The Verdict: Vroom TT boom looms

The last word in cool or a passing novelty? Chances are, you won't be able to get your hands on one to find out
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The Audi TT is that rare breed - a show car that has escaped from the fevered brain of a designer and made it into production with relatively few changes. The TT was unveiled as a concept car to a near-hysterical reception at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1995. Its most obvious genetic links are with the Golf - from which it has inherited that all-conquering VW/Audi group build quality - and the Beetle, whose silhouette it gives a purposeful squashing.

Inside the car, that mean profile creates a dark, claustrophobic feel. Those tiny side windows turn out to be something of a headache, literally, as you bang your head each time you check over your shoulder, and visibility in general borders on hazardous. Headroom is excellent though, and frankly a few bangs to the head are a small price to pay for a car this cool. The TT does have a back seat but in reality it should be treated as a two-seater with a reasonably sized boot.

If you've read about the TT in the motoring press you'd be forgiven for thinking it has all the sporting prowess of a Vauxhall Viva. "It's definitely not a sports car," patronised Top Gear's Tiff Needell. "Only rally-style reverse flicks swung the tail out." Well Tiff, here in the real world such gymnastics are about as sensible as tightrope walking in stilettos and most people will find the TT's turbo kick and 143mph top speed perfectly adequate.

In the UK, the Audi TT will be available with two engines: a 180 or a 225bhp, four cylinder, turbo-charged 1.8 litre (we tried the 180). Both have four-wheel-drive, air conditioning and leather trim.

None of this comes cheap. The 180 costs pounds 26,500, while the 225 is pounds 29,645, placing it alongside Mercedes' CLK and BMW's 5-Series. I'd stick with the 180 - the extra performance of the 225 doesn't warrant its price premium.

The TT is an "event" car that will make an impact even on philistines who think cars are a form of transport. The only catch is a mere 1,000 right-hand drive models are coming here each year. See you in the queue.

Michel Proust

47, BBC World Service journalist, from Lyon, France. Currently drives a Renault Savannah estate

"This is completely different from anything I've driven before. It is beautiful looking, pleasant to drive and I don't think the looks will date. There's lots of acceleration, but I thought it might have even more. Visibility from the side is restricted, the side windows are small, and it's not easy to get in and out of. It is well made and I really like the detail on the dashboard. I don't think it is necessarily a male or female car - I certainly felt at home in it. It's not too ostentatious, it's stylish and not overtly showy."

Janey Walker

33, marketing manager, from East Dulwich, London. Currently drives a Vauxhall Corsa

"It is very smooth and quiet but the gear change is a bit clunky. The front window pillars are a bit big so visibility is a problem and it felt really quite oppressive inside. It is very low but didn't feel like a sports car, it's not really zoomy. There's no sense of risk when driving it and I was disappointed that there weren't many people going: `Ooh, look, wow!'. It's definitely a bit of a novelty, but I think it'll wear off. It looks like the parent of the new Beetle. I wouldn't buy one because I have a family and it seems quite expensive."

John Rhodes

41, unemployed, from Herne Hill, London. Currently drives a VW Golf

"This is brilliant, really powerful. I like the way the dash is set out. The suspension is a bit bumpy but it is really pleasing to the eye and I think the design will last. I thought it would cost around pounds 45,000 so it is good value. The side windows aren't great when you need to pull out; you end up having to strain your neck. I like the use of metal inside, the interior felt very comfy on the whole. I'd like to take it home. If I won the Lottery, I used to think I'd get a Range Rover, but the first thing I'll do now is get myself one of these."

Stephen Blurton

35, corporate manager, from Crystal Palace, London. Currently rides a Yamaha motorbike

"It's very solid and well made. The low speed acceleration is very good. It feels like quite a heavy car, but I subscribe to the less-is-more theory of fast cars. If I was in the market for sports car in this price bracket I'd look at one even though the Audi name isn't as potent as, say, Porsche - I think of them more as makers of saloon cars. It looks like a chopped Volkswagen Beetle, which I suppose is a legacy of its underpinnings. But it does look individual and fashionable, although this, of course, could date."

Road test

If you would like to take part, write to The Verdict, The Independent Magazine, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, giving a contact phone number, your address and details of the type of vehicle, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26, and have a clean driving licence.

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