They call me mel­low yel­low

If you’re af­ter a smaller SUV with a classy in­te­rior, look no fur­ther than the new Audi Q2, rec­om­mends Charles Ran­ge­ley-wil­son, even if he did drive it in dis­guise

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Charles Ran­ge­ley-wil­son loves the Audi Q2, but doesn’t want to be seen in it

WHEN Audi re­cently launched the Q2, the lat­est and small­est in its Rus­sian-doll line-up of Q cars, I was im­me­di­ately in­trigued by the idea of a ju­nior SUV, some­thing the size of the orig­i­nal Subaru Forester, but with Audi’s classy cock­pit and styling piz­zazz.

I’ve long been a fan of the lum­ber­jack Scooby (March 15), although cock­pit am­bi­ence and styling were per­haps not high­est on its long list of at­tributes. how­ever, Audi mak­ing a gen­uinely com­pact oc­ca­sional off-roader sug­gested a car of niche use­ful­ness when the gen­eral en­tropy among all such ma­chines is for them to get big­ger with each suc­ces­sive in­car­na­tion.

From the Cold War Lada 4x4 to the now in­sanely pop­u­lar Skoda Yeti, there’s al­ways been a buoy­ant de­mand for small, ru­rally in­clined mo­tors, although all thus far have been aimed at the more ba­sic end of the mar­ket. Per­haps that’s the na­ture of the beast: a run­about for hay and dogs needn’t be too classy up front, yet with Range Rovers and Q7s as lat­ter-day car­riages of dis­tinc­tion, surely there’s room for a com­pact ver­sion?

In­deed, there may well be a spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the new Q2 that would fit that bill (ba­sic SE with 16in wheels and a sober colour?), but the mo­ment I clapped eyes on the al­most so­lar yel­low of the Q2 de­liv­ered to my house in north Nor­folk, I knew I was go­ing to have to drive it straight back to London— to re­view the ma­chine in its home ter­rain, but also so that no one I knew saw me driv­ing it. At the age of 52, pot­ter­ing about ru­ral Nor­folk in this car would have an­nounced a midlife cri­sis more than a gym sub­scrip­tion and teeth whiten­ing.

The niche Audi has aimed for and hit squarely with the Q2— es­pe­cially the bling-ring model they de­liv­ered to me—is not ex­actly ru­ral. This Audi is aimed at com­puter-savvy, dig­i­tal na­tives who spend 99% of their time on tar­mac in a city, but might oc­ca­sion­ally want to drive over some­one’s lawn, so they can plug the car into the swim­ming-pool stereo

‘As a prac­ti­cal, com­pact SUV, the Q2 is more pent­house than pad­dock’

(the word stereo prob­a­bly dates me, too).

The Q2 is a youth­ful, ur­banori­ented ma­chine. It’s like driv­ing a com­puter to kick off with, a car not built for hay-and-muck na­tives. The Tech­nol­ogy Pack with which my Q2 was fit­ted (a £1,595 op­tion) equips the car with a 4G SIM card and on­line con­nec­tion to live traf­fic in­for­ma­tion, Google Earth and Street View, Twit­ter and email. The car also has Ap­ple Carplay, so you can hook up your playlists to the car’s gramo­phone.

Audi’s vir­tual cock­pit pro­vides a cus­tomis­able dash­board, plac­ing the sat­nav map right there in front of your eye­balls, sig­nalling ev­ery nu­ance in the road ahead.

By the out­skirts of London, I’d fallen for the charms of this of­froad com­puter, not just be­cause the Street View is re­ally cool, the Bang & Olufsen sound sys­tem a ver­i­ta­ble con­cert hall, the cock­pit as classy and cos­set­ing as any other Audi, but, most of all, be­cause of how well it drove. The 1.4TFSI petrol en­gine of the test car, which, at 148bhp, I sus­pected might be a bit wheezy and gruff when pressed, was smooth and had oomph a-plenty.

The S tronic gear­box was great, too, taut and ac­cu­rate, and the han­dling was skate­board flat with­out be­ing un­com­fort­ably fid­gety, as of­ten hap­pens when a top-heavy SUV is tamed by firm sus­pen­sion. In­te­rior space is good, too: there’s room for an adult be­hind the driver’s seat and the boot is hatch­back-plus spacey. Audi says the di­men­sions are com­pa­ra­ble to its A3, but it feels big­ger on the in­side, even if, from the out­side, it looks like a pumped-up hatch­back in a tight T-shirt.

As a prac­ti­cal, com­pact SUV, the Q2 is more pent­house than pad­dock, but it’s a very neat ma­chine. I had the car for a week in all and had to re­turn to Nor­folk even­tu­ally, where, with a cap pulled down hard over my fore­head, I thor­oughly en­joyed driv­ing it.

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