Practical Classics (UK)
The late Nineties into the mid-noughties was a sweet spot for automotive design. Build quality had never been better, while mechanicals remained relatively easy to access and straightforward to repair. Gone were the coal bunker cabins, replaced with cheery painted dashboards and colourful fabrics and outside, and stylists had been given the green light to go bonkers. Some got creative, while others innovated. Many did both.
Audi spent the previous few decades quietly brewing a cocktail of world-beating credentials. Despite its range of somewhat plain looking cars, the firm consistently broke new ground in performance, refinement and safety until, in 1998, the firm was at last propelled into the stratosphere of aspirational, must-have brands for the new millennium. Of this new generation, the ’98 TT came first. And then came the A2… the people’s Audi.
This spacious supermini is still supremely advanced today. With a laser welded aluminium spaceframe-style design, the outer panels have very little structural function. Such lightness coupled with a drag coefficient of 0.25 and small, efficient engines means astonishingly good fuel economy figures and it zips along at a very reasonable pace. It’s also surprisingly good fun to chuck around.
Clever touches are found inside and out.
The service hatch, where the radiator grille would normally be, opens to reveal dipstick, plus oil and screen wash filler caps. The bonnet doesn’t have hinges – it’s an eight kilogramme panel that only ever needs to be removed for servicing.
Interior packaging is outstanding, with acres of space for four and a deep boot (including removeable false floor cover).
The instruments exude a classy a red glow and Audi’s upmarket soft-touch interiors of this era were unmatched. Yet, all that ingenuity... and it looks like a toaster. As with many of the great people’s cars throughout history, buyers initially steered clear of this most unconventional of mainstream motors. But unlike the Beetle, 2CV, Mini and Smart, sales never really picked up. A high asking price meant disappointingly low numbers made it out of the showrooms so, despite its brilliance, Audi killed off the A2 five years after launch. That makes it an increasingly rare oddball. Values are rock bottom, but with abused ones disappearing fast, prices of the good examples are sure to climb soon. Bag one now for pennies and remind everyone how the world has yet to catch up with the Audi A2.