PROMENADERS

Ride high and show off in the com­pact hatches from the pre­mium brands

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - MOTORING - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

Lux­ury sedans are be­com­ing passe be­cause buy­ers are down­siz­ing to cars like these – high-rid­ing hatch­backs that fit in tight parking spa­ces and have a com­mand­ing view of the road ahead. Pow­ered by zippy yet ef­fi­cient turbo four­cylin­der en­gines, these ex­am­ples don’t cost the earth to run – but do come with hefty price tags.

With the re­cent ar­rival of the BMW X2 it was time to get reac­quainted with the Audi Q2 and Mercedes GLA.

Here’s how they com­pare.

AUDI Q2

Last time we tested the Audi Q2 it was criticised for be­ing pricey. Now it un­der­cuts the com­pe­ti­tion – we have the cheap­est model in the range with­out any op­tions, from $46,800 drive-away.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes dual zone air­con­di­tion­ing, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, built-in nav­i­ga­tion and leather steer­ing wheel with pad­dle-shifters.

The base Q2 lacks a power tail­gate and a sen­sor key with push but­ton start. It doesn’t even get in­di­vid­ual map lights – or lights for the van­ity mir­rors in the sun vi­sors.

Un­usual for an Audi, the cen­tre con­sole and door pock­ets are small. The rear door lin­ings are fin­ished in a cheap plas­tic while the front doors have bet­ter trim.

The air vents in the front work well but are pre­sented in plain black plas­tic – it’s ap­par­ent they’re miss­ing the al­loy gar­nish of the dearer mod­els. The con­trol panel in the cen­tre con­sole that op­er­ates the au­dio and nav­i­ga­tion is in­tu­itive to use.

Gen­er­ously sized, the boot has a wide and low load area and houses a space-saver spare un­der the floor (the oth­ers have run-flat tyres).

The Audi’s 1.4-litre turbo might be the small­est engine here, with less grunt than the BMW, but it’s also lighter.

The X2 is about a sec­ond quicker to 100km/h but the Q2 is ea­ger enough and de­liv­ers its power smoothly and qui­etly through the sev­en­speed twin-clutch auto driv­ing the front wheels.

The sus­pen­sion can be a touch busy over bumps but it’s not jar­ring, and the steer­ing is light yet pre­cise – the best blend of agility and com­fort among the trio.

MERCEDES-BENZ GLA

Mercedes was among the first lux­ury brands to join the city SUV brigade when the GLA ar­rived in 2014 ... which means the Benz is start­ing to show its age. We’ve tested the cheap­est ticket into the line-up, the GLA 180 priced from $48,600 drive-away.

De­spite de­liv­er­ing a level of com­fort many can’t match and pack­ing a full suite of safety tech – in­clud­ing nine airbags, three more than the other pair – it lacks some ba­sics.

The air­con­di­tion­ing is sin­gle zone and there are no rear air vents. The map pock­ets be­hind

the front seats are mesh rather than fab­ric, so you can’t stash valu­ables.

It does get crea­ture com­forts such as a sen­sor key with push but­ton start, leather steer­ing wheel with pad­dle-shifters and Ap­ple CarPlay, An­droid Auto and built-in nav­i­ga­tion.

Its 1.6-litre turbo is the least pow­er­ful in this trio in a body that is 100kg heav­ier than the Audi. It feels a lit­tle less ea­ger than the Audi and against the BMW the power deficit is more ap­par­ent.

The GLA’s twin-clutch trans­mis­sion isn’t as smooth or as in­tu­itive as a reg­u­lar auto – or the Audi’s sim­i­lar gear­box.

Un­usual for a Mercedes, the tyres trans­mit a lot of road noise into the cabin and cre­ate more tyre slap over lane mark­ers and ex­pan­sion joins.

On the plus side, it’s the most plush over bumps and the styling still looks fresh against newer ri­vals.

BMW X2

At $61,500 drive-away, the sDrive2.0i starts this con­test at a dis­ad­van­tage. It is the most ex­pen­sive of the trio by a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin. A cheaper model is on the way – pow­ered by a three-cylin­der 1.5-litre turbo – but it’s still about $10,000 more than the other two.

For­tu­nately it feels a step above the oth­ers as soon as you slip be­hind the wheel – fab­rics and cabin upholstery are of a higher qual­ity, there’s mood light­ing in the dash and doors at night and the seats feel both more cush­ioned and more sporty. There’s more oomph un­der the bon­net, too, al­though once on the move the Audi isn’t far be­hind.

It gains radar cruise con­trol as stan­dard but the rest of the equip­ment list is a bit hit and miss.

Ap­ple CarPlay, stan­dard on the ri­vals, adds $500 – af­ter the ini­tial three-year sub­scrip­tion BMW charges $150 a year for the smart­phone mir­ror­ing. An­droid Auto isn’t avail­able yet.

There is another mi­nor flaw in BMW’s plan to ap­peal to younger buy­ers in the con­nected gen­er­a­tion: there is only one USB charg­ing port. Wire­less phone charg­ing is an op­tional ex­tra.

In most cars with au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing, the ve­hi­cle comes to a com­plete stop to avoid a col­li­sion. The X2 has brak­ing as­sis­tance that primes the brakes in an emer­gency and slows the car. BMW’s fully fledged AEB is a $2600 op­tional ex­tra bun­dled with a big­ger nav­i­ga­tion screen and head-up dis­play.

Elec­tric seat ad­just­ment is part of a sep­a­rate $2700 op­tion pack. The list goes on.

On the road the 2.0-litre turbo feels perky but the sus­pen­sion is a lit­tle too firm on bumpy back roads and the steer­ing a touch too sharp.

Rear seat space is more snug than the other two – the X2 is def­i­nitely more of a style state­ment than a prac­ti­cal go-any­where hatch.

Pic­tures: Thomas Wi­elecki

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