New Audi SQ2 2021 review
Audi’s updates have given the SQ2 a little more kerb appeal, but there’s no getting around the fact that there’s better value to be found in a traditional hot hatchback
Audi’s SQ2 facelift has kept it fresh, but it’s also driven up the price even further in this small performance SUV niche. Still, the Audi is on a competitive footing against its key rival from BMW, so if you absolutely need an über-fast premium crossover, then this new SQ2 is a solid choice. It’s fast, sure-footed, premium and just practical enough.
Performance SUVs have rapidly become commonplace in recent years thanks to a screaming demand from the market, with even die-hard petrolhead brands like Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini and, soon, Ferrari folding under the pressure.
Audi was one of the earlier adopters in the more affordable hot crossover class with its SQ2, beating its Volkswagen Group sister brands to the punch and pulling the performance SUV niche lower down the market with a more affordable alternative to stalwarts like the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport. And now, we’re halfway through the small SUV’s lifecycle, which means it’s time for a refresh.
Updates for the facelifted SQ2 are mainly cosmetic, being limited to new front and rear bumpers, tweaked LED headlights and an updated colour palette. It’s the same story inside as, with the exception of some new seat upholstery and a couple of fresh trim pieces, the design of the car’s cabin is largely unchanged.
Audi’s biggest changes are technological. The previously optional 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster now comes as standard, and there’s a larger 8.3-inch infotainment system mounted on the dashboard. The latter system is operated from an intuitive rotary dial on the centre console, which we think is less distracting to use on the move than a touchscreen interface.
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The powertrain hasn’t changed – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the SQ2 is still immensely quick. Let’s not forget that the Q2 on which it’s based is an essentially upmarket alternative to crossover runabouts like the Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008, neither of which are particularly sporting.
The facelifted SQ2 therefore uses the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as before, which produces 296bhp and 400Nm of torque. Power goes to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, meaning this compact crossover can get from 0–62mph faster than conventional hot hatches such as the Ford Focus ST and Honda Civic Type R - that’s 4.9 seconds thanks to that automatic gearbox with launch control.
That all-wheel drive system means it’ll cling on in corners respectably well for a higher-riding car, serving up solid traction. Don’t be fooled though, the SQ2 isn’t the first choice for keen drivers – the steering actually feels quite numb – but it’s certainly capable, especially over rough or wet tarmac.
In-gear acceleration is excellent, too, with seemingly large reserves of power that makes overtaking easy. The effect is even more noticeable in Dynamic mode, making the whole car feel a little more eager.
It’s not all rosy, though, as we found ourselves at odds with the SQ2’s pricing. Yes, it’s four-wheel drive and now comes with more technology, but prices start from £38,700. That’s an extra £4,500 on top of a Volkswagen Golf GTI, for a car which is smaller and (in the real world, at least) hardly any faster.
However, if your heart is set on a hot compact SUV then you’ll also likely be looking at the larger and more practical Cupra Formentor 2.0 TSI 310, as well as BMW’s X2 M35i, which starts from £46,800, aligning with the top-spec SQ2 Vorsprung.
There’s more choice in the SQ2 line-up, and even the base-spec car features a good level of core equipment; LED headlights, half-leather, half-Alcantara upholstery, sat-nav, CarPlay and Android Auto, parking sensors, a rear-view camera, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels are all fitted as standard.
Even on our Black Edition model’s 19-inch wheels the ride was acceptable, with enough control and support. Occasionally, the SQ2 does become a bit crashy on bad road surfaces, but there’s a fair level of comfort and a good balance between this and dynamic ability.
It’s not the roomiest car in its class, with rivals such as the Cupra Formentor offering more space, but the SQ2 offers just enough room in the rear, even if it is a little cramped. There is plenty of adjustment in the front seats but the big bugbear is the 355-litre boot, which is 50 litres down on the standard Q2 due to this hotter four-wheel drive model’s rear differential. But this is a sacrifice you have to make for performance.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to a matter of taste. If you’re looking specifically for a small, fast premium crossover, you’d be hard-pressed to find something as capable as the SQ2, and compared with its closest rival from BMW, there’s more choice and, seemingly, more value.
We’d say don’t discount a conventional hot hatchback though, because there’s even more value on offer in this format.
Audi SQ2 Black Edition TFSI S tronic
2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo
Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive