Hard and fast New hot crossover plays a blinder point-to-point, but more comfort wouldn’t hurt…
EA888 might not ring any bells, but it’s the codename for the brilliant engine that powers many of the VW Group’s most enjoyable cars. Think of any lively coupe, estate or hot hatch from VW, Seat, Skoda or Audi (and Cupra! Don’t forget Cupra!) and you’re highly likely to find those five digits proudly stamped on the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. From a business point of view it’s a cost-effective way to kill rather more than two birds with one stone. For engineers, it’s a space-efficient unit that can be packaged in all manner of bodies. For drivers, it’s a wonderful blend of usable power, smoothness and economy.
The latest is the Audi SQ2, jumping the warm crossover queue in front of the VW T-Roc R. It’s closest in concept to Audi’s own S3 hatch: they share an engine, they’re separated by just 45kg, the interiors are near identical and the two are almost neck-and-neck on price.
That engine really is an absolute masterstroke. The fact that the SQ2 can blast off to 62mph in 4.8 seconds is remarkable on paper and mind-boggling on the road. Need low-down pulling power? There’s plenty of torque from 2000rpm. Fancy wringing it out? It’s happy to oblige, accompanied by a properly bassy growl.
Body control is impressive when you’re hurling it around. It rolls more than an S3, but it’s well tied down, letting you enjoy the weighty steering. Grip is, naturally, unflappable, and you can feel the Haldex quattro system swapping the power among the wheels under heavy load. It’s less impressive when you’re just pottering around. The SQ2 would really benefit from the Magnetic Ride adaptive dampers that are a must-have option on the S3, where the Comfort setting softens the ride to a degree that allows you to ignore lumpy roads.
The sports seats need more lateral support and the padding in them is extremely unforgiving. The driving position seems impossible to adjust correctly, hampered by steeply angled pedals and a seat base that’s too high even when you’ve pumped the adjuster as low as it’ll go. That engine, though… Floor it once and you’ll be hooked, but both the Golf R and Audi S3 are sharper drives.
Stupendous shove and road-pummelling dynamics in a sharp-looking crossover body. Pity about the comfort and the price. 5/5
Cornering is good for a crossover, although S3 and Golf R are better
PLUS + Flexible engine, epic pace, meaty noise
MINUS – Lumpy ride, uncomfortable driving position
THE FIRST HOUR
Strewth, this thing flies!
Sounds properly burly
Why doesn’t the screen retract when I switch it off, like in an S3?
I simply can’t get comfortable here; the seats are hard and pedals are angled weirdly
Why no adaptive dampers? Ride quality is consistently lumpy
Still can’t ignore that weapon of an engine – incredible punch and Flexibility
POWERTRAIN 1984cc 16v turbo four-cylinder, seven-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive
MAX POWER 297bhp @ 5300rpm,
MAX TORQUE 295lb ft @ 2000rpm,
MAX SPEED 155mph
ON SALE Now
EFFICIENCY 32.1mpg, 159g/km CO2