The battle between Audi Sport, Mercedes-AMG, and BMW M is getting hotter.
It’s taken two years and a mid-life refresh to get the car Down Under, but Audi has managed.
The SQ2 is built on familiar bones. The chassis is shared with the outgoing Golf, the engine and transmission have been nicked from the S3 and VW Golf R, and the interior bears more than a passing resemblance to the last Audi A3.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the SQ2 is a parts bin special, though.
With a sharp price, sharp looks, and sharp (enough) handling when the road gets twisty, it has the tools to win plenty of hearts and minds in Australia.
Pricing for the SQ2 kicks off at $64,400 before on-road costs in Australia, making it $15,500 more expensive than the Q2 40 TFSI quattro S line sitting below it.
It justifies that cost with the lure of an Audi Sport badge, a more powerful engine, and a generous list of standard inclusions. More on that to come.
The SQ2 is slightly smaller than the Mercedes-Benz GLA250, let alone the GLA35 you’ll need to buy if you’re to keep up with the Audi from the traffic lights.
The former is priced from $69,900 before on-roads, the latter from $83,700 before on-roads.
Over at BMW, the closest competitor for the SQ2 is the X2 M35i. It kicks off at $67,900 before on-roads for the pared-back Pure, and leaps to $72,900 before on-roads with a fatter spec sheet.
Based on the performance you get, the SQ2 actually shapes as something of a bargain.
Audi has recently gone through its range and added a heap of standard equipment, as it pushes to keep up with BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the sales race.
As such, the SQ2 comes loaded with kit despite undercutting its main rivals on price.
Carryover features from lower-end models include an 8.3-inch infotainment screen, wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, factory satellite navigation, and DAB+ radio.
There’s LED headlights and tail lights, keyless entry and start, leather seat trim, wireless phone charging, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, and ambient interior lighting.
Jumping to the SQ2 adds a powered tailgate, a set of 19-inch wheels, sport suspension, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-keep assist, semi-autonomous park assist, Nappa leather trim, heated front seats, and colour-adjustable ambient lighting.
It also packs a range of exterior add-ons to signal its intent, including red brake calipers, quad exhaust pipes, and tougher looking bumpers at both ends.
The only options are a panoramic sunroof and privacy glass.
The Audi SQ2 doesn’t have a rating from ANCAP, though the related Q2 has a five-star rating based on testing conducted in 2016.
The SQ2 comes standard with the following safety equipment:
- Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Lane-keeping assist
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors
If you’ve sat in a previous-generation Audi A3, the cabin of the SQ2 will be familiar.
That’s no bad thing, because the last A3 arguably set the benchmark against which rival small-car cabins are still judged. It remains a seriously slick space, even eight years after being first revealed.
From the cool metal air vent surrounds to the satisfying click-clack of the climate controls and infotainment controller, it’s tactile in a way touchscreen-heavy designs just can’t be.
The standard Virtual Cockpit sitting where the speedo and rev dials usually would be is still a class-leader, capable of showing high-resolution satellite maps, faux dials, or a trip computer on a crisp 12.3-inch screen.
The central infotainment screen is a generation old, which means it isn’t touch-operated nor is it running the latest Audi MMI interface. Instead, it’s run with a rotary controller on the transmission tunnel and a smattering of shortcut buttons.
It’s dead easy to use once you’re dialled into to what’s required, and arguably demands less eyes-off-road time than a touchscreen, although the graphics are a bit blockier and the startup times slower than Audi’s latest.
Using CarPlay is also easier with touch than a rotary controller, which is worth keeping in mind.
Factory satellite navigation is standard, as is wireless phone charging.
The driver and passenger sit in excellent bucket-style seats that, although manually-adjusted, expertly blend suppleness with bolstering for hard cornering. They’re heated too, of course.
In a decidedly un-Audi move, the standard finish for the seats is red and black, although an all-black finish is a no-cost option.
Seats aside, most of the touch points feel high quality. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is lovely to hold, while the trim pieces that look like metal generally are.
There are some cheap-feeling and scratchy bits, but they’re generally in spots where it doesn’t really matter. It’s a shame the screen doesn’t retract like the one on the outgoing A3, though.
Rear seat space is acceptable for the class, with decent headroom given its pinched roofline.
Legroom is tight behind taller drivers, and there are no air vents and no fold-down central armrest back there.
There are, however, two USB ports which don’t feature elsewhere in the Q2 range.
Boot space is 355L with the dual-tier boot floor at its lowest setting, although it can be raised to make loading heavy items easier. There is no spare wheel.
The 2021 Audi SQ2 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
It’s mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The 0-100km/h sprint takes 4.9 seconds, and claimed fuel economy is 7.7L/100km on the combined cycle.
The engine in the SQ2 isn’t new. It’s a variation of the EA888 motor used in the Golf R, the Audi S3, and plenty of other mainstream Volkswagen Group products, although it now gets the same outputs as Europe.
Previously, Australia was considered a hot weather market, and received detuned engines instead.
The result is a small SUV that feels properly rapid. The 100km/h sprint takes less than five seconds, which feels accurate in the real world, and the all-wheel drive system means you’ll be able to use all of that thrust essentially all the time.
Peak torque comes on tap at just 2000rpm and hangs around until 5200rpm, so to call it tractable is an understatement.
It pulls hard from down low and keeps going to the power peak at 6500rpm, at which point the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission slams home another gear and you can do it all again.
It sounds good in sport mode, with the usual array of pops and bangs on hand to liven things up, although the BMW X2 M35i is more raucous.
Our time behind the wheel was short, and frustratingly limited by traffic and roadworks, but initial impressions of how the SQ2 handles are good.
It feels sure-footed when you sling it into a corner, with slightly more body roll than you get in the S3 and Golf R.
Chalk that down to the taller ride. Sure, the SQ2 sits a not-inconsiderable 20mm lower than the regular Q2 range on its fixed-rate sports dampers, but it’s still an SUV.
Despite being on the sports car equivalent of stilts, the SQ2 feels relatively light on its feet through quick direction changes, and stubbornly resists understeer on smooth, grippy tarmac.
It doesn’t feel like the last word in adjustability, but it does feel like a very effective way to shoot from A to B in a serious hurry, whatever the weather.
The final word on how it rides over pockmarked roads will have to wait, but for now the SQ2 feels tauter than the regular car without being bone-jarringly firm.
It gets adaptive cruise control as standard, which the regular Q2 doesn’t, and the extra punch from the 2.0-litre engine is welcome at highway speeds if you need to cross the white lines to overtake.
All Audi models are covered by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, putting it behind Mercedes-Benz, Genesis, Volvo, and Lexus in the warranty race.
It’s disappointing Audi and BMW continue to hold out against the industry’s move to a five-year warranty.
A five-year service plan is available for the SQ2, priced at $2540.
Audi should be excited to have the SQ2 in Australia.
It should come as no surprise to hear an Audi SUV with Golf R running gear is good to drive, but it’s slightly surprising that it’s such good value.
The SQ2 goes head-to-head with some quality opposition, but it packs enough of a punch to give its BMW and Mercedes-AMG rivals some sleepless nights.
Click the images for the full gallery