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Audi Q2 35 TFSI (2017) review

The Q2 has the SUV stature to attract new buyers — if one could grasp its position in the Thai luxury car market.

Compact SUVs are a must now for luxury brands in Thailand because of what they are in nature and how they are priced to lure buyers. So for 2 million baht, your first BMW or Mercedes-Benz wouldn't probably be the 1-series or A-class but the X1 or GLA SUVs derivatives instead.

Audi, which has recently ramped up its efforts in increasing sales in Thailand via a new importer, also has the Q3 to rival the X1 and GLA. But because the Q3 is getting old in its current generation and isn't assembled in the country, its 2.549 million baht price is at least half-a-million baht dearer than those two locally-built Teutons. One saving grace, though, is the Q3's superior performance thanks to 180hp 2.0-litre petrol-turbo engine.

So where does that leave Audi with its all-new Q2, which has been designed to sit below the Q3 without a rival from either BMW of Mercedes? The only potential competitor for the Q2 is the Countryman from Mini, BMW's other premium nameplate. In fact, both the Q2 and Countryman are upmarket versions of mass-market B-segment SUVs like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Nissan Juke.

But even if left to the game of luxury cars, the Q2 and Countryman are suffering from two immediate downsides. At 2.3 million baht, both the Audi and Mini are smaller yet more expensive than the X1 and GLA because both are imports.

So if you're happening to lust for a Q2, you'd certainly have to forgive its bodysize. It isn't utterly cramped in the Q2, though, as adults can be seated in the rear with just enough head and leg room. Boot space, as well, is fairly acceptable and can be made more cavernous by easily folding the rear backrests nearly flat. Just don't expect the Q2's package to be as roomy as in the Countryman.

Styling-wise, the Q2 is virtually the opposite of the Countryman. While the Countryman is relatively free from the shackles of German logic, the Q2 isn't because it is part of the Audi family, after all. That's why the Q2 feels far more restrained in appearance, although some garish details like the wheel arch mouldings and silver linings on the front end help bring out some life.

Chassis has been tuned for an easy drive in real-world conditions.

The same goes for the Q2's cabin, which is never as playful as in the Countryman. For some, though, that might be a good thing because Audis are known to have nicely executed and tidily designed interiors. That of the Q2 is no exception and is representative of fuss-free usability and fine ergonomics. One cheerful thing the Q2 has is multicoloured ambience lighting.

Since the Q2 needs to tread its feet carefully at under 2.5 million baht, some features Thais have been acquainted with in luxury brands aren't there. The two most notable ones are automatic climate control and electric seats. At least, it doesn't feel as barren or cost-containing as in the Countryman with Cooper spec.

Differentiation between the Q2 and Countryman is also revealed in the driving bit. As Audi knows that it has to give the Q2 at least one outright selling point, the version being sold and driven here this week is 35 TFSI coming with 150hp 1.4-litre petrol-turbo engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic driving just the front wheels.

That said, the Q2 is not only better than the Countryman on paper but also on the move. The turbo four-pot feels lively most of the time around town and trumps its rival on the highway with marginally more oomph. And yes, if you really need to compare the X1 18i, which shares a three-pot petrol unit with the Cooper Countryman, the Q2 beats it too thanks to its power-to-weight index.

Another good thing in the Q2 is the cylinder deactivation technology fitted onto the engine. By being able to shut down two cylinders under coasting or extra-light throttle loads, the Q2 is capable of achieving double-digit economy figures in city-driving. Whether weighed upon the X1 18i or Cooper Countryman, the Q2 35 TFSI has the performance to boast about.

The chassis set-up in the Q2 is also considerably different than in the Countryman. Rather than employing Mini's principles of super-crisp driving characteristics, the Q2 is all about driving intuition. The steering is light and the suspension is generally comfy except for some occasional thumps over sharp bumps. It's only when you push the Q2 hard in corners that's its front-drive nature truly reveals -- the Countryman hides this facet much better by tucking in its nose neatly at most times. But as we're talking about SUVs here and not go-karts, the Q2's driving manners are largely acceptable.

Despite being rivals in marketing terms, the Q2 and Countryman are relatively different in the showroom and on the road due their product execution. The Mini clearly has its fan base of funky-looks and fun-to-drive factors, while the Audi does both things in a more restrained manner which, of course, is no bad thing. It's all a matter of taste.

But by being the most price-affordable Audi on sale so far in Thailand, the Q2 is a decent stepping stone for buyers new to the brand. If you can accept its price for its size, the Q2 does its job reasonably well elsewhere for an SUV for the daily grind.

Interior is tidily designed and easy to use in the typical Audi fashion.

There's just enough space behind, if a little tight on legroom. 

Extended boot is almost flat when rear backrests fold down.

Turbo four-pot can shut down two cylinders for improved economy.

More powerful 35 TFSI is priced at Mini Cooper Countryman range. 

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