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In-depth reviews

Audi Q2 review - Engines, performance and drive

Plenty of advanced, efficient engines. Drive can be fun, but bigger wheels and sports suspension make it bumpy

Under the skin, the Q2 is one of Audi’s more advanced SUVs. It’s based on the VW Group’s scalable MQB platform, and given that it’s closely related to the A3, it’s no surprise to find the Q2 drives in a similar way. 

Audi uses the phrase ‘go-kart feel’ to describe the Q2, a phrase it’s borrowed from MINITurn into a corner and you’ll find the Audi is poised and stable, but the steering lacks the weight and feedback of the MINI Countryman. It is quick, helping boost the feeling of agility, but the Q2 relies heavily on driver aids and the torque vectoring system is particularly intrusive. 

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The Audi also has a firm ride. It never becomes crashy, but the car follows bumps that more comfortable rivals manage to filter out.

Audi Q2 vs Mazda CX-3 vs Mercedes GLA

The Q2's steering comes from the hot Audi S3 model and it feels meaty enough to put a smile on your face. It's not too heavy, making it an easy car to drive around town – especially thanks to the raised driving position. And in spite of the car’s short wheelbase and high centre of gravity, there’s not too much body roll when you go around corners – helped by the car’s wide track. 

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The steering is fast and lighter than the Mazda CX-3, but the weighting is still good and it’s heavier and a little slower than the set-up in the Peugeot 2008. There’s very little communication from the chassis, though, while the systems sometimes feel as if they hold the car back in corners, fighting what you’re asking it to do.

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The trade-off for this nimble handling is a very firm ride. On bumpy roads the Q2 doesn’t strike the same balance as a Mazda CX-3, for example. It feels firmer and less composed over rippled surfaces, which means that although it handles well thanks to the firmer set-up, it does get disturbed more by mid-corner bumps and doesn’t have the same level of compliance as the CX-3 when the chassis is loaded up. It responds to rippled surfaces more abruptly than the CX-3, too, so isn’t as refined when cruising. 

Alongside the more knobbly ride there are one or two other factors that mark down the Q2. For example, the brake pedal feels far too sensitive, which sometimes makes it difficult to bring the car to a smooth stop.

Among all the high tech options, you can spec adaptive dampers, which come as standard on Vorsprung models, and Audi Drive Select, which is standard on Sport models and above; sharpening the steering and gearbox responses, and firming up the adaptive dampers, if they’re fitted.

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The SQ2 is one of few performance compact SUVs on sale. It offers predictable, useable performance in all conditions; 0-62mph takes just 4.8 seconds and it has buckets of in-gear shove. The car can shuffle power around its four wheels – up to 100 per cent to the rear wheels if needed – but it's not as playful as some of the best hot hatchbacks on sale. However, if outright pace is more of a concern, the SQ2 is a great choice. 

Although much of the Q2 tech is on the options list, there’s plenty of advanced safety kit as standard. Audi’s pre sense safety kit is standard, which includes Autonomous Emergency Braking and will also put the anchors on if it spots a pedestrian stepping out in front of the car.

Other big car options include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings and lane keep assistance, plus traffic sign recognition and alerts if there’s traffic coming when you’re reversing.

Engines

The 1.0 TFSI has been taken from other cars in the VW Group stable and serves up 114bhp here; that’s as much as the 1.6 TDI model, but engine refinement is stronger, and with a turbo to boost the output, the potential for decent performance and economy in daily use is good. The 1.0-litre revs smoothly, but it feels strangled at the top end when compared with the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol found in a Mazda CX-3, but the trade-off is that the turbo delivers decent torque in the middle of the rev range.

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This showed when we tested the 1.0 TFSI against the 2.0 CX-3. The Q2 accelerated from 50-70mph in fifth and sixth gear 0.7 and 1.6 seconds quicker than the Mazda respectively. 

The 1.5 is likely to be the most popular choice and it’s a sweet engine with an eager nature. Although the Q2 is no sports car, there’s plenty of poke on offer – enough to get from 0-62mph in around 8.5 secs – while it revs smoothly and is quiet when you want it to be, too.

The 1.5 TFSI is sweet revving and quiet when you’re cruising on the motorway. It’s also got enough firepower to fulfil the car’s sporty brief. The engine is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic across all trim levels, although you’ll pay a marginal penalty in CO2 emissions and economy if you opt for the auto.  Even so the S tronic gearbox is an excellent choice as it’s quick to react and works smoothly, even when you kick down. And you can take control yourself with paddles behind the steering wheel.

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Alongside the 1.5-litre unit, we also tried the 1.0 TFSI. Despite lacking power on paper, it actually suited the car well, with plenty of punch and a quiet, refined nature. It's not as sprightly as the previous 1.4, but if you spend most your time around town, it'll more than suffice.

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The 1.6 TDI diesel will be familiar to many Audi, VW and SEAT drivers, although in the case of the Q2, power has been boosted from 108bhp to 114bhp. However, the Audi’s 250Nm torque output isn't particularly strong.

In a test against the Mazda CX-3 1.5D and Mercedes GLA 200 d, not only did the Q2 trail its rivals from 0-60mph with a time of 10.1 seconds, it was also behind during our in-gear assessments. This was particularly obvious from 50-70mph in sixth gear, where the Audi needed 14.6 seconds – a full 3.2 seconds slower than the Mazda.

Head out into the real world, though, and you’ll discover the differences in performance aren’t quite as marked, and in most situations, the Audi will comfortably keep pace with traffic. Better still, maximum torque is delivered at just 1,500rpm, so you don’t have to extend the rather gruff and thrashy engine to make decent progress. But, while our car’s six-speed box had a generally slick action, our testers found that engaging sixth gear often required some serious muscle.

The S tronic gearbox is a nicer partner – this dual-clutch seven-speed unit reacts quickly and smoothly and can be given a sportier bent if you select the optional Audi drive select system. It'll also firm up the adaptive dampers (standard on Vorsprung models) and tweak the steering to make it more direct.

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