Audi's SUV provides a fresh pop of colour

The Audi Q2 is nimble and comfortable.
The Audi Q2 is nimble and comfortable. PHOTO: AUDI

Audi's new compact SUV combines practicality and competence with technology and aesthetics

Audi's new and first Q2 emerges in a market where conventional sedans are haemorrhaging market share to compact sport-utility vehicles (SUVs).

As the Q2 makes its debut in Zurich, the maker's intent to infuse the car with youthful vim is immediately apparent upon our arrival at the event site at Dubendorf Airport. The venue's walls are festooned with riotously colourful graffiti, an aesthetic quite at odds with Audi's usual grown-up, sober identity.

The car itself comes in a striking design and palette of colours. Polygonal surfacing unique to the Q2 in Audi's line-up complements "floating-blade" C-pillars for a boxy appearance. While not exactly beautiful, it is fresh and unique.

Inside, the news is almost universally good. The dashboard's form borrows heavily from the A3, itself a paragon of minimalistic modern chic. Here, the atmosphere is enlivened further, as part of an illumination package, by smartly appointed inlays with colourselectable backlighting.

Audi's excellent "virtual cockpit", a configurable screen that replaces conventional dials in the instrument cluster, will be available as an option, but connectivity features will be limited in Singapore.

  • SPECS / AUDI Q2 1.0 TFSI MANUAL

  • Price: To be announced

    Engine: 999cc, inline-3 turbocharged

    Transmission: Six-speed manual (seven-speed dual-clutch DSG likely to be available in Singapore)

    Power: 116bhp at 5,000rpm

    Torque: 200Nm at 2,000-3,500rpm

    0-100kmh: 10.7 seconds (six-speed manual)

    Top speed: 202kmh

    Fuel consumption: 4.9 litres/100km

    Agent: Premium Automobiles

Closer tactile inspection reveals some hollow plastic noticeable where higher Audis would never deign to put them, particularly on the door cards. Yet, the Q2's overall aesthetic is tasteful enough to give it a sophisticated and expensive feel.

Standing at 20cm and 13cm shorter than a Q3 and an A3 Sportback respectively, the Q2 has a small footprint. Yet its clever packaging and use of the versatile MQB platform means it is able to accommodate five adults comfortably and also a boot that is only 15 litres smaller than the Q3's.

We set off in Zurich and it is not long before we wriggle free of the city's strangling speed limits and begin ascending the serpentine Alpine roads running through Switzerland's spectacular countryside.

Audi's turbo three-cylinder behaves with the eager vigour we have come to expect from the best of its type. It scurries up the rev range enthusiastically and emits a muted growl that is not unpleasant.

The car responds promptly and linearly to requests for acceleration and shows little struggle even on the mountains' steeper inclines. Our press car comes equipped with a well-judged six-speed manual transmission, but we expect the dual-clutch automatic to perform with no less zip.

Body control is disciplined, while the turn-in is sharp and the grip levels inspire confidence. Audi is keen to emphasise a "go-kart feel", certainly inspired by Mini.

I would, however, hesitate to describe it as such, even if the little Audi is nimble and entertaining to drive.

The more mature Q2, for better or for worse, lacks the naked hyperactivity so characteristic of the Mini Countryman that one could either see as charming or wearisome.

More importantly, the Q2 communicates the position of its four wheels with clarity.

Together with the customarily good level of visibility inherent in SUVs, the car is effortless to place in tighter settings, be it on the narrow stone wall-lined two-way mountain roads or in towns swarming with cyclists.

Ride quality is solid and comfortable. The four-hour jaunt through the Swiss countryside is kind on my spine, though passengers in the back seat perched over the rear axle fare slightly worse.

There is no shortage of compact SUVs on the market. Hence, the Q2's success is contingent on its ability to marry a superior premium feel with the city-biased SUV virtues of practicality, modern technology and dynamic competence.

Based on these criteria, Audi has a formidable weapon in its compact SUV stable.

• The writer is a contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'A fresh pop of colour'. Print Edition | Subscribe