I’d love it if the psychologists among you could explain to me how and why we have become so besotted – there is no other word for it – with crossovers and SUVs.
Why is it that we now feel it is essential to have a car that is taller, more angular and muscular than a decent, everyday perfectly sensible hatchback, saloon or estate?
Are we keeping up with the Joneses? Or do we feel inadequate sitting in a lower driving position looking up at others relishing the omni-view of an SUV?
I’m sure there are a number of factors, physical, financial and psychological at play.
At a nailed-down factual level, all I can tell you is that official figures for SUV/Crossover sales in Europe last year accounted for one-in-four of ALL passenger cars purchased.
Unsurprisingly, the experts are readily forecasting that sales will grow exponentially for the foreseeable future.
You know there is a mega market for such cars out there when you have the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes packing their ranges with SUV/Crossovers that have either been beefed up to fit the genre’s profile or are bonafide SUVs that have been toned and smartened for family driving.
Take Audi’s latest. The little Q2 was built to compete with the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA – and others – for buyers looking for a premium small motor.
It has more ‘cuddly’ looks than most ‘baby SUVs’ yet carries a bit of dynamism in the suspension. ‘Cuddly looks’ aside, the combination of muscular line/curve and driving dynamics have worked well in its larger Crossovers. Naturally Audi believe this little number will replicate the achievement and woo many of the young singles/couples/small families out there who just won’t be seen in an ‘ordinary’ small saloon any more.
Coming late to this segment of the market with the Q2, Audi had the benefit of watching while they waited. It’s fair to say they ticked as many boxes as possible – but I found a few still blank.
It most definitely has the design, muscle, curves and profile so keenly sought after by those with more than a few euro to spend on a premium motor.
But even allowing for that, the price rises quicker than TDs for the Dail recess when you go up the spec/trim list and/or add a few of the more ‘must-have’ options.
I’ve said it before: The price of the car I had on test (albeit stuffed to the gills with equipment) is extravagant. Would I really pay €45,000 for it? No.
Bear in mind too it shares similar underpinnings with the excellent A3 hatch/saloon which, it must be said, has flourished despite the SUV phenomenon.
Furthermore, there isn’t a significant gap in pricing between the two, with the A3 starting at €27,810 and the Q2 beginning from €30,800.
So it is to be expected, I suppose, that some will vacate the A3 for the ‘in-thing’ Q2. I think, in the current climate, that is inevitable.
Yet, there isn’t much to choose between them in terms of cabin, capacity and overall ability.
Which is where, perhaps, the psychologists among you might enlighten the rest of us: why opt for it over the A3 hatch/saloon?
I’m ambivalent about it. I’d buy the Q2 because it is undoubtedly smarter looking and more flexible. But I don’t need it and I’d probably stick with the A3 saloon – it suits me better. Or maybe I got the SUV jab before the craze took hold?
Seriously, this is such a personal, dare I say, emotional, call. On that basis, I feel lots of those whom Audi are targeting will just plump for it and trade in their hatch or saloon. I may be wrong but that’s what’s happening with others.
All that, however, is to overlook some specific drawbacks in the Q2. I was disappointed with parts of the package. It’s lovely to look at up front, for sure, but is almost a replica A3 across the back – disappointing. An argument for sticking with the hatchback? Maybe.
Understandably, it is taller (at 1.51m) and wider (1.79m) yet shorter than the A3 hatch (4.19m) due to the minimal overhangs.
With a 2.6m wheelbase, Audi say it will “fit in any parking space”. I have to confess it was a joy to place and park.
For anyone with young children or needing to carry lifestyle stuff, there is a decent boot (405 litres, 1,050 litres if you fold the rear bench) and I found it was flexible in how I could manage passenger/luggage space. But there isn’t that much space in the back.
And I found the engines a tad disappointing. The diesels were okay but didn’t set the pulses racing and the 1.4-litre petrol I tested at length is not typical of what people are going to buy.
However, it had an interesting piece of technology, called Cylinder on Demand (COD). At cruising speeds or when you ease off the pedal, two of the four cylinders shut down (second and third) so fuel consumption is lowered.
The diesels are most popular (we’re still diesel mad) but could I suggest you take a look at the lovely 1-litre TFSI (116bhp) petrol (excepted from previous criticism)? It’s a good one for urban driving while being a spritely little drive.
Regardless of engine the car felt nimble and quite engaging, on the road, though the number of times the front wheels spun (torque steer) under moderate acceleration had me puzzled.
If you want to go all out with this SUV lark, there are quattro all-wheel drive versions (15cm ground clearance). I wouldn’t bother: too