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Audi Q2: Trials of the ‘big’, unashamed city slicker

From afar it almost looks like a member of the gang of Audi performance vehicles released recently. Black 18-inch wheels supporting an angry grille are complemented by an “apple green” coat. Squint and for a moment it looks like a baby cousin of the fawned over RS6.

Of course the Q2 is in a different class. Just what that class is, is another matter.

The Q2 was something of a novelty when it first appeared locally in 2017. Here was a car based on an A3 but still significantly different from its hatchback inspiration. Could it be a stripped Q3? No, that’s not quite right either. 

Against all odds, in a SUV-crazed market saturated with every conceivable variation of a “big” car, it carved a little niche for itself. 

You can argue all day about who the Q2’s exact competitors are: some say the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA  are technically in another class, suggesting that it’s limited

to vehicles such as the Mini Cooper Clubman and Opel Grandland X. But whatever your stance, there’s no denying there’s a uniqueness about the Q2 that is shared by few others.

Now Audi has facelifted its rebel child. The new version arrived in South Africa in June. 

Its essence remains the same. This is a city car. That much was apparent when driving around the surrounds of Hartbeespoort. In an ecosystem ruled by bakkies, the diminutive stature of the Q2 as an SUV is quite apparent. Sport utility vehicles not being used for off-road purposes is not a new concept but this is really pushing the definition.

Drive further inland and the situation changes. Among Hartbeespoort’s Johannesburg and Pretoria day visitors the Q2 finds familiarity and prestige. Past the dam wall and on the smooth, well-maintained roads, this is where it belongs.

It’s just spacious enough for a young family, shouldn’t have any problem getting into tight spaces and is pleasantly light on juice (the average quoted figures of 6.1 litres per 100km were never far off).

Being smaller — and thus lighter — also has its advantages. It’s relatively nimble and doesn’t feel laborious to drive. The 110 kilowatts at your disposal feels sprightly, if still far from explosive. 

All models will produce that same output with the 35TFSI (1.4l turbo) standard across the range. (Despite the allusion in the introduction there are also no performance models planned for this at the moment)

Immediately noticeable are the flared wheel arches that optically raise its stature. In its initial marketing spiel, Audi credited American football as the design inspiration — players look intimidating when they scrunch up their shoulders, and turtle the head for an imminent collision. 

Sleek LED headlights lie up front while Polo-esque curved cubes light up the rear. The pillars behind the rear windows, which the manufacturer calls the “blades”, are embossed with an Audi sticker badge.

Again it’s worth applauding the aesthetics configuration of this particular test model, which deliberately seems to have been made the poster child. 

The Q2 is not an ugly ride but it would struggle to stand out in a standard silver. A few bucks on the spicier extras undoubtedly spruce up the exterior. 

The green is just bright enough to be attractive without appearing ostentatious while the black wheels are undoubtedly sexy.

Inside it takes a turn for the conservative. It’s neatly finished as you’d expect from a German, with only the odd patch of cheap plastic belying the fact this lies close to the beginning of the brand’s range. Most interesting are some of the design choices that reverse the clock a little on the trend of digitising every observable button. 

The infontaintainment system protrudes out of the dash and, instead of touch, is controlled by a dial on the centre console, as one used to do all those years ago. 

There are climate control buttons instead of the second screen that is popping up in more and more Audis. 

The tactile experience of the interior will be welcomed by those a bit fatigued from pawing at everything. 

Similarly, you will be fine if you decide to skip some of the extras: save R35 200 on the technology package and stick with the analogue gauge cluster; ignore the R9 800 Bang & Olufson package that has the bass of a glass harp.

Saving money is right at the top of reasons you would likely be persuaded to buy a Q2. With three models in a contained range of R545 500 to R581 500, it is significantly less than the Q3 and represents one of the consumer’s cheapest hopes of getting a polished SUV, albeit a smaller one. 

There’s nothing here for the outdoors person but city dwellers might well find it’s a vehicle that fulfils all their needs.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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