Car reviews - Audi - Q2 - range
Well-specced interior with a classy layout, retains MMI controls, sharp steering, SQ2 performance, attractive styling
Room for improvement
Lazy DCT, poor second-row space, some spec exclusions, no electrified option
Audi increases appeal of sporty Q2 small SUV in new, second-generation guise
20 May 2021
IT WAS February 2017 when Audi Australia expanded its local SUV line-up to include a new entry model, the Q2, designed to complement the slightly larger Q3 and bring some flair to the small SUV segment.
Fast forward four years, the updated version has landed Down Under in a three-variant range headlined for the first time by the performance SQ2 grade.
Given the new-generation Q3 released in 2019 has grown in size, the Q2 now has some clear air in the segment – can its positioning help it eclipse the high-water mark of 2155 units achieved in 2019.
First drive impressions
As the smallest and most affordable member of Audi’s SUV portfolio, one could expect the Q2 to look less premium compared to its counterparts, however we were pleased with the amount of pizzazz even on the base model.
The 35TFSI comes as standard with 18-inch graphite grey alloy wheels, LED head- and tail-lights and an overall profile that gives it a taut, athletic stance.
Moving inside the cabin, we were similarly pleased with the overall premium feel even on the 35TFSI – there are some small swathes of hard plastic here and there, with soft plastic and leather to be found through most of the rest of the interior.
The dashboard is headlined by a tablet-style 8.3-inch screen projecting Audi’s MMI infotainment system, featuring Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, DAB+ digital radio and an eight-speaker sound system.
Every now and then car-makers change something with a vehicle for the worse, whether it be mechanical, technological or ergonomic, leaving the “if it ain’t broke” crowd to rue the changes.
One such change with Audi has been a large-scale move towards touchscreen operation of its infotainment, casting aside the more functional and less distracting button-and-dial MMI controller.
Thankfully the Q2 has retained the older MMI system which proves much easier to use, but if the trend continues, the next all-new Q2 will also consign the button-and-dial set-up to the history books.
Our 35TFSI was fitted with the $3490 Style package, which in terms of interior appointments includes the virtual cockpit digital instrument cluster which helps add an extra element of luxury.
There are still some signs that the Q2 is the most affordable Audi SUV – the driver’s seat on the 35TFSI requires manual adjustment, while only the SQ2 scores a full suite of active safety features.
As the brand’s smallest SUV, interior dimensions leave a little to be desired – leg and headroom for front passengers is comfortable, however adult occupants will find the rear pews to be an uncomfortable proposition.
At 405 litres, boot space will be adequate for a couple, but small families should look at the Q3 or larger.
All three Q2 variants are underpinned by their own powertrain, starting with the 35TFSI and its 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, replacing the old 1.4-litre unit while still producing an identical 110kW/250Nm, driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The Q2 is designed predominantly as a city car, and the 35TFSI engine is a peppy little unit, particularly at speeds up to 60km/h where it gives spritely performance in normal driving situations.
However its modest power outputs are exposed at speeds of 80km/h or above, where the little mill is forced to work hard to speed up or overtake, particularly when travelling uphill.
The mid-spec 40TFSI quattro boosts engine displacement to 2.0-litres and power to a more robust 140kW from 4200-6000rpm and 320Nm from 1500-4100rpm, with the addition of quattro all-wheel drive.
Unsurprisingly, the 40TFSI has noticeably more punch than the 35TFSI, with a much sportier bent that makes high-speed acceleration and overtaking a much easier prospect.
However it still doesn’t quite have the level of thrust to label it a performance variant, but provides a welcome increase in acceleration and easy, torquey around-town grunt.
The addition of quattro all-wheel drive also helps dynamism – those looking for at least a base-line level of exciting performance should skip the 35TFSI and look at the 40TFSI.
For the first time, the Q2 range will be offered Down Under with a dedicated performance variant – the SQ2 – which takes the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and tunes it up to produce a beefy 221kW from 5300-6500rpm, and 400Nm between 2000-5200rpm.
The pumped-up engine delivers sharp and punchy acceleration, while the quad-exit exhaust pipes provide a raspy and rorty engine note.
221kW is plenty of power for a car of the SQ2’s size, and driving it feels like you’re in a jacked-up version of the S3 hatch.
All engines are paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT), which when set to dynamic mode and tuned for sporty driving provides sharp and snappy gear shifts, as expected from a dual-clutch unit.
For normal around-town driving however, the DCT suffers from the same problems as its Volkswagen Group DSG siblings, in giving an elastic and non-linear throttle response and lag on pedal input.
This is made worse by the stop-start system, with quick throttle application when the engine is turned off resulting in slow delivery of the engine’s power.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but the benefits of fast shifts when the car is up and running are outweighed by the low-speed grumbles the dual-clutch creates.
We were also a bit disappointed at the lack of electrified options. Audi has been a strong leader in the electrified space, from its Q7 and A3 e-tron offered last decade, through to its current E-Tron SUV and upcoming E-Tron GT.
A hybrid or PHEV option would have been a welcome addition to the line-up, especially given the Q2’s urban focus, but we are told no such options exist from the factory.
One of our favourite aspects of the Q2 was its sharp and direct steering tune, which even on the base 35TFSI offers a brisk and well-connected steering feel that makes it an enjoyable drive around town or in the twisty stuff.
Ride quality is generally commendable (particularly when factoring the minimum 18-inch wheels), but is more comfortable on the 40TFSI and SQ2, both of which score independent multi-link rear suspension with the addition of the quattro all-wheel-drive system.
The torsion-beam rear of the 35TFSI feels fairly well settled at high speeds, but at lower speeds is susceptible to bumps and rough roads.
While the pre-update Q2 was somewhat hidden behind its segment-sharing Q3, the new, bigger Q3 should give the Q2 some breathing room and a chance to forge greater sales numbers for itself.
The 2155 sales of 2019 should be in reach for Audi, especially with the addition of the spicy and exciting SQ2, which will take on the likes of the BMW X2 M35i and Mercedes-AMG GLA35.
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