Considering how much I rate the Audi A2, it’s quite a surprise to discover that in PetrolBlog’s 21 months of existence, it hasn’t warranted a single mention. Oh for sure, it’s often a topic of conversation on twitter and it isn’t long before someone tweets that the A2 was ‘ten years ahead of its time’ or it was ‘launched ten years too early’. Thinking about it, it’s often me who says that.
The truth is, when the car was launched in the year 2000, the public wasn’t really ready for the A2. This was a car for the new millennium and yet many people seemed unwilling to embrace the future.
Looking back, it’s difficult to understand the A2’s relative failure but then you must remember that in 2000, Audi wasn’t the dominant brand it is today. BMW and Mercedes-Benz ruled the roost back then, so you can understand why the A2’s closest rival, the first generation A-Class, sold over 1.6 million units, whereas the A2 sold just 176,377. Ouch.
But this just goes to prove that you shouldn’t necessarily trust popular opinion, because the A2 is a cracking car. I remember being transported around in a friend’s car and couldn’t quite believe how big it felt inside. I also loved the A2’s ‘service hatch’ at the front, giving the owner access to the oil filler cap, screen wash and dipstick without having to open the bonnet. Genius.
I also loved the ‘mini-me’ styling and the fact that it looked completely different to anything else on the road. What’s more, it was constructed from aluminium, giving it lightness and excellent fuel economy. The 1.4 TDi weighed just over 1000kg and delivered a combined MPG of 65.7. Impressive.
I will go on record as saying that the A2 did actually rock ever so slightly when the wipers were on full pelt. It wasn’t anything like the urban myths that likened it to being on a fishing boat in choppy waters, but it was nevertheless noticeable. Still, it gave it character!
But aluminium cars don’t come cheap, so neither did the A2. Buyers were unprepared to pay a high price for something so radical and in 2005 the A2 bowed out of the UK with a run of Special Edition badged cars.
Today, they make spectacularly good second hand buys. At the time of writing there are around 90 A2s available on eBay with prices ranging from £1,500 to £7,000. For an innovative and well packaged little car that even today looks ahead of its time, I think this represents excellent value for money. The only word of caution is that fixing aluminium cars isn’t easy, so even small accidents can render the A2 unrepairable in the eyes of insurance companies. Take it easy out there.
Until now, Audi hasn’t offered buyers a genuine A2 replacement. For sure, there’s the Audi A1, but this has only been available as a 3-door, whereas the A2 offered five. But all that’s about to change as Audi has just announced the launch of the new Audi A1 Sportback.
Audi will tell you that the new A1 Sportback combines ‘the power of a sportscar with the style of urban living‘. Of course, this is just marketing twaddle and what it actually means is the A1 Sportback will be quick and is probably best suited to someone who lives in the city.
In keeping with the rest of the Audi range, the A1 will be available in SE, Sport and S-Line trim levels, with a choice of 1.2 or 1.4 TFSI petrol engines or a 1.6 TDI diesel engine. Prices start at £13,980, ironically very similar to that of the A2 when launched in 2000.
But while the A2 was a strict 4-seater, the A1 Sportback gives buyers the option of a fifth seat. You’ll have to pay for the additional bottom space, but it will certainly broaden the A1’s appeal, especially for family buyers looking to find a practical second car.
On the face of it, the most exciting model in the range will be the 188bhp 1.4 TFSI with 7-speed S-tronic gearbox. Priced at £21,270, this will be the range topping A1 Sportback which, despite it’s pace, will still deliver 47.9mpg combined. But it remains to be seen whether this will translate to an exciting car on the road. I was rather disappointed with the 3-door A1 when I tried it earlier this year. I found it to be claustrophobic inside and lethargic and soulless to drive. But then I did go on to say that it doesn’t matter what I think, because the A1 will sell like hot cakes.
The same is true of the new A1 Sportback. When the new launch is rolled out in early 2012, Audi fans will be attracted to it like a moth is attracted to a blazing LED light. I fully expect the 1.6 TDI to be the biggest seller, with fleet buyers particularly interested in its frugality. Audi claims it will deliver 74.3mpg on a combined cycle, whilst the CO2 figure of 99g/km means it’s free of road tax.
Styling wise, if you’re familiar with the A1, the Sportback will offer nothing new, aside from the addition of two doors! Inside, the Sportback is typically Audi, with lots of soft-touch black finishes that’s probably very well put together, if a little sombre. The congregation at the church of Audi will be delighted.
Audi has released this ‘happening’ video to promote the A1 Sportback’s versatility and I’m sure it appeals to their urban and ever-so-cool target market. Me, I’d much rather see William Woollard or Chris Goffey wandering around the car and giving us the lowdown on the actual details.
But then I’d also rather spend a few grand on an early A2. That’s probably because I’m not hip, trendy or happening. Oh well.
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