Audi has a noble approach of putting substance ahead of flashy aesthetics. The current A4 is a prime example. We can heap praise on this car — and have done so many times. It delights with peerless interior quality, assured road manners and a sense that it was made to last much longer than the average lease term.
And yet, more people are inveigled by the styling charms of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, even though the Audi trounces it in the areas that truly matter. The manufacturer should probably do something to pander to those who want a little exuberance and flash. The burgeoning compact crossover segment could represent an opportunity to knock two birds with one stone: boost sales volumes and seize the affections of a younger, funkier bunch.
These aspirations are cast on the shoulders of the new Q2. Wearing what Audi calls Vegas Yellow paint, it is unlikely to blend in at the company parking lot. The model was launched in South Africa yesterday. The weakest link in the Audi Q-series range seems to be the aged Q3. And until a replacement comes along for that model, you feel that this smaller sibling will prove more enticing.
For starters, it looks better: purposeful, square and confident, whereas the Q3 appears bulbous and bloated. Audi has, however, ensured that it does not step on the toes of its elder sister from a space perspective. The boot, for example, is marginally smaller at 405 litres compared with 420 litres. That basically means one fewer satchel. It does offer more than an A3 Sportback with its 380 litres of luggage capacity.
As for the launch, there was one engine choice available: the 1.4T FSI with an output of 110kW and 250Nm. In May this will be followed by the 1.0T FSI (85kW and 200Nm) and the 2.0 TDI (105kW and 350Nm). The diesel is only available with the seven-speed S-tronic transmission. But the petrol pair will be available with a six-speed manual or the S-tronic choice. We are keen to experience the 1.0-litre unit, but our impression is that the 1.4-litre is the sweet spot in the range. It provides agreeable momentum and features clever elements to help conserve fuel, such as cylinder shut-off technology.
Many buyers take assurance in the consistency of how the Volkswagen Group products d r ive . And since the Q2 is underpinned by its familiar MQB platform, you can bet that it is good. This feels wholesome and pleasant, in a vanilla sort of way. Shoddy surfaces do not faze the Q2 and comfort levels are outstanding. Their efforts at expelling exterior noise seem to have been rather extensive too. And what happens when you show the Q2 light treachery?
You would not recommend anything more strenuous than a gentle gravel road. It has a ground clearance of 150mm, not particularly impressive when you consider that some cars in this ambit — like the Subaru XV — offer as much as 220mm. The Audi is certainly an urban warrior that is happiest sauntering around the city and freeways. The cabin is as tightly screwed together as with all current Audi offerings. The red trim inlays of our test unit offset the dark and clinical ambience that tends to define Teutonic cabins.
Now for some criticism. While all the immediate touch points are plush, you can spot that Audi used plastics from a tier below in some areas. The door panels and lower parts of the fascia are giveaways. This is not to say the materials are substandard — but maybe far closer to elements you would find in a Volkswagen. Now, you might think that cost-cutting measures like these would equal a palatable price.
But any way you view it, the Audi Q2 asks for substantial outlay. And this becomes a bit of a problem when you look at the equivalent costs of other rivals in the crowded compact crossover field. Audi can use the premium status of its product as a defence, but for the same money, you might decide to look up one segment. And when you do so, would you ignore the presence of the bigger, equally accomplished Volkswagen Tiguan?
Still, let us compare apples with apples. There is an enclave of the compact crossover segment with a premium slant. Here you will find players like the Mini Countryman and Volvo V40 Cross Country. Audi will want to exploit this niche — but can targeting a niche fulfil the mandate of bigger sales volumes? Indeed, the Q2 has quite a bit to think about. – Brenwin Naidu (Pics: Waldo Swiegers)
2017 Audi Q2 Pricing:
1.0T FSI Manual: R434 500
1.0T FSI S-Tronic: R453 000
1.0T FSI Sport Manual: R464 500
1.0T FSI Sport S-Tronic: R483 000
1.4T FSI Sport Manual: R511 000
1.4T FSI Sport S-Tronic: R529 500
2.0 TDI Sport S-Tronic: R565 000