylinder on Demand 150 PS S line) which was very simple to drive if not exactly overly exciting. We loaded the relatively capacious boot with all our camera gear, put the car in drive and were away!
Audi’s product manager Chris Batty (see YouTube video here) reckons that around 60 per cent of UK customers will order a petrol engine with the 1.4-litre 150hp TFSI cylinder on demand models being the choice of about 40 to 45 per cent of customers (undoubtedly diesel seems less popular since the emission tests debacle a little while back). Around 60 per cent will choose the manual transmission, he reckons.
To be honest I had expected the 1.4 litre engine to be a little underpowered when pulling out from minor country roads onto the A12. However, actually nothing could have been further from the truth. The Q2 was surprisingly punchy from a standing start (official stats shows the petrol version can do 0-62mph in a respectable 8.5 seconds compared to 10.3 seconds for the diesel). Where it did struggle a bit more though was accelerating at faster speeds, particularly between 50 and 60 miles per hour.
When I was learning to drive back in the 1980s cars were still notoriously unreliable, especially the British ones it seemed. It made driving seem unpredictable and dare I say exciting, never knowing whether you were going to make your destination without breaking down or the wheels falling off.
These days cars are so reliable and so dull that driving generally isn’t as much fun as it used to be, especially in London where your average speed is pretty much the same as it was when horse and carts were around over 150 years ago. Automatics can be particularly dull if I’m being honest though they do make driving around the city a whole lot easier.
So to spice things up a little bit, I also took out a sporty manual version of the Q2 in Tango Red before lunch was served in the sumptuous surrounds of Sibton Manor. Called the Q2 150 PS Sport, it’s actually quite a bit cheaper than the S tronic version and infinitely more exciting to drive.
On board are six gears with the display showing you how many of the four cylinders you are using at any one time. It almost felt like I was driving a race car for a minute, ripping around the streets of north Suffolk (though I did manage to stall the car in the tiny village of Wenhaston!)
Stuffed full of tech
These days features, especially in car tech features, are increasingly important, especially given that many of us increasingly take top level performance for granted. The Q2 is somewhat predictably stuffed to the guns with tech, much of it similar to that found in the A4 which we reviewed last year.
I won’t bore you with describing it all (you can watch the video below to get more information). Suffice to say that all Q2 models come with a 7inch MMI (MultiMedia Interface LCD screen) in the centre of the dashboard. This can be hooked up to your smart phone for playing music via Apple’s AirPlay etc or accessing the phone’s maps should you wish to use them rather than the car’s built in sat nav.
The only annoying thing is that it’s not a touch screen display. Instead you have to use the rotary dial built into the console below which takes some getting used to (see image above).
In addition, to the LCD screen in the centre of the vehicle there’s also the 12.3 inch virtual cockpit complete with 1440 x 540 pixel display (see image below). Here you can switch between a ‘classic display’ with speedometer, rev counter and gear indicator and an ‘infotainment display’ which reduces the size of the speedometer etc. and gives you larger navigation maps or media.
With half of Audi’s global sales now in the SUV category, according to the company’s Head of PR Jon Zammett, it’s no wonder the German manufacturer has decided to make its debut in the compact ‘crossover’ category with the launch of the Q2 this November. I think it’s done a good job too. Design is more contemporary than recent Audis I have seen and while this is sure to be a popular model for parents on the school run, it will appeal to other groups too with various sports options and with prices starting at a little over £20K. I particularly liked the 1.4 150 PS Sport which is fun to drive but would probably plump for the S tronic automatic model for driving around a city which I do most often. The higher, but not too high, driving position is particularly welcome and I found the Q2 to have more than enough power despite the relatively modest 1.4 litre engine.
Located in north Suffolk, near Yoxford, the Wilderness Reserve – which was the stunning location for the Audi A2 launch – is a former Georgian manor house. Built in 1827, it’s now owned by Jon Hunt, the founder of the famously pushy estate agency Foxtons (he sold Foxtons in 2007 just before the property crash for a reported £360 million).
Set in a 4500 acre estate, near the small village of Sibton, accommodation at the Wilderness Reserve comprises the main manor house (Sibton Manor) and a range of country cottages to suit just about every taste and budget. A quick look in the guest book reveals a few of the famous people who have stayed here including the fashion model Alexa Chung and actor Robert Pattinson. Steven Spielberg is also reported to have visited but unfortunately I couldn’t find his name in the guest book.
We stayed in the Walled Garden, a series of unlocked rooms in a cottage about a five minute drive in a golf buggy from the main manor house. During our stay a chef was on hand to prepare food in a very large and well stocked kitchen which provided stunning views over a large walled garden (in fact when the chef wasn’t cooking he was tending to the garden).
The room was very comfortable, rather too comfortable as I couldn’t turn the touch screen heating device by the bed down from a rather toasty 28 degrees centigrade. Clothes storage in the room was very limited (there wasn’t a wardrobe in the main room) and unusually there wasn’t a shower, but there was an attractive roll top bath and heated flooring in the bathroom.
As well as a lake, there’s also a small, heated pool on the estate surrounded by sheep and pheasants (see picture above). I was told by the driver of my golf buggy that it was heated to a constant temperature of 26 degrees and was available all hours but when I got in at 6.30am one morning it was considerably cooler than that. Still it was an amazing experience to swim in the middle of nowhere with just a few nearby sheep for company!
Audi Q2 Specs
Model tested (Vegas Yellow): Q2 1.4 TFSI Cylinder on Demand 150 PS S line S tronic
CO2 emissions: 123 g/km
Tax band: D
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Transmission type: 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission (automatic)
Top speed: 131 mph
Model tested (Tango Red): Q2 1.4 TFSI Cylinder on Demand 150 PS Sport
CO2 emissions: 124 g/km
Tax band: D
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Transmission type: 6-speed manual transmission, synchromesh on all gears
Top speed: 131 mph