TEST DRIVE: Audi TT

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Totally terrific – Steve Sharpe drives the new Audi TT

When it comes to drawing up a dream car list – an affordable dream car list, rather than one topped by a Bugatti Veyron or a Maclaren – Audi’s perennially popular TT is guaranteed to feature highly on the list for a majority of people.

And importantly, not only that, but compile a list of sports cars that regularly get full marks from motoring professionals and the TT will be equally high. So it’s not all hype.

Audi have really struck gold with the TT – it seems to have a magical formula which continues to be a success as the years, and the rivals, come and go.

When the first TT arrived back in 1998 it caused quite a commotion. Its styling was new and exciting and it wasn’t prohibitively expensive to run thanks to sharing its engine range with a number of other VW Group cars.

With this third generation version, which arrived at the tail end of last year, Audi designers have taken another look at that original model.

The front of the new TT is dominated by horizontal lines, while the grille is much broader and flatter than that of the previous model, with a line dividing it into two zones, and with new, flatter, more angular headlights

The latest car is practically the same length as the previous model, but with a wheelbase that’s grown by 37mm, it has shorter overhangs and tauter looking proportions.

But like all classic models, the TT remains unmistakably that, with its rounded wheelarches, curved windscreen pillars, prominent shoulder line and sloping rear tailgate.

The sills are more prominent and slightly flared, further adding to the sporty look.

It’s a stunning car, with its high shoulder line, small windows and that sloping coupe roof giving it a real supercar appearance, a traditional sports car feel brought right up to date.

Inside is equally, if not more stunning.

The designers have gone for a Less is More approach, and have come up with some inspired ways to minimalise things.

The four cockpit style air vents hark back to sports cars of old, but the designers have brilliantly placed the electronic controls into the centre of each vent, along with the seat heaters in the spare vents.

The dash has been further cleared of clutter by the inclusion of Audi’s new virtual cockpit.

It’s a high-resolution LCD display which replaces both the conventional dials and media / satnav screen.

Right in front of the driver, in the place where the traditional gauges usually go, the speed gauges are completely digital, with the background filled with either the satnav map or media readouts.

It can be adjusted to display what you want, in various proportions, whether it’s a map of the surroundings or radio information.

Whichever you choose the readout is crystal clear and all the info is right in front of the driver. All it takes is a glance downwards from the windscreen and you get speedo and rev counter, or functions like the navigation map, telephone, media, trip and car settings.

All can be controlled using both the touch sensitive MMI controller between the front seats or the multi-function wheel.

Not only is it an incredible piece of technology it also allows the rest of the dash to be cleared of clutter.

The rest of the interior is equally superb. The build quality is excellent, with the plastics cushioned and textured to the touch throughout, and the seats are luxurious, well supported and comfortable, and in Alcantara leather in my model. The quality is obvious and its beautifully designed.

Although the TT is technically a four-seater it’s stretching it a bit. The rear seats are very small and with the front seats pushed back to a normal extent there’s very little leg room.

It’s OK for children and smaller adults for small distances, but you wouldn’t want to spend a huge amount of time there.

It is useful for extra storage space, though, because once you lift that sloping hatchback the boot is wide but shallow. The rear seats can be folded to get more space, too.

Up front, however, there’s plenty of head room and legroom for the two front seat passengers.

So it’s fair to say that inside and out the TT ticks the boxes for brilliance. But out on the road? Get the pen ready...

The TT comes in either 2-litre diesel or petrol form, with a few variations.

The 2-litre diesel last week picked up a top award for best diesel sports car, but I drove the TFSI petrol version, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

It’s a tremendous engine, which delivers power on cue throughout the revs.

If you want a blast from a standing start the TT will roar away like a bad tempered stallion, accelerating swiftly but smoothly right up to motorway speeds.

But the TT’s real strength is in the fact that it will pick up and accelerate right through the gears.

Push the pedal while the revs are low in fourth and fifth and you’ll fly forward. You’ll still pull forward in sixth, while accelerate heavily in third and it’s hang on to your hats.

The six-speed gearbox is slick and slots into place effortlessly, too.

The TT’s low centre of gravity, light weight and low slung stance make cornering a dream.

Venture out on country roads and the Audi sticks to the tarmac like glue. The steering is perfectly weighted and you feel in total control entering, half way around and exiting a corner.

There are huge amounts of grip and lean has been kept to an absolute minimum.

Your body barely changes position even while taking on tight corners, and the only commotion inside the cabin is involves your heartrate. It handles brilliantly.

While not the most practical car on the road, the TT has always been a car that combines sports car performance with levels of practicality to make it a real option for an everyday car.

The ride is comfortable and although the view out the back is restricted, the TT is easy to manoeuvre around town, easy to park and comfortable for short, stop-start jaunts.

This new version has higher levels of economy than any previous TT, which makes cruising at motorway speeds less wallet crushing.

Claimed mileage figures are a combined 47mpg but I have to say I didn’t get that much.

It’s also a smooth environment in which to travel – the engine is quiet, even at speeds, and road noise is well suppressed.

The only sound you get is a tiny whistle coming in around the window edges, and even that’s hardly noticeable.

Everything seems to come together beautifully in the TT. Sit in the driver’s seat and everything is to hand. The gearstick is close, and barely a stretch away, while the minimalist controls require a twist of the wrist to reach. It makes for an effortless driving experience.

Perhaps understandably, the TT is fairly expensive compared to some of its rivals, with the range starting at just under £30,000, rising to £39,000 for the top-of-the-range Quattro version.

But being as popular as it is the TT holds its value well so depreciation is low.

It’ll also be pretty cheap to fuel and tax, with emissions surprisingly low, which can be taken into account.

There are a lot of goodies as standard even on entry-level Sport trim, which gets air-conditioning, Alcantara and leather seats, xenon headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a USB socket and a DAB radio.

My test car was in S line trim, which adds automatic LED lights and rain-sensing wipers, and gets 19-inch alloys.

Disappointingly you’ll have to pay extra for parking sensors, climate and cruise controls, and sat-nav.

The word iconic is bandied around far too much nowadays but in this case the TT is worthy of the description.

The TT is a joy to drive, and turns head wherever it ventures.

That rare beast, a fabulous looking car with a sporty performance but that can be used as an everyday car, it’s as happy cruising on the motorway or on a blast in the country as going from A to B.

But you’re likely find yourself going from A to B via a detour to X, Y and Z , just for the fun of it

Fact file

Audi TT

Engine: 2 litre petrol

Transmission: Six-speed manual

0-62mph: 6 seconds

Top speed: 155mph

Fuel economy: 47.9 mpg avg

Price: £31,635 OTR (£39,045 inc options)