It wasn’t long after the start of the SUV boom when everyone wanted to jump on board. Everywhere, road cars were tortured and teased into high-riding, off-road styled wagons and hatches to feed a growing appetite for our adventurous intentions wrapped in city-bound limits.
Things now appear to have come full circle as some SUVs focus on becoming more car-like in their look, size and feel. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the small luxury segment, where after years of believing that bigger is better, size suddenly matters. We see that in the shape and form of the Audi Q2 and BMW X2, two of the newest entries to one of the fast-growing new-car categories on the market. Small, svelte and handsome, they’re almost a new breed within their class.
We pitch these two new entrants against each other to decide which one offers the most compelling package for luxury car buyers wanting to jump in on the high-riding boom while making the least compromise that the rush to high-riding road cars tends to bring – excess mass, wallowing centres of gravity and higher fuel use.
Here, we look at the German-built Audi Q2 Sport TFSI quattro, and its most direct rival from Bavaria, the BMW X2 sDrive 20i M Sport. Straight away, there’s already a wedge between them; the BMW brings sharp, going-fast-while-standing-still styling; the Audi understated elegance and poise. Make up your own mind about their distinctive looks.
Price and equipment
Audi Q2: At $48,500, the Q2 looks something of a bargain in its class. As well as a 140kW/320Nm turbo engine, you get a car fitted with 18-inch alloys, eight-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate control, front- and rear-parking sensors linked to the reversing camera, an electronically controlled front differential, dusk-sensing LED headlights and tail-lights with directional indicators that hint at the direction in which you’re moving, low-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a speed limiter, leather trim on seats, rain-sensing wipers, an electric parking brake, electrically operated tailgate with locking mechanism, a voice controlled interface for the multimedia system, and ventilated front brakes.
Significantly, too, it gains Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.
BMW X2: Priced from $55,900, the more expensive, front-wheel-drive X2 pretty much apes its Q2-badged rival quite closely, although there are some differences.
Of note, the X2 sits on 19-inch alloys by default, only gets six speakers with its audio system, the rear seats gain an armrest with cupholders, and twin air-conditioning vents, the tail-lamps use incandescent rather than LED lights, and clever software can assist you to steer the X2 into a car park. The X2 also ups its stopping performance with ventilated rear discs instead of the Q2’s solid units, and automatic speed sign detection will let you know if the posted speed limit has changed without you noticing.
Winner: Audi Q2
Interior and connectivity
Audi Q2: Perceived quality is all about that first impression; the moment you open the driver’s door and take in the place where you’ll spend most of your time during the ownership experience. Audi has that in spades. You look at an analogue instrument cluster split by a 3.5-inch display, the 6.5-inch multimedia interface is nicely integrated, all the switchgear is tactile, and most of the surfaces are soft to the touch, including the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The front seats are very comfortable. Jump in the back and things sour just a little; there’s more hard plastic surfaces, no air vents and the comfy 60:40 split-fold rear bench lacks an armrest and cupholders.
Behind the rear bench is a 355-litre boot. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available, but are not a patch on Audi’s beautifully detailed and supportive smartphone integration.
Read next: 2018 BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X review
BMW X2: The BMW’s interior is more business-like and analogue than the Audi’s. Heavy with dark contrasting trim, scattered with buttons and switches, and skewed ever-so-slightly towards the driver, it’s an unmistakably branded environment.
A smaller 3.5-inch digital screen nests between analogue instruments in the cluster, and the 7.0-inch multimedia screen looks a little like a late addition to the dashboard rather than an integrated part of its design.
The front seats, though, are very supportive and the driving position excellent. The rear seats, which split-fold 40:20:40, contain flip-up cupholders and also recline over three settings, are a little firm but surrounding you on the door trim are more softer surfaces than in the Audi’s interior. The BMW has a larger 470-litre boot. If you want to add Apple CarPlay as an alternative to BMW’s already comprehensive smartphone support, it’s a steep $479 option.
Winner: Audi Q2
Ride and handling
Audi Q2: The Q2 is a surprisingly competent all-rounder. Apart from a little road roar from the tyres over coarse-chip road surfaces and some wind noise from the mirrors, the cabin is muted, quiet and controlled.
What’s surprising is that it is equally calm and controlled at low speeds over inner city streets as it is charging at speed over chopped and broken rural roads.
Communicative, albeit light, steering helps with imparting a level of confidence behind the wheel, and the all-wheel-drive system makes the Q2 more forgiving when you start to push the limit of grip.
Read next: 2018 Audi Q2 review
BMW X2: The slightly longer-wheelbase X2 is an equally surprising all-rounder. Just like the Q2 it’s a composed and quiet performer around town, with the only let-down being a tendency to add a bit of chop to the ride at higher speeds on rougher roads thanks in part to the stiffer sidewalls on the low-profile tyres – BMW favours run-flat rubber over equipping its cars with a space-saver spare.
We’d recommend picking up the $400 adaptive dampers, though, as they add an extra level of flair to the X2’s performance.
Otherwise, the communicative, pointy steering is well weighted and direct, carving the BMW through corners with a Mini-like flair – not surprising given the shared DNA between the two.
Winner: BMW X2
Performance and economy
Audi Q2: The Audi’s powerful, responsive turbo 2.0 is quick off the mark, dispatching the 0-100km/h sprint in an official 6.5 seconds against an as-tested 6.7secs, helped by a thunderclap-fast seven-speed dual-clutch auto that can be controlled via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A relatively narrow torque band – it peaks between 1500-4320rpm – saps some in-gear acceleration, but it still feels quick. Fuel use on test hit a 9.0L/100km average compared with a claimed 6.5L/100km, so it’s pretty frugal, too.
BMW X2: BMW’s small SUV will jump from a resting start to 100km/h in a claimed 7.7 seconds, although on test it surprised everyone and bettered that with a 7.2secs. Its similarly powerful and responsive 2.0-litre turbo unit produces its peak torque across a wider band, 1350-4600rpm, meaning it feels more tractable when accelerating to, say, overtake another vehicle, however, hit the accelerator hard from a standing start and torque steer tugs at the wheel.
Like the Audi, the BMW uses a quick seven-speed dual-clutch auto with steering wheel paddle shifters handing control to the driver.
Fuel use on test hit 10.0L/100km against a claimed 6.0L/100km. The BMW also leans towards slightly cheaper 95RON fuel, and not the 98RON tastes of the Audi.
Winner: Audi Q2
Warranty and servicing
Audi Q2: Audi’s products come with three years of unlimited-kilometre warranty, with service intervals spread across 15,000km or 12 months, whichever rolls around first. The warranty includes three years of roadside support in the event of a breakdown.
BMW X2: The X2 is covered under BMW’s standard three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. BMW’s vehicles use the car’s electronics to decide when it’s time to book a service, meaning that if you drive it gently, you’ll have fewer trips back to the dealership. BMW also throws in three years of roadside assistance.
Winner: BMW X2
The BMW X2 may be the runner-up in this comparison, but that doesn’t give the Audi Q2 a runaway win. In reality, these two cars run a close race for the top spot, and are only separated by the Audi’s consistency across all the categories compared with the X2’s only real flaws – its higher pricing, an expensive options list and hints of torque steer when you drive it enthusiastically.