Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI 150 S Line
List price £27,160
Target Price £26,305
Audi’s smallest SUV isn't cheap, but it's smart inside and promises to be fun to drive
Ford Kuga 1.5T Ecoboost 150 FWD
List price £26,945
Target Price £24,612
Recently revised Kuga is the largest of our trio, so it should outscore its rivals for practicality
Seat Ateca 1.4 EcoTSI 150 FR
List price £24,960
Target Price £23,594
Our Small SUV of the Year is available in a sporty new trim. Does it make sense?
Big alloys? Check. Beefy body kit? Check. Figure-hugging seats? Check. Yep, an SUV may not be the best starting point for something genuinely sporty to drive, but there’s plenty of clamour for ones that look and feel suitably athletic.
And that no doubt explains Seat’s decision to launch a more aggressively styled FR version of its trendy Ateca. Already one of the most fun-to-drive SUVs on the road, the new FR is mainly about looking the part, although it does have quicker steering than other models in the line-up to make it feel even more agile. To test its mettle, we’ve lined it up against the smaller Audi Q2 and larger Ford Kuga. Both cars are also at the fun-driving end of the SUV spectrum and both are tested here in their sportiest trims. So, assuming a Porsche Macan is out of your reach, which of our trio should you go for?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
These SUVs may look like they’ve been down the gym, but don’t expect Macan-rivalling acceleration. In fact, all three are powered by the same small turbocharged petrol engines you’ll find in the more value-focused trims in their respective line-ups.
That’s not to say performance is sluggish. The Q2, the lightest of our trio, sprinted to 60mph in a respectable 8.0sec and the Ateca was only a few tenths behind. Both cars are closely matched when it comes to in-gear acceleration, too, building speed briskly as long as you keep the revs above 1500rpm.
The Kuga matches its rivals for engine power, but it quickly loses ground to them when you put your foot down and always feels more lethargic, no matter what situation you throw at it. You’ll notice its relative shortage of muscle the most when trying to breeze past slower-moving traffic in the high gears, because it takes considerably longer to wind your way up to speed.
Being tall is bad for agility. It’s why you wouldn’t stand a chance of catching a stray cat and why SUVs don’t corner as well as conventional hatchbacks. The Q2 comes closest to doing so, though, mainly because it’s only a few centimetres taller than the Audi A3 on which it’s based. It’s the most eager to dart into corners and can ultimately carry the highest speeds through them, although the Ateca still handles remarkably well for something fairly high-sided.
In fact, the Ateca’s steering actually gives you slightly more confidence when tackling a sinewy B-road, because it builds weight more progressively and naturally. Mind you, the margins are small and the Q2’s steering is still much better than the Kuga’s, which tells you little about what the car’s front wheels are up to. And despite having stiffer suspension than other models in the Kuga line-up, the Ford still can’t disguise the fact that it’s the loftiest of our trio; it leans the most through bends and is the first to run out of grip.
Fortunately, though, that stiffer suspension hasn’t ruined the Kuga’s ride. It’s actually the most forgiving of this particular trio over low-speed ruts and potholes, and it matches the Ateca for high-speed composure. The Q2 doesn’t quite border on uncomfortable, but it bucks and bounds the most along beaten-up backstreets and never completely settles on the motorway.
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