Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
The letter S means Sport in Audi language, and it’s been hanging around numbers of the back of cars with the four rings since the late 1980s and the Group B days (S1 E2 anyone?). Now it is found on almost every kind of car that Audi makes, from the smallest of hatchbacks to the biggest of SUVs. Here we find it nestling on the back of the Q2, Audi’s first foray into the small crossover market, and one of the first forays into crossing an SUV with a hatchback. But what this car does, as well as introduce Audi to a whole new market, is pose a very real question. In a world of SUVs and crossovers, where does the hot hatch go?
The SQ2 comes with a familiar 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine, one you’ll be familiar with from the sister S1 and several other Audis on the platform. That means 300PS (296bhp), routed through a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box to all four wheels via the usual Quattro system. This particular SQ2 comes complete with Audi’s excellent MMI system, integrated into the all-in-front-of-the-driver digital dash, and the infotainment system – used through either the central non-touch screen or the dash – comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Our car sat on fetching 19-inch alloys and had been loaded with some extras, including a reversing camera, heads-up display, heated front seats, split folding rears, privacy glass, meaning it would set you back £45,885 in this spec, following the trend for hot hatches to find themselves easily north of £40k should enough options be ticked.
That 2.0-litre motor produces a not insignificant 400Nm (295lb ft) of torque, and in theory 100 per cent of that can be sent directly to the rears. But this being a raised ride-height crossover the prospect of all that power being slung backwards is pretty far off in most circumstances, so expect to find all four wheels offering assistance most of the time. That 400Nm is delivered quite emphatically, after a little lag, with not a huge amount of lurching. Audi have obviously spent some significant time trying to give this jacked-up car more of a proper hot hatch feel and, while obviously a tall order, they have managed to succeed in most areas.
The steering is very Audi-like (duh, it’s an Audi), offering a decent amount of weight but not a massive amount in terms of feedback, not a surprise given the distance between wheel and wheels. The chassis copes well with all but the hardest of chucks; throw the SQ2 into a corner and you can expect an amount of drift at the front, slightly hastened should you try to push the power back through before it’s all gathered up (again, the power is unlikely to actually find its way 100 per cent to the rear), but with a little care you can negate this with a more relaxed attitude to the throttle. Driving the SQ2 fast is a bit of a tightrope walk between full-on demanding the car enter a corner and allowing it to balance through the middle, but when you get it right it’s a rewarding pass-time. The AWD system that encourages that little mid-corner front slip also tugs the SQ2 out of the corners with aplomb, the suspension and damping working hard to keep everything gathered together even with that extra height and allowing all 400Nm to be deployed from 2,000rpm. It all works together well, although when you calm down a little the harsher damping that’s been brought in to control all that potential roll can make the little Audi feel rather jarring through bumpy areas.
The days of the lower car seemed to be numbered as more and more of us are being sucked in by the allure of something with more of an SUV shape, which makes you wonder if there can be a future for the hot hatch at all? It could be that this is that future. A car designed to deliver as much of the fun of a hot hatch as it can while also offering the space of the full-blown crossover (335 litres of boot for example). As a small performance car the SQ2 is compromised, but the way it gets around these little compromises is what makes driving it so fun. It isn’t a hot hatch, it’s something a little bit different, and definitely something more practical.
The price tag might put a few off, but if you have the cash for something like this then there really isn’t a lot that offers anything like it. If this is the future of the hot hatch then things aren’t looking quite as bleak as we might have thought.
Price of our car: £45,885 (including £10,285 of optional extras)