CHUNKY AUDI q2 CARRIES THE DAY

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Audi has broken away from its current styling trend with the Q2, a five-door chunky hatchback touted with familiar Four-Ring vim as the first premium quality compact SUV. It certainly sits in a small pool but the debate is already under way and for the record I think Audi is wrong.

The body design starts with a bold deep grill, continues down the flanks with a novel geometric flat upper panel lozenge, to the wide roof pillars – 21 inches across at the base – then the back, with 3D tail light covers.

In case you are wondering, it sits in length between the A1 Sportback and the Q3. Of rivals, the BMW X1 is larger than the Q3. The nearest quality rival is the bulkier Mini Countryman, a few inches shorter than the Q2, but taller and heavier, and lest we forget this is a BMW with a different name. It is available with 4x4 traction, too.

Let the jousting begin for the first small quality SUV crown. As a pointer, the Q2 body style is listed merely as an estate on dealer websites. That seems a bit off-message compared with the PR machine’s more focused message. Meanwhile, the Q2 is going to sell on its badge and its looks, whatever sector it’s in. Prices start at £20,230 for the 115bhp SE petrol one litre – a three-cylinder engine which has proved its qualities in other small Audis and Volkswagens. Do not dismiss it because it is only one-litre capacity and a cylinder short on respectable. For everyday driving this chubby Audi should suit most everyday drivers.

Next is the 148bhp VW Group 1.4 TFSI petrol turbo, from £22,380, which features automatic cut-out of two cylinders on a light throttle to save fuel. The entry-level diesel is a high torque 115bhp 1.6 but diesel is starting to get a serious kicking from health advocates.

The Q2 series then moves to Sport, offering the same engines and a 148bhp 2-litre diesel. The popular S line completes the regular series, dropping the one-litre petrol engine. All bar that engine are offered with a super-sweet seven-speed automatic gearbox. Quattro 4x4 traction is offered only with 2-litre diesel automatic at launch, from £28,360 in Sport trim.

It is a charming proposition – though early feedback shows that not all onlookers are persuaded. The demo car was in a stunning chrome yellow with silver roof pillars aka blades in the catalogue. You can choose a non-metallic silver, or darker grey for the blades.

All Q2s have alloy wheels, from 16 to 19 inches, frontal crash and pedestrian sensing braking, smartphone links and progressive feel steering. Tasty options include Audi’s acclaimed virtual cockpit, a head-up display and a B&O audio unit. Also available or standard are adaptive cruise control, active lane keeping and an alert for cross traffic when you are reversing.

The car sent for test was the 1.4 TFSI S line automatic at £27,730 plus £550 for the Vegas yellow paint. Extras I found useful were the powered boot closure (£450) and the £1,595 technology pack which brought the virtual cockpit which can transfer the navigation map to cover the whole instrument screen, with vital info such as speed, displayed in smaller dials. This had its debut in the 2014 Audi TT and has now won “tech of the year” in the first Car Tech Awards. Judges applauded the sharp graphics and rapid response when you change the display. Stuart Milne, who edits CarBuyer, commented that the more you use it the better it gets and says it’s a must-have in any Audi which offers it. But it’s your money...mine would want it.

This Q2 was a nippy thing, with a 0-60mph time of just over eight seconds, a maximum of 131mph (not tested). Combined mpg is rated at 52.3 with 123g of CO2. The Q2 moves into 2017 endorsed with a five-star EuroNcap crash safety rating.

Audi is accustomed to praise for its interiors and the Q2 holds the fort. The S line has an aluminium mesh trim which at night glows yellow in a snakeskin pattern along the transmission tunnel and across the fascia panel.

There are plenty of storage spaces, stalwart yet attractive door grips. When folded, the rear seats make a level extension on the boot floor.

The ride is firm and the test car had a few vibrations, including one traced to the driver’s side panel – presumably easily snagged at the dealership. Steering has variable assistance and a very positive straight ahead manner which may be reassuring at high speed.

The navigation was almost perfect – just describing one sharp right turn as “turn slightly right”. Forgivable.

The economy was good, ranging from 42mpg on a short shopping trip, to 45mpg on a 57 mile commuter route and 50mpg on the motorway.

Verdict: It’s another practical lifestyle smart Audi to endorse your standing in the community. Hard to resist if you have the money.

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