Audi SQ2: the brisk SUV that sheds the kilos and dials up the fun

Go shopping for a new car with 70 grand burning a hole in your pocket and there’s plenty that could tempt your finances, but Audi's SQ2 makes a compelling compact SUV case.

Audi SQ2
Audi SQ2

Go shopping for a new car with 70 grand burning a hole in your pocket and there’s plenty that could tempt your finances: hot hatches, luxury sedans, dual-cab utes and more.

Now Audi has thrown a new pocket rocket into the mix in the form of the SQ2.

Priced from $64,400 plus on-road costs, the SQ2 arrives at the affordable end of the premium market.

It’s the first SQ2 to arrive in Australia and sits at the pointy end of the Q2 range, a lineup that has been focused on pint-sized suburban duties until now. And it comes as part of an updated Q2 lineup that brings more gear and design tweaks.

Audi SQ2
Audi SQ2

While the SQ2 should perform those daily duties just fine, it’s more open stretches of bitumen that it’s more at home on.

SQ2: Value driven

Despite its sharp positioning, the SQ2 packs plenty in – and there’s a modern, racy presentation that nicely treads a fine line between trying too hard and getting it right.

Unique bumpers with silver highlights and black wheel arch flares nail the exterior muscle. A subtle red highlight on the badge and red brake calipers add a dash of bling, as does a quartet of exhaust pipes.

Inside the red theme continues, from stitching around the seats and dashboard to leather inserts on the diamond-cut leather seats.

Audi SQ2
Red highlights and a classy cabin help define the first Audi SQ2 sold in Australia

Curved stripes across the dash light up in funky colours as part of the customisable ambient lighting system.

Throw in the customisable digital instrument cluster, alloy pedals and ventilation controls titled to the driver and the intent of the SQ2 is clear.

There’s also a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system that adds extra punch courtesy of a subwoofer.

An Audi (R)S lesson

S in Audi parlance denotes performance, or sportiness. Bung an R in front of it – for RS – and it’s uber performance.

The SQ2 misses out on that R bit, instead making do with a liberal dose of S heat applied to the compact Q2 body, which itself has been updated as part of a mid-life refresh.

Sitting at the top of the revised Q2 family it also comes generously appointed, although another inch or two on the central infotainment screen would top things off nicely.

Audi SQ2
Audi SQ2

Whereas other Audis are transitioning to a full touchscreen, the SQ2 still makes do with the MMI rotary controller; that’s not all bad news, because on the move the physical connection has some advantages over a touchscreen.

Stepping up the pace

Just like other Q2s, the SQ2 gets a turbocharged four-cylinder.

But it’s bigger and beefier than the regular models.

Audi SQ2
Audi SQ2

It’s the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine used in the Audi S3 (which also uses the same engine as the Volkswagen Golf R).

But there’s one key difference: a smidge more power.

Whereas those hot hatches made 213kW, the SQ2 ups it to 221kW – and all because Audi managed to get Australia classified as a “moderate hot climate country” rather than a “hot climate country” (I know, global warming and all, Australia having some of the hottest parts of the world…).

Audi SQ2
The SQ2 gets the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo used in the S3, although power has been boosted to 221kW

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder also manages 400Nm, lowering the 0-100km/h time to 4.9 seconds.

Driving through all four wheels the SQ2 certainly feels brisk, without being ferocious.

Hanging on

But what cements it as a rorty fun machine is the Quattro all-wheel drive system, some grippy tyres and plenty of poise at pace.

Plant your foot and it hooks up and goes.

It’s particularly potent firing out of hairpin bends. Find a nice selection of uphill twisties and the SQ2 is a precise and potent device.

Audi SQ2
Audi SQ2

Brakes are effective, too, and there’s a solidity to the way it hangs on.

The ride is taut, but not overly firm. That said, Sport mode takes things a tad too far.

Fortunately there’s an Individual setting among the drive modes that allows you to tailor the steering, gear shifts and suspension to your tastes.

Blurring the hot hatch lines

What helps make the SQ2 more fun is a lack of kilos.

OK, so at 1535kg it’s far from a featherweight, but it’s a lot lighter on its wheels than most of Audi’s other hot-shot high riders.

And while that’s 105kg heavier than an S3 hatch, there’s still enough athleticism to the SQ2 to make it an enticing performance machine.

Audi SQ2
Audi SQ2

It all adds up to one of the more convincing hot-hatch-infused SUVs. And it’s a surprise packet in the growing stable of brisk Audi SUVs.

While it doesn’t quite match the composure of an S3, there’s enough feistiness blended with everyday liveability to justify the price tag.

Not that you’d want to go loading it up with friends – unless they’re close.

Being a small SUV the back seat space is best left to smaller folk.

All of which helps keep the weight down – and the fun factor up!

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If it's on four wheels, Toby Hagon has probably driven it. From the latest supercars to rock-hopping off-roaders (or anything in between!) he loves a road trip and works on the thinking that no road is too long or windy. The former National Motoring Editor at Fairfax these days runs his own show, contributing to Wheels, Which Car, News Corp, Qantas magazine and ABC Radio, and MotoFomo.