Car reviews - Audi - Q2 - 1.4 TFSI Design
Blends small car sense of fun with big car relaxation and refinement, zippy and efficient drivetrain, great dynamics, dual-level boot provides useful extra space
Room for improvement
Obvious cabin cost-cutting, cramped rear seating, too-clever adaptive cruise control, poor audio quality
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3 May 2017
Price and equipment
Audi has kept the Q2 line-up simple, with just two variants featuring a different drivetrain. We tested the Design, which has a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine driving the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and costing $41,100 before on-road costs and options.
The Sport costs $6800 more and has a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine driving all four wheels through a similar seven-speed auto.
Standard equipment on the Design variant tested here includes Audi’s MMI rotary-knob-controlled 7.0-inch central screen for the satellite navigation, Google online services, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity and reversing camera.
The system includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, voice control, MMI free text search, and two SD card readers. Audio is channelled through eight speakers.
Front occupants benefit from dual-zone climate control – although there are no vents for those travelling in the back seats – while all seats are leather, as is the multi-function steering wheel with paddle-shifters.
Also standard are front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, a self-dimming interior mirror, automatic headlights and wipers and a 3.5-inch colour trip computer display. The car rides on 17-inch seven spoke alloy wheels.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
In addition to all this, the diesel-powered Sport adds an electric tailgate and sports front seats, plus metal-look cabin highlights including air-conditioning vents and some switchgear.
In typical Audi style, numerous options packages are available for the Q2, including a trio of styling upgrades that tweak both interior and exterior appearances. Individual customisations are also available, such as a contrasting C-pillar colour or matching the lower bumper and side trims to the bodywork colour.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the $1600 Assistance package comprising adaptive cruise control with forward collision detection, lane-keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, automatic high beam, hill-holder, automated parking and a rollover sensor.
Also fitted was a 40:20:40 split-folding rear bench ($450), the $300 interior lighting package comprising front and rear reading lights, a pair of illuminated vanity mirrors, footwell lighting and boot lighting. Rounding out the options on our Q2 were brushed aluminium interior trim inlays.
Our car was painted in no-cost Ibis White, but different colours range from $800 to $1750 or even $1950 depending on whether they are solid (including Vegas Yellow and Quantum Grey hues), metallic, pearlescent or crystal effect respectively. We also had $300 spent on five-spoke alloys, in the same 17-inch diameter as the standard items.
Audi has long been celebrated for its classy interiors, but obvious cost cutting on the entry-level Q2 cabin feels insulting. We noticed this immediately upon stepping inside and every time we drove the thing.
The worst offenders are the air-conditioning vents that look naked, cheap and flimsy without any metallic trim on them and the swathes of black, inexpensive and insubstantial feeling scratchy hard plastic on the door panels. Even the door caps have a half-hearted and shallow-padded attempt at soft-touch surfacing.
We’d go as far to say the Q2’s door trims are only slightly more premium than those found in a half-decent ute.
Another letdown was the matte black finish on the centre console and electric window switch surrounds that were quickly covered in fingerprints. And that was without a visit to a drive-through fast food outlet. The audio volume control knob looked lonely and lost in the top-left corner, too.
The aforementioned audio controller is connected to a disappointing audio system with a shrill output that is anything but warm, sounding as though all the music is coming from one side of the car, even though we checked the balance and fade controls multiple times. A Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade costs $1500.
Finally, and we promise there are good things to say, despite the Q2’s suspension doing a remarkable job of ironing out some of the scrappier surfaces on our road test route, it could not stop these poorly maintained stretches of bitumen from eliciting a few cabin rattles. Then again, the Q2’s nearest German competitor, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, is just as creaky and rattly, if not worse, not least because it rides nowhere near as well.
Things got better from there. For example, the driving position is spot on. We also appreciated the scope of seat adjustment that enabled us to enjoy a hatchback-like low-slung setup or to maximise the benefits of this car’s jacked-up stance – and generous headroom – by cranking the seat upwards and enjoying the more commanding view. A steering wheel with heaps of adjustment to suit meant we were comfortable at both extremes and anywhere in between.
Comfortable front seats and a decent grade of leather upholstery were further plus points, and we remained comfortable on long journeys. The cabin quietness and overall mature refinement of the Q2 added to the pleasant long-haul experience.
Around town, the front and rear parking sensors plus decent reversing camera, combined with a reasonably tight turning circle and the quick steering, made manoeuvring and parking easy. Just as well, as the colour-interchangeable C-pillars are chunky and block vision to the rear three-quarter. Our test car had the automated parking system fitted, but it’s not as effective for quickly finding a space and activating as the spookily intuitive Mercedes version.
Although we disliked the air vents, the dual-zone air-conditioning system was possibly the least annoying we have encountered. This is about the best compliment we can pay in-car AC. It really was set-and-forget via the attractive, tactile and simple to use rotary controllers, keeping us comfortable during temperamental autumn weather without throwing the furnace or freezer at us, including bringing the cabin down to temperature swiftly after being parked in the sun, without blowing a gale.
Something Audi has done, and more car manufacturers should catch on to, is fit a serious cabin air filtration system. It might not be capable of Tesla’s ‘bioweapon defence mode’, but we noticed the lack of nasty aromas when passing water treatment facilities and mine sites, following a blue smoke belching 1990s Mitsubishi Magna or crawling up a hill behind an old soot-spewing Land Rover Defender. For those with respiratory related allergies, the filters all but eliminate the nasties that can set off an attack. Everyone else can literally breathe easy.
In typical Audi fashion, the dashboard layout is clear and concise, as are the instruments. We appreciated the addition of Apple CarPlay to the MMI infotainment system – including the presence of two USB sockets – but using a rotary controller to operate an interface clearly designed for touchscreens took some getting used to.
Rear passengers do not have air vents, but the relatively short cabin and good AC performance ensured few complaints. However, taller passengers struggled for legroom, and the backrest was too upright for comfort. Also, the central position is narrow and lacks headroom due to a hump in the bench. Outboard positions have ample headroom, though.
Isofix anchorages with plastic guides made fitting a compatible child restraint super easy, helped by the sensibly located top tether points high on the rear of the backrest. But those with infants in a rear-facing capsule will seriously struggle as the seat in front must be adjusted to a position usable only by petite people of up to around 160cm tall. Best to delay your Q2 purchase until the little ones are a little less little.
The boot is evenly shaped and provides hooks for securing shopping bags, plus a set of tie-downs. The floor is almost flush with the boot lip and the rear bench folds to create a continuous flat load surface. The boot floor can easily be lowered by about six centimetres to rest on a second set of supporting rails, liberating a surprising amount of extra space. For example this meant the difference between being able to carry an umbrella-style stroller and a full-size pram. Beneath this lower position is a super skinny space-saver spare wheel.
Storage inside the cabin is not great for an SUV, but then the family-sized Q7 is also seriously deficient in this department. There is an average-sized glove box and small bin beneath the front central armrest plus front door pockets that can carry a drinks bottle and a snack packet. A slim recess in front of the two cup-holders can just about accommodate a pair of sunglasses and said cup-holders are exactly that – attempts to place bottles there foul the air-conditioning controls.
Rear passengers get door bins that can accommodate drinks or other items but not at the same time, while the central armrest contains a pair of cup-holders (but it is part of the optional split-fold bench) and a small space is provided in the rear of the centre console. No map pockets are provided.
We thought the crisp white glow of the boot light and 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats with central armrest were excellent, but so they should be at $300 and $450 respectively.
On the subject of options, the assistance package fitted to our test car provided a degree of autonomy, keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front with the adaptive cruise control activated and guided by road markings to steer itself and keep in its lane.
But as with previous Audis we have tested, the adaptive cruise control was clearly designed by a German who would be horrified by the lack of lane discipline on Australian roads. The system’s insistence on not undertaking is borderline dangerous, especially when used on a major multi-lane road along which there are occasional filter lanes for turning right. The Q2 slammed on its brakes as we attempted to pass a car that was waiting to turn in the filter lane. Luckily nobody was behind us at the time.
In other circumstances, we lost count of the times we were overtaken by a driver who then inexplicably slowed down, causing the Audi to suddenly try to match their speed. It is a shame, because the system generally works well, even though the lane-keeping self-steer system is a bit inebriated compared with the cool accuracy of systems used by Mercedes.
Engine and transmission
Under the bonnet of the base-spec Q2 is a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine developing 110kW of power between 5000 and 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque from 1500 to 3500rpm.
With just 1360kg plus passengers and luggage to haul, this engine is more than adequate, with a muscular feel and responsive personality. The official 0-100km/h acceleration time of 8.5 seconds sounds about right, not hair-raisingly quick but more than respectable.
Mid-range acceleration is strong and confidence inspiring, whether getting up to speed for motorway on-ramps or darting into gaps in traffic. There is perhaps not the grunt for overtaking a B-double on a country road without raising a sweat but overall this engine fulfils its performance brief and then some.
The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission was less hesitant and clunky than other recent Audis we have driven, but did sometimes get its knickers in a twist on hill starts. The auto-hold button beside the electric park brake control seemed to help matters no end.
A broad spread of torque output meant we could often select a higher gear than usual via the quick-acting paddle-shifters during fast cornering, which was one of the most impressive traits of this drivetrain. Yes, in these circumstances we had to wait a brief moment for the turbo to come on song but the amount of lag was minimal. Dropping a ratio to up the revs eliminated lag altogether.
Overall, progress with this drivetrain is swift and smooth. The engine has a cylinder-on-demand function that drops back to just two cylinders when cruising, even at 110km/h on the motorway at 2100rpm – provided there are no hills. Try as we might, we could not detect the transition and were only informed by selecting a particular display on the feature-packed trip computer.
The trip computer reported we were achieving just above the official combined fuel consumption figure of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres while on the motorway.
Our week-long average was 7.8L/100km, while our road test loop of suburban, country and dynamic driving returned 9.2L/100km.
Ride and handling
The Q2 is another fine recent example of Audi discovering the art of ride/handling balance. Although the low-speed ride is unquestionably on the firm side, the way this soaks up poor surfaces once above 60km/h – and particularly from 80km/h and upwards – is nothing short of outstanding.
A particularly poorly surfaced section of our road test circuit tends to unsettle even the comfiest cruisers, but the Q2 sailed over it with not so much as a wobble. With this cosseting mid-to-high-speed ride comes a sense of rock-solid stability on the motorway that is quintessentially German but rare in a car as small as this.
Bigger hits do make themselves known, but the Q2 recovers quickly and is never knocked off the driver’s intended line even when faced with mid-corner ridges and dips. And this is despite the presence of a basic torsion beam rear suspension setup on the front-drive variant tested rather than the typically more controlled and sophisticated multi-link setups available.
There is no trade-off for this in handling terms, and perhaps that busy feel at low speed is where the compromise has been made. It is minor enough to be forgivable, especially given how much fun there is to be had when pointing the Q2 at a twisty road. This was a pleasant surprise.
First impressions are of the lively, super-smooth, direct and responsive steering. Audi made much of the ‘progressive steering’ technology fitted to the Q2 when it was launched and we can report it works magnificently.
We had fallen in love with the Q2’s dynamics by the end of a section of fast, flowing corners, but it continued to impress when we encountered a set of hairpin bends. Getting the front tyres to come unstuck required serious commitment, and the rear tyres followed our intended line obediently. Little adjustment was on offer, but the electronic stability control let us experiment without shutting us down abruptly.
Traction was rarely an issue, either, due to the talented chassis being more than enough to keep the modest 1.4-litre turbo-petrol in check.
Of course, not everybody is going to take their Q2 across a mountain pass, but these sound dynamics also translate into a fun and nippy driving experience for the cut-and-thrust of urban and suburban driving. They also mean the Q2 is safe and stable in an emergency.
The Q2’s looks promise a car with character, and it sure delivers from behind the wheel. Not enough cars have this level of fun factor these days, but somehow Audi has managed to achieve this while also providing a level of big car maturity for simple daily cruising and commuting.
Safety and servicing
ANCAP has not yet rated the Q2 but its European counterpart (ENCAP) handed down the maximum five stars. It did pretty well, with 93 per cent scored for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection and 70 per cent for both standard safety assist features and pedestrian protection.
In addition to the active safety tech described in the price and equipment section, the Q2 has standard anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control and seat belt reminders for all seats.
Service intervals are annual or 15,000km and under Audi’s Genuine Care Service Plan, the first three years of scheduled services (up to 45,000km) can be pre-paid for $1590 at participating dealerships, transferrable between owners.
The Q2 is covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The disappointment we felt at some of the more low-rent aspects of the Q2 interior is something buyers stand to feel every time they drive it. The plastic door trims, cheapo air vents and rubbish stereo are frankly unacceptable in a so-called premium vehicle.
Some of the disappointment starts to dissolve once on the move, for this is an engaging and characterful car that strikes an almost miraculous balance between fun handling and safe, mature ride and refinement.
A price tag above $40K seems high for this size of car and there is no doubt Audi gouges on options pricing, but the depth of engineering that ultimately put a big smile on our faces is rarely found in mainstream vehicles. Audi has moved the game forward in this regard with the Q2.
The Q2 is a unique proposition in many ways and we doubt any of the 700 or so Australians who ordered one sight unseen before the official launch will experience buyers’ remorse.
If you are about to take the plunge, we recommend you consult your Audi dealer about lifting the Q2 interior without spending big bucks on options.
Because apart from our cabin quality gripes, we found a lot to like about the Q2.
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