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SINGAPORE, March 17 — The latest crossover from Audi, the Q2, is something of a conundrum at first glance.
It is a small sport utility vehicle (SUV), which makes sense given that this segment is more fashionable than, well, the most fashionable accessories you can think of.
But Audi already has a small SUV in the form of the existing Q3. The Q2 is 20cm shorter, but has almost the same space between the front and rear wheels, and the two have similar price tags: The Q2 costs S$165,800 (RM524,732) while the Q3 costs S$166,250.
If it seems that car makers are cannibalising their sales in their quest for the Next Big Crossover Hit, that is partially right: The Q2, which is a completely new nameplate, is likely to remain small, while the next Q3, due soon, will undoubtedly become larger, like its rivals the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Audi’s marketing campaign bills the Q2 as being “untaggable” (although we can think of a few hashtags, such as #small and #suv), but this shows that the company is aiming it at a fashion-conscious audience, one that would perhaps opt for cars like the Mini Countryman.
You will not mistake the two Q cars for each other, since the Q2 has been designed to stand out with its oversized grille, vertically-oriented lights and the liberal use of contrasting highlights in grey.
This look will not suit everyone, but as befitting a fashionable set of wheels, you can customise this car’s appearance. For instance, choosing a different C-pillar accent colour and contrasting lower body/fenders makes it look much more SUV-like.
This is an approach that seems to work, as more than one passenger had the initial impression of the Q2 being a much larger vehicle when viewed from the outside.
The car’s interior seems almost tiny by comparison — the Q2 carries less cargo than the Q3 (about 400 litres with the rear seats up, versus 460 litres in the Q3), and is less spacious as well.
Audi’s rotary-controller-based MMI infotainment system is still one of the easiest to use. It is a cinch to stream audio from a smartphone, all the better to take full advantage of the car’s boot-mounted subwoofer, we presume.
Other niceties include LED headlights and keyless entry, but the car does lack some of the slicker features seen on other models in Audi’s lineup, such as an active instrument display and navigation.
Still, the absence of such features helps in another way: To keep the price of the Q2 below that of mainstream offerings such as the Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1.
The emphasis on form and merely decent practicality might suggest style over substance, but the Q2 escapes that criticism by delivering solid performance in all other areas.
Powered by the updated 1.4-litre turbocharged engine from the VW Group (also seen in the Tiguan) that produces a generous 150bhp, the Q2 rarely feels like it lacks power, and it insulates you enough that high-speed travel is not grating, although some wind noise is apparent.
Small size, a comfortable ride and a gutsy engine make short work of the cut-and-thrust of city traffic and speed bumps, although the lack of a reverse camera and small rear windows makes parking tricky.
Still, for this kind of extroverted crossover — including the Mini Countryman and DS 5 — the importance is placed on those looking at it from the outside. Yet, if the Q2’s look doesn’t do it for you, its true strength lies in its solidly-engineered base and realistic price tag.
Audi Q2 1.4
Engine: 1,395cc, inline four, turbocharged, 150hp, 250Nm
Performance: 212kmh, 0-100kmh: 8.1s, 5.2L/100km, 119g/km CO2
On sale: Now
Pros: Relatively affordable, unique look, drives well
Cons: Small rear row, not much equipment — TODAY