Tuesday 22 August 2017

Food for thought with Audi's sweet Q2 baby petrol SUV

A smart car but options do push price up

Urban crossover: Audi Q2
Urban crossover: Audi Q2
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

You simply cannot win these days. Just when you think you are doing the right thing, someone tells you 'new research' has found something wrong with it. Food/diets are especially susceptible to the vagaries of such new findings.

One took a 'swing' at a staple diet of mine recently. Family and friends had been extolling the virtues of good old-fashioned porridge for years. There is nothing better, they'd say, urging me to switch from the crackle of cornflakes and wheat biscuits. With a blob of honey and a shake of raisins, you're set up for the day, they promised.

I eventually acceded and with the zeal of the convert, I now begin each day with a large bowl of porridge, a fistful of dried fruit and two mega-blobs of honey. Unless I'm abroad, the ritual is religiously observed.

Ironically, it was over breakfast last week that I read how 'new research' found having honey to be the equivalent of pumping bête noir white sugar into my system. And raisins? Another bad-sugar trip, the 'experts' said.

As far as food is concerned, nothing seems to hold true from one week to an other. The new best thing, the 'life saver', is banished almost as soon as it is enthroned.

Motoring is no different in some ways. We've had the 'diesel is good for you' dream - rock-bottom road tax, fuel-sipping engines, low CO2 emissions. Now all of a sudden, poor old diesel is getting the dried-fruit cold shoulder.

Petrol, once derided as 'so last century', is back with a vengeance, thanks in large measure to tiny-tot 3cyl 1-litre engines, such as the one I've driven in the Audi Q2, that would beat the pants off, or match, 1.6, 1.8, even 2-litre powerplants of old.

And then there is the imminent holy grail of electric power. It is, the experts tell us, going to be the great future hope for aeons. Let's see.

The fact is that the pace of technology and digitalisation is such that no one can say for certain what's good, bad or ugly any more. We're heading into a period of massive flux for motoring.

So my advice, for what it's worth (I am NOT an expert) is to deal with what's in front of you today and is likely to be there tomorrow - like a bowl of porridge. It is, and always will be, about horses for courses. Be careful; it is so easy to follow fads and waste money. I reckon if you're covering 20,000km a year, you should factor in diesel or hybrid.

Petrol is a definite if you cover under 15,000km. In between 15,000km and 20,000km depends on individual circumstances.

In the case of this crossover Q2 baby from Audi, with its little petrol engine, I had to ask myself several times: really and truly, could one justify putting a diesel in it?

The blunt answer is yes, simply because you'll pay less road tax and get better fuel consumption from the 1.6-litre diesel (for now anyway).

But should you? Is it time to change the diet? Especially as the Q2 is unreservedly an urban crossover. I don't think it will be bought to cover major distances every day - horses for courses.

So you should probably lean towards petrol. Yet you don't feel the kilometres totting up. People often underestimate how much they travel. They forget the trip to Wexford every second weekend, or the once-a-month visit to granny: 20,000km isn't a huge annual total these days.

The big thing is to justify paying more for the diesel vehicle (€2,000+ costlier) to reel in the long-term running-cost savings, or pay less for your petrol car now and cough up more for the fuel. You could be five years, if not more, in doing so. That's what the experts are saying.

But apart from such considerations I think there is an enjoyment factor you have to countenance with this sweet little 1-litre petrol. I liked the '3cyl sound' and the driving response.

It's not a big, heavy car and I always felt it had enough in reserve for easy overtaking or motorway acceleration. The downside with these turbo tyros is the revs climb quickly at 100/120kmh and fuel consumption follows - a bit disappointing. Around town was a different matter.

The Q2, built on the same platform as the A3, is taller (1.51m) than its sibling hatch, wider (1.79m) but shorter (4.19m), making it easy to park (the 2.6m wheelbase helps). There is a good boot (405 litres; 1,050 litres with the rear bench folded). There was decent headroom but rear-passenger space overall was tight - it is a small car inside.

And with just a few options added, price introduces something of a sour antidote to the car's sweet drive.

For now, though, I'd have to say this Q2 petrol is an option I'd be happy to take. It mightn't be to everyone's taste but it was to mine.

Just like porridge and honey. And I'm sticking with them, too.

FACTS & FIGURES

Audi Q2 small SUV, 3cyl 1-litre petrol S-line, 116bhp, 6spd; front-wheel-drive, 5.7l/100km, 131g/km, road tax €280.

Price €33,400; Options €6,818. Total €40,218.

Equipment includes sports suspension/front seats, 18ins alloys, 7ins MMI screen, Drive Select, cruise control, LED headlights, auto lights/wipers, rear-parking sensors, smartphone interface, split folding rear seat bench, USB charging ports.

Options include Tech Package €2,450 - virtual cockpit, phone box Audi Connect, MMI Nav Plus, Audi sound system; panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, 19ins alloys.

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