The Audi SQ2 is not a car I should be particularly excited by. Looking at the core ingredients - MQB architecture, an EA888 inline-four and a front-biased four-wheel drive system - it could be thought of as a lifted S3. And I’m not exactly the S3’s biggest fan.
A lovely car though the S3 is, you’ll generally find that in the current crop of circa-300bhp hot hatches, the front-wheel drive stuff is more engaging and more exciting. The S3 is a long way down my ‘list’, so taking one and jacking it up a bit, making it worse dynamically, doesn’t exactly sound like a good blueprint.
And yet, it turns out the SQ2 is quite entertaining on the right road. The extra height and weight make it more fun to throw around and adjust mid-corner with a cheeky lift or dab of the brakes. It’s a similar story with the Cupra Ateca we’re running as a longtermer, but that’s so much bigger, heavier and taller than something like an S3 or Golf R, that its performance is conspicuously blunted.
The SQ2, though, is a more modest 45kg bulkier than its hatchback S cousin, and the height increase isn’t as dramatic. Plus, it’s actually 11cm shorter than an S3 Sportback, so it never feels unwieldy.
There’s no more power to compensate for the extra baggage, but with a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds, the SQ2 is still a quick car. There is an odd, occasional bit of lag from the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, but once it’s woken up, it’ll rattle through cogs at quite a rate, making the most of the trademark linear response of the 296bhp EA888.
On the other hand, whether you’re in Dynamic mode or not, the steering is too light and you don’t really get any feedback from it, either. We’re used to that now in these hot Audi S models, and in any case, the nicely-judged speed of the setup makes up for the lack of feel.
Traction? Yep, there’s plenty, and with a hearty stamp of the throttle in tighter corners, you can even feel a little nudge from the rear. In general, however, the SQ2 tends to push on into predictable understeer when it’s pushed too hard. This is an easy, unthreatening car to drive quickly.
It’s good at the ‘normal’ stuff, too, mostly because the cabin is a classy, pleasant space. It’s pretty much as per the A3, which means it’s not exactly fresh, yet it hasn’t started to show its age all that much. Plus, you have the addition of a funky backlight which illuminates a portion of the dash around the quattro logo.
Virtual cockpit perhaps is starting to show its age a bit, but only in its graphics - as far as functionality and ease of use go, it puts a lot of newer systems to shame.
So far, so good, but there’s one ever-present problem with the SQ2 that’s hard to ignore: the ride. Whatever your speed, there’s a constant choppiness that just won’t go away. The firmness may ensure it doesn’t roll around too much despite the lofty-ish ride height, which is great when you’re driving fast, but annoying when you’re not. You can’t solve that by speccing adaptive dampers either - they’re not available.
Plenty of other things are on the options list, which means it’s quite easy to pump the £35,600 price up considerably - the car you see here will set you back £44,350. This isn’t all that shocking for premium stuff these days - the Mercedes-AMG A35 we tested recently had both a similar starting price and a similar price with options. It’s just that for that kind of money, you probably are going to be better off with something hatch-shaped and four-wheel drive like the A35 or an S3.
And if you really must do the crossover thing, you may as well do it ‘properly’ and get some practicality gains in with the deal. It’s worth noting ‘our’ spacious, generously-equipped Cupra Ateca mentioned has an OTR of £41,175, and it does have adaptive dampers.
The SQ2 may have the power to surprise, but with so many alternatives out there, that’s not quite enough.