Oh look, it’s an­other one

The SUV/CUV seg­ment seems to be the only one that mat­ters now and Audi is keen to fill it with a host of new mod­els. Wheels’ Im­ran Ma­lik takes its lat­est, the Q2 com­pact cross­over, for a spin

Friday - - Travel -

The SUV and CUV seg­ments are burst­ing at the seams. Al­most every car­maker of­fers at least one and that is be­cause you, the car-buy­ing pub­lic, are de­mand­ing them. You’ve been snap­ping them up like they’re go­ing out of fash­ion – not that there’s any risk of that hap­pen­ing any­time soon. In fact, the seg­ment is so pop­u­lar that the ubiq­ui­tous saloon is in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion. Audi used to have three SUVs in its line-up, but that’s just grown to four with its lat­est en­try, the Q2, which will go up against the likes of the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA. In two years from now, In­gol­stadt will have added the Q4 to ri­val the up­com­ing Range Rover Ve­lar and then the Q8 will scare the X6 and GLE coupé. But it doesn’t end there; it’ll be tak­ing Tesla head-on with the e-tron Sport­back by the year 2019, bring­ing the tally to seven fam­i­lyfriendly high-rid­ers.

If you think that’s too many, I’ve got news for you; hav­ing wheeled this lit­tle beastie, all I can say is I want more! It’s small but has a lot of pres­ence; those broad shoul­ders and an­gu­lar styling give it a bit of panache and the low roofline – with a long spoiler – adds to its sporty de­meanour. You can’t miss the large sin­gle-frame grille, be­low which sit a pair of air in­lets that are even big­ger than the wedge-shaped head­lights. The ex­te­rior sure has a lot of char­ac­ter (our S Line tester had even more thanks to those 19in fivearm ro­tor de­sign al­loys) and the cabin tries to match it with a dash of red trim (ours also had the op­tional LED in­te­rior light­ing pack­age, flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel and panoramic glass roof).

But a lit­tle more ef­fort could have been paid in dress­ing up the plain­look­ing dash. The speedometer and tachome­ter glow in the fully dig­i­tal Audi vir­tual cock­pit and the 12.3in screen, which dis­plays highly de­tailed and bril­liant graph­ics, is one of the many high­lights of the Q2. It also has MMI nav­i­ga­tion plus with an 8.3in mon­i­tor, head-up dis­play, packs an emer­gency brak­ing as­sis­tant as stan­dard, and if you can’t do it your­self it’ll even steer into par­al­lel or per­pen­dic­u­lar park­ing spa­ces in ei­ther re­verse or for­ward di­rec­tion. Not im­pressed? You will be when I tell you

it can exit park­ing spa­ces. All you need to do is set the right gear, ac­cel­er­ate and brake, but it won’t be long be­fore you don’t have to do even that…

It of­fers am­ple head­room (1,029mm) and gen­er­ous shoul­der room (1,390mm) and in fact it feels so big on the in­side that you’d be fooled

It’s small but has a lot of PRES­ENCE and kit. It’ll steer into par­al­lel or per­pen­dic­u­lar park­ing spa­ces in ei­ther re­verse or for­ward di­rec­tion. Not im­pressed? You will be when I tell you it can also EXIT park­ing spa­ces

into think­ing that you’re driv­ing a Q5 in­stead of this diminu­tive Q2. Given that it only mea­sures 4,191mm long, 1,508mm high and 2,009mm wide, it still gives you a ‘big car’ feel. And it’s big on per­for­mance too.

Audi bor­rowed a phrase from Mini say­ing it of­fers a ‘go-kart feel’, and there’s no bet­ter way of putting it. Show it a long straight and the 150-horse­power 1.4-litre TFSI en­gine de­vours the road with the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch trans­mis­sion snap­ping away, but of­fer it a cor­ner and it glee­fully jumps in like a play­ful puppy and is ea­ger to dart left or right. It re­mains sta­ble and poised and is backed by the pro­gres­sive steer­ing of­fer­ing good feed­back, which makes this com­pact cross­over ag­ile and fun to fling around. Part of that is down to the low curb weight and the torque vec­tor­ing sys­tem work­ing its magic in the back­ground, al­low­ing you to push this Audi way past what you per­ceive to be its limit.

The sus­pen­sion’s a touch on the firm side and that’s good as it keeps the Q2 from rolling too much in the bends. The wide rear track helps in this re­gard too, and it’s al­most like be­ing in a hot hatch. OK, a warm one (it shares the same plat­form as the A3) but it grips re­ally well, you al­ways feel con­nected to the road and al­though the springs are stiff, the ride isn’t harsh. Opt for Dy­namic in Audi Drive Select (you get five modes) and it sharp­ens the steer­ing and gear­box and firms up the shocks, mak­ing it very en­joy­able to chuck around, but when you just want to cruise with your four pas­sen­gers in tow, stick it in Com­fort for a serene ride.

If you were grow­ing con­cerned about the sheer num­ber of crossovers and SUVs en­ter­ing the mar­ket, Audi is here to put those wor­ries to rest. The Q2 is Audi’s small­est and cheap­est SUV – but it sure isn’t the least in­ter­est­ing. If they’re all like this – stylish, prac­ti­cal and blessed with im­pres­sive driv­ing dy­nam­ics – it’ll be a case of the more the mer­rier.

The Q2 brings panache, and a sporty de­meanour. The ex­te­rior has char­ac­ter, and the car is en­joy­able to chuck about

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