Audi TT review: the sporty classic gets midlife facelift

If you can cope with the saga of getting in and out of the thing, Audi’s quality compact roadster is a car for the ages, says Sean O’Grady. Or, indeed, the ageing...

Friday 08 March 2019 17:48 GMT
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(Photos Audi)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

First things first. Never mind about acceleration, handling, boot space, the air con, the fashion appeal, advanced technology: can you actually get into the thing?

The great conceit of the car industry – you see it at shows such as Geneva now, and through all the marketing – is that their funkily designed vehicles are bought and enjoyed by the young of the world.

They aren’t. They’re enjoyed by the old of the world. But try and recall the last time you saw grey hair or a mobility aid in an ad for a new car.

Even in a world of PCP deals and easier finance, the young can’t afford to buy, run or insure cars. Indeed, many are going off the idea of car usage at all.

Most buyers of new cars, and especially expensive new cars, are older and fatter than the general population. I speak for myself, obviously, but I hope that is not too controversial or self-hatingly ageist a fact to point out.

(Audi)

So while I obviously love the current Audi TT, now, appropriately in this context, having undergone a “midlife facelift”, it is a little bit awkward to get in and out of.

In the summertime the convertible version (sans roof, obviously) means a bit less contortion, but otherwise it and the hardtop are a bit trickier to clamber into then you might like. As a daily driver I think you would find it quite tiring.

The spec

Audi TT Coupe 45

Price: £47,460 (as tested, range starts at £31,530)

Engine capacity: 21 petrol 4-cyl, 7-sp auto, dual clutch

Power output (PS @ rpm): 245@5,000-4,000

Top speed (mph): 155

0-60mph (seconds): 5.2

Fuel economy (mpg): 34.9​

CO2 emissions (g/km): 16

Once you’re in though, and, provided you don’t have to take too many comfort breaks, it’s the car that has to do all the exercise, not you: fortunate, then, that it is one of the more athletic machines you can treat yourself to.

The Audi TT Coupe 45, as tested here, is (to put matters fairly crudely) a two-door, two-seat version of the VW Golf GTI – lighter, easier to point and squirt and, not irrelevant, easier to park.

Most relevant is that it is even faster than a Golf GTI, and with the usual Audi Quattro all-wheel drive system, has handing every bit as good, if not better.

The lower centre of gravity helps, as does a canvas (not metal) roof, and the whole package is pretty much flawless. As is normal these days there is choice of “drive select” modes, and the “dynamic” one is the obvious one to go for on the open road.

(Audi)

Choose “efficiency” (a euphemism for economy) and switch on the cruise control and you can enjoy a relatively comfortable ride in the compact cabin (especially if you’re on the short side, one of the few advantages of being vertically challenged in this world).

The TT isn’t perfect. It has gone through a bit of a refresh, with slightly sharper styling, new wheels and colour options. The more important change is a new engine, a standard petrol 2-litre unit linked to a 7-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

This will take you to 60mph in around 5 seconds – near enough supercar performance. It’s fun

However, they have left the old Audi control system for the satnav, radio and so on, which is worked from a massive dial between the seats; a proper modern touchscreen affair, as seen on newer Audi designs, is not there yet.

(Audi)

The equipment elves are also just a touch mean for the economy – no adaptive cruise control or a heated steering wheel on my £47,000 example.

I’ll agree that things have reached a strange pass when people start to complain that their car won’t drive itself or have radar fitted as standard, but that’s consumer capitalism for you.

A little over two decades since the Bauhaus-inspired TT first appeared, this is only the third iteration of what became a highly successful product line, and one that Audi had never attempted before.

(Audi)

Some of the purity of the old VW Beetle-like shape has disappeared, with more grooves and fussiness around the bodywork, including of course the Audi full-depth grille design and highly styled LED exterior lighting.

What hasn’t been lost is the sheer driving enjoyment and quality build that Audi brought to the segment, and it still l has relatively few rivals. The BMW Z4 is one, and the more basic Mercedes roadsters perhaps.

Sadly, there is no comparable Alfa Romeo roadster (the rare 4C is almost twice as expensive), no MG, and no Honda these days. In fact you have to spend less to open up more choice – the convertible Mazda MX-5 is pretty and capable, as are the Fiat/Abarth 124 twins which shares some of the Mazda’s engineering.

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I also like the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86, which are more basic packages, a lot slower and, according to some user forums, prone to corrosion issues in the past.

Just as its cousin the Golf GTI is the default choice for anyone looking for a hot hatch, so the Audi TT fulfils much the same function for those looking for a compact roadster.

I’d like to get in one, but just a bit more quickly than my stiff joints can manage. I suppose what I’m really looking for is a Golf GTI Convertible… but they don’t make such a thing. Yet.

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