The TT has always been a desirable piece of automotive sculpture

Tasty touches of technology make this sports coupé feel quite special

Price: £29,860
Engine: 1,984cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbo-charged, 230bhp
Transmission: six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph, 0-62 in 6.0sec, 47.9mpg, CO2 137g/km

The new Audi TT has a virtual cockpit. That doesn't mean you have to turn into a hologram to gain entry, but it does mean that you see instruments that aren't really there. The instrument panel is simply a screen on which facsimiles of dials appear, while the background contains either written information or becomes entirely formed of a satellite-navigation map. It makes the dashboard refreshingly simple and uncluttered, drawing your eyes to a quintet of circular air vents, each of which resembles the turbine-bladed intake of a jet engine.

These are tasty touches of technology that make this sports coupé feel quite special. But then the TT has always been a desirable piece of automotive sculpture – the first generation in 1999 described as almost Bauhausian by design critics. The second generation looked less radical but was a lot better to drive, and this third one brings a new sense of geometrical crispness with its mix of edges and angles within the rounded, fastback profile that a TT should have.

This is most evident in the front view, with its squashed-hexagon grille and small, stern headlights, whose illuminated vertical bars during daylight are a nod to the lights of Audi's Le Mans-winning cars. With such a successful racing programme, Audi must surely place the desires of enthusiastic, car-literate buyers high on the list of objectives to be satisfied by the new TT, the more so given that the previous two versions have been cold fish to a sensitive driver. Lots of glamour, little soul.

The Volkswagen-Audi group's so-called MQB platform, designed to be light, strong and versatile, has made the latest models of the Golf, Audi A3 and Seat Leon better to drive, and be driven in, than any earlier version. The TT uses the MQB but with an Audi-flavoured twist, with all exterior sheet metal and some structural elements in aluminium. Not only is the new TT lighter, it is also fractionally smaller and you sit lower in its expensively finished cabin.

With 230bhp now on offer from the 2.0-litre, turbocharged engine (and 310bhp in the top TTS version), this all promises potent performance. That power passes either through the front wheels via a manual gearbox, in which case it's enough to hurl the TT to 62mph in six seconds, or through all four wheels via a double-clutch automatic gearbox – the TT Quattro so fitted scoring an eyeball-compressing 5.3 seconds thanks to better traction and quicker gearshifting.

That's all fine, but pace alone is not enough to make a driver love a car. Fortunately, the new TT has more to it. It feels precise and keen to react, with accurate steering and an instant response to the accelerator. There is some delay before the turbocharger brings on the boost, but then it arrives progressively and controllably. The engine sounds crisp and potent, the gear change has an oily precision, and even the front-wheel drive TT transmits its power faithfully to a wet and slippery road.

In short, this is a TT more entertaining than any before, compromised only by suspension which is unnecessarily, tiresomely unyielding over bumps. And that's with the standard 18in wheels. Why anyone would possibly think the S-line version's 19in items are a good idea, or the ludicrous 20in option, I can't imagine.

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