AUDI Q2 DESIGN

seemingly contributes to reduced turn-in eagerness compared with the Cooper, but it faithfully follows the fast and accurate front end. Steering finesse isnít a problem for the Audi. Itís not like an SUV at all, instead responsive, planted and chuckable, and closer to the fun of a warm hatch in seat-of-the-pants feel.

What did trouble the Q2ís swagger was the 19-inch wheel and tyre package, two inches bigger than standard and fitted as part of our test carís Edition #1 option pack. Stiff, shallow sidewalls at each corner emphasised the Q2ís firm ride by telegraphing information about every rut and bump into the cabin.

Coupled with significant road noise, thereís nothing about the upgrade that appeals from a comfort point of view. In this trim the Q2 is crying out for adaptive dampers. What the sportier Bridgestone Potenza rubber does offer is composure at speed and the grip to carve through a corner without being knocked off line, despite the tetchy ride.

Oddly, itís the Q2 in this duo that feels closer to the go-kart ideal traditionally championed by Mini. The Countryman has stepped away from some of the brandís usual tropes and taken on a level-headed emphasis on comfort and practicality thatís apparent from the cabin kit-out to the ride.

The Countryman is markedly quieter without the tyre roar of the Q2, and its cabin is brimming with equipment that the Audi simply doesnít match. Both cars have auto emergency braking, reversing camera, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control and Apple/Android smartphone integration as standard. But even in base trim the Countryman goes much further.

Adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, selfparking, auto high beams, powered tailgate, keyless entry, push-button start, digital radio and front lumbar support are all there in the lesser-priced Mini but missing from the Q2. The gulf widens once you move to the back seats.

Both cars have map lights for rear occupants, but only the Mini boasts rear air vents, fabric door coverings, map pockets, grab handles and a reclinable and sliding rear bench with 40/20/40 split folding that gives it superior versatility on top of a bigger cargo bay Ė 450 litres versus 405 litres.

Thereís better visibility and more room for heads and legs in the back of the Countryman, largely owing to the Mini having a 69mm longer wheelbase than the Audi. Adults of average height will manage in the back of the Q2, however the Audi clearly caters more to those in the front.

The Q2 is totally on-brand and a cut above both from a dynamic perspective and in the way it looks, but its high price even before options, relatively basic standard equipment list and iffy packaging leave it trailing the Miniís all-round ability.

Such a value difference more than makes up for the Miniís softer-than-expected dynamics. While thereís a whiff of disappointment that the Cooperís sensible new approach means it doesnít fully capitalise on the inherent positives of the platform, it is more agreeable on the types of roads these cars will spend most of their time. Itís also far better equipped to satisfy the expectations of buyers stepping up to a premium alternative out of mainstream baby SUVs such as the Mazda CX-3. For those reasons itís the Countryman by a nose in this hard-fought tussle.

AUDI Q2 DESIGN

Performance Power-to-weight: 86kW per tonne Redline/cut-out: 6100/6200rpm Speed at indicated 100km/h: 99 Speed in gears 47km/h @ 6200rpm 78km/h @ 6200rpm 115km/h @ 6200rpm 156km/h @ 6200rpm 207km/h @ 6200rpm 212km/h @ 5200rpm* 212km/h @ 4300rpm* Standing-start acceleration 0-20km/h: 1.4sec 0-40km/h: 2.5sec 0-60km/h: 4.0sec 0-80km/h: 6.0sec 0-100km/h: 8.5sec 0-120km/h: 11.9sec 0-140km/h: 16.4sec 0-160km/h: 23.9sec 0-400m: 16.4sec @ 140.2km/h Rolling acceleration: Drive 80-12Okm/h: 5.6sec Braking distance 10Okm/h-0: 37.7m

Verdict 6.5/10 Sweet engine; sharp steering; hatchback handling; designer appeal Firm ride; road noise; confined rear seat; minimal equipment Track: Heathcote dragstrip, dry. Temp: 15.5ļC.

Driver: Byron Mathioudakis. Warranty: 3yr/ unlimited km. Service interval: 12 months/15,000km. Glassís 3-year resale: 56%. AAMI Insurance: $1225. * Speed limited. ** Includes Edition #1 package ($6700) and assistance package ($1600). 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 $41,100/Tested $49,400** Drivetrain Engine in-line 4, dohc, 16v, turbo Layout front engine (east-west), front drive Capacity 1395cc Power 110kW @ 5000-6000rpm Torque 250Nm @ 1500-3500rpm Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch Chassis Body steel, 5 doors, 5 seats L/W/H/WĖB 4191/1794/1508/2601mm Front/rear track 1547/1541mm Weight 1280kg Boot capacity 405 litres Fuel/capacity 95 octane/50 litres Fuel consumption 10.6L/100km (test average) Suspension Front: struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar Rear: torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar Steering electric rack-and-pinion Turning Circle 11.1m (2.0 turns lock-to-lock) Front brakes ventilated discs (312mm) Rear brakes ventilated discs (272mm) Tyres Bridgestone Potenza S001 Tyre size 235/40R19 96Y Safety NCAP rating (Aus)

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Power-to-weight: 72kW per tonne Redline/cut-out: 6500/6400rpm Speed at indicated 100km/h: 97 Speed in gears 45km/h @ 6400rpm 80km/h @ 6400rpm 129km/h @ 6400rpm 176km/h @ 6400rpm 200km/h @ 5450rpm* 200km/h @ 4300rpm* - Standing-start acceleration 0-20km/h: 1.0sec 0-40km/h: 2.4sec 0-60km/h: 4.1sec 0-80km/h: 6.6sec 0-100km/h: 9.9sec 0-120km/h: 14.3sec 0-140km/h: 20.3sec 0-160km/h: Ė 0-400m: 17.0sec @ 129.4km/h Rolling acceleration: Drive 80-12Okm/h: 7.4sec Braking distance 10Okm/h-0: 37.5m 7.0/10 Ride comfort; interior packaging; passenger space; value equation Not-so-Mini dynamics; leisurely acceleration; exaggerated theme Track: Heathcote dragstrip, dry. Temp: 15.0ļC.

Driver: Byron Mathioudakis. Warranty: 3yr/unlimited km. Service interval: 12 months/15,000km. Glassís 3-year resale: 55%.

AAMI Insurance: $1213. * Speed limited. ** Includes piano black interior ($300), alloy wheels in black ($400), bonnet stripes in black ($200) and no-cost black roof and mirror covers. $39,900/Tested $40,800** in-line 3, dohc, 12v, turbo front engine (east-west), front drive 1499cc 100kW @ 4400-6000rpm 220Nm @ 1400-4300rpm 6-speed automatic steel, 5 doors, 5 seats 4299/1822/1557/2670mm 1585/1587mm 1390kg 450 litres 95 octane/51 litres 10.7L/100km (test average) Front: struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar Rear: multi-links, coil springs, antiroll bar electric rack-and-pinion 11.4m (2.4 turns lock-to-lock) ventilated discs (307mm) ventilated discs (280mm) Hankook Ventus S1 Evo2 225/50R18 95W (Aus)