- Published: Sunday, 03 July 2016 16:38
Here's a tip, you might want to keep an eye out for Audi's compact crossover, the Q2...
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — Take a compact crossover, say slightly bigger than a Suzuki Vitara, slap on a premium badge, and you have the Audi Q2 in a nutshell.
It'll be sold with a 1.0-litre turbo engine in Singapore, paired with a seven-speed S tronic auto, and sit somewhere around $140,000 (at today's COE prices) in price by our reckoning by the time it gets here. In Q2 of 2017, naturally.
For the money you'll be able to buy a bigger, practical car, but nothing from a prestige brand. The Q2 is pretty much alone in its segment for now (the Mercedes GLA-Class is half a size bigger).
Yet, what’s in a brand, anyway? Not much you’d think – but only if you’re languishing in the middle to bottom of the barrel, where you’ll tend to talk up notions of ‘thinking men’ and equipment levels, and claim that they're far more important than a mere badge.
But it seems to us the average consumer is motivated more by emotional and perceived aspirational appeal than rational things. After all, car ownership in Singapore is a lot about snob appeal first, A-to-B second. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at all those ‘great’ value-for-money models that never make it big.
If experience and the sad reality of life has taught us anything, it’s that it’s far easier for top-tier brands to offer entry-level stepping stones into their brand ownership than it is for mid-tier brands to elevate their standing – look at VW’s Phaeton (a flop) versus BMW’s 2 Series Active/Grand Tourers (big hits) for starters...
As hard as this sounds, it’s all about perception in the real world, since as much as we hate to admit it, everyone needs their gear to say something about them, especially since this affects how others regard us.
That's good news for Audi, however. The Ingolstadt-based carmaker is in an enviable position, with both a brand considered premium and a wide range of products that span the tiny A1 Sportback and the Lamborghini-baiting R8 V10 plus.
The Q2 occupies the lower end of that admirably tall product ladder, and judging from the launch is aimed at young people. There was an edgy and rebellious air to the car's unveiling here, which was set against a backdrop of colourful graffiti.
The product presentation itself was held in a drive-in-movie sort of setting, with journalists seated in their Q2s of choice (or next to their journalists of choice).
Of course, the Q2 doesn't feel like an everyday crossover with an Audi logo glued to it. A huge amount of technology has filtered down from the brand's more expensive models, like the 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, Audi Connect and smartphone interface. That means your gadgets and social media apps can be connected to the car’s infotainment system.
With all that potential for distraction, Audi has also bunged in the latest driver assistance systems, like active lane assist, adaptive cruise control, side assist, and Audi pre sense with pedestrian detection. All these are standard, which is presumably a huge source of comfort to any parent who is buying a Q2 for their beloved child.
Audi has built in plenty of customisation potential (another selling point for the youth of today), and there’s plenty of colour-contrast going on in the cabin. The ambient lighting can be configured, and if you want you can have the dashboard trim illuminated, like in the pic below:
For all that seeming frivolity, the Q2 is a practical car. Four of us (some tall, some not so much) and our luggage fit comfortably into the Q2, which has a wheelbase of 2.6 metres. That's a notch up in usefulness from many sedans to begin with, and the rear seatbacks drop down in a 40/20/40 split to expand the boot if you need even more cargo hauling ability.
Unlike in some crossovers, the rear seats don't tile or slide, however.
The industry seems to be embracing small turbocharged petrol engines, and though the Q2’s 1.0-litre engine is pokey in size, it's also poky in terms of performance. It's been tuned for 116hp, and pulls strongly from just over 1,500rpm.
It doesn't run out of high-rev puff like a turbodiesel engine, so you can rev it hard for reasonably brisk performance. They only gave us a manual to drive, but the S tronic version shouldn't feel sluggish — it's essentially a manual gearbox that happens to be automated, anyway.
Whatever is under the bonnet, the Q2 gets progressive steering. Turn the wheel a little (say, when you're threading it along a highway) and the responses are gentle so the car doesn't feel twitchy. Dial in a bigger dose of steering lock (like when you're entering a corner), and you get quicker responses, making the car feel agile. Tackling the tight switchbacks along part of the route was never easier.
While it's a satisfyingly dynamic car to drive, the Q2 will probably win most fans for its look. The Mini drivers we passed along the way seemed to give it the longest stares, which is somthing we'll chalk down to the Audi's chunky, rugged styling.
Indeed, the Q2 looks like a miniaturised version of the hulking Q7, which is a positive thing: you get a sense of family belonging that way, so much so that if the four-ring emblem fell off its prow you would still know that you were looking at an Audi. A physical badge might be important, but the brand it stands for is that much more essential to a car's appeal. —
NEED TO KNOW Audi Q2 1.0 TFSI
Engine 999cc, inline-3 turbocharged
Power 116bhp at 5000rpm
Torque 200Nm at 2000 to 3500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed manual
Top Speed 210km/h
0-100km/h 10.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.9L/100km