A car which took everyone by surprise. The Audi TT broke the company’s run of humble saloons and gave us a stylish and practical two-door roadster for the 1990’s.
The TT was Audi’s first sports car since the Quattro, making its debut as a concept car back in 1994. Four years later, the car was launched to widespread acclaim; the pundits adoring its perky styling, its peppy performance and the fact that it was an all round good egg. Built on the same VW Group A4 (PQ34) platform as the Volkswagen Golf Mk4, the Audi A3 and the Škoda Octavia, the car was small but not claustrophobic; giving the discerning owner a sports car that could happily sneak into any parking space or down narrow European streets, but also be able to carry all your bags and baggages for when you wanted to take an impromptu, open-top roadtrip to the Côte d’Azur.
Indeed, the twisting roads of the Corniche are truly the TT’s element thanks to its unbeatable handling. The car is the last word in sure-footed grip, with not even a hint of sliding or drifting on sharp corners at speed. While other’s have to slow for the seemingly endless number of hairpin turns, the TT will whisk you around them without even the slightest hint of trouble.
Then again, even if you do get into trouble, the tiny TT is perhaps one of the safest sports cars you can buy. With a four-star NCP rating, the Audi TT will protect you from a majority of serious accidents which would easily mangle or crush a comparable lightweight sports car. Some may think open-top sports cars are just coffins on wheels, but the Audi TT begs to differ.
Most of all though, perhaps the best attribute the car has is its sporty but peppy little looks. I’ve always likened the Audi TT to an eager Terrier; a dog with some get up and go but is adorable all the same. From its smooth, streamlined front to its tapered rear, the car is a design icon which set the precedent for years to come. At the same time, it hasn’t really got a gender specific image. While most people consider the TT to be a girl’s sports car, even boys won’t look out of place at the wheel of these fun little roadsters.
However, the Audi TT still falls to #15 on our list and all for much deserved reasons.
While the TT is a strong and sporty little car, the build quality of this machine upon its launch was quite hit and miss.
The car was notable in its early years for a series of serious, high-speed motorway accidents; the cause of which was never truly determined. Doubt surrounds whether these were caused by problems with the car’s rear suspension joint seizing up or if it was simply down to the driver’s lack of skill.
Aside from these accidents, the car’s reliability during its early years was among the poorest Audi had ever seen. In 2003, around the time of the car’s facelift, the Audi TT had a reliability rate of only 75%, which, for a modern, highly sophisticated sports car, is appalling. Uncertainty continues to surround this matter, but it’s suspected that these issues of quality came down to a poor supply of parts; primarily from VAG.
Ignition was a significant problem with the TT, with examples built between August 2001 and October 2002 being especially prone to failure of the ignition coils. The poor quality of these coils led to a legal dispute between Audi and its supplier VAG, causing major delays in the production of Audi’s for the remainder of 2002.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Audi TT’s coming out of the factory was the DSGs and S-matic transmissions.
The DSG (Direct-Shift-Gearbox) is an electronically controlled dual-clutch multiple-shaft manual gearbox in a transaxle design, without a conventional clutch pedal and with fully automatic or semi-manual control. On the Audi TT, these suffered notable issues due to a possible failure of the joints in the heat exchanger (used to moderate the temperature of the automatic transmission fluid) and causing engine coolant to leak into the transmission.
Problems with S-matic transmissions (for the Sport versions of the TT) included the engine being momentarily shut off due to a delay in messages sent from the brake switch to the ECU; the result of a glitch in the protective software. This can result in the car ‘dying’ for a maximum of two to three seconds, a serious problem when transiting junctions or in difficult situations; such as on motorways.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for prospective buyers as many of these issues were ironed out either through recalls or software updates. Today, the Audi TT is generally considered one of the more reliable roadsters of the 1990’s with thousands still roaming the streets. Prices for the TT start from as little as £7,000 and for that you can get yourself something really quite good. Unlike most classics on this countdown, the youthful age of the car means that not many have been driven to destruction by overzealous drivers and neglectful owners, though always be sure to check the car over to make sure it doesn’t look careworn. Most of all, check the panel gaps to make sure they’re as narrow and precise as they were when they left the factory. Gaps any larger than the width of your little finger may be the result of shoddy repair work to try and cover up an accident, which may result in the car’s integrity being compromised.
Otherwise, the Audi TT is the little sports car you always promised yourself. Whether you’re single or would like to woo your partner, the car is a touch more highbrow than the Mazda MX-5 but it doesn’t skimp on the fun! 😀
- Comfort – 8/10 – It’s just so comfortable!
- Practicality – 7/10 – Quite a useful car for a two-seat roadster, but not on the same level as comparable hatchbacks
- Reliability – 6/10 – Though once considered the most unreliable Audi ever built, most gremlins have been ironed out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be wary though
- Speed – 7/10 – Peppy and eager speed makes it nimble
- Handling – 10/10 – Grips like sandpaper!
- Looks – 10/10 – An instant style classic
- Equipment – 7/10 – Has a few more features than most, but not really comparable to Audi’s saloons
- Price – 8/10 – No shortage of these cars so prices will be kept low
- Value – 3/10 – That doesn’t do much for resale value though
- Total – 66/90 – An instant Audi classic with a timeless feel.