The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The Audi A2 1999 – 2005
TGUK have reviewed Audi’s smallest offerings with its City Carver and Sportback and both cars we liked. But this little upmarket Inglostadt offering doesn’t really bring anything new to the small car market. There was a time when Audi decided to reinvent the car.
This was a time when the city car was given a big shakeup by the Germans with Mercedes and its A class that would fall over like a drunken sailor and Audi with its A2 made from the metal stuff that is more commonly used to make Coke cans. Both cars taking Avant-Garde styling to a new maximum.
Originally presented in 1997 and launched in 1999, the A2 was so far out there that you could be mistaken for driving a concept car from the design studio. For a small car, the aluminium shell was unheard in a market of cheap city cars where the Audi would do its battle. Along with the reinvention of the car, Audi had also tried to reinvent the small car price tag with it.
The shape was somewhat unusual too, being tall and slim with an unusual roofline. This was more than wacky flicks or a slip of the designer’s pen because the whole shape gave a CD figure of up to 0.29. Exceptionally low which the driving position wasn’t. The A2 was a talking point in the wine bars along with the bonnet that didn’t open.
There wasn’t really a bonnet to open you see. Instead, you had a service hatch in the grill where you could top up the screen wash and engine oil. So when the car overheated you were left wondering how because it’s air-cooled right? Wrong.
To get to the engine that you weren’t supposed to unless you were an Audi dealer, was to release some clips and remove the bonnet panel away from the car, leave it on the floor where you’d eventually trip over it. A novel idea if somewhat of a ballache. I still don’t quite understand what was wrong with a normal bonnet?
This was all new and revolutionary. The ’90s were a time to be alive for car design. Along with Audi and Mercedes, a few others had a go at reinventing the wheels and some outside Germany achieved the impossible. But Audi went for the small cars. They needed something to break to mould in a market dominated by the humdrum of Fiesta’s and Corsa’s that were so commonplace. To do this Audi did what they did best. They made it really expensive. So expensive that you could almost buy 2 new base Rover 100’s for the price of 1 Audi.
Audi, however, didn’t care. This was a car designed for a new era in city motoring. They gave us a boxy car with round corners that gave it exceptional aerodynamics clothed in an all aluminium frame so it weighed absolutely nothing and wouldn’t rust. Not that Audi was known for making rot boxes but aluminium used to construct a car was seen as an unseen luxury that you got on the Audi A8 super barge or the Jaguar saloons now found languishing with fridge freezers on the drives of shady houses.
On paper alone, it looked great. A totally new concept of construction and luxury with refinement only being there when parked on the driveway. For some reason, Audi had managed to make the A04 platform ride quite terribly. Germanic spring rates that would work well on an Audi A4 Quattro with all the prowess of a monster car did little to help the A2. The A2 did not need such ride attributes and yet it was fitted with them. The motoring press said it was a hoot to drive and it was but…
Not such a problem if going fast was your favourite past time but it wasn’t. You couldn’t nip down the shops at 70mph. Instead, you kept it slow and to the legal limits and were rewarded for your pain by great fuel economy of over 100mpg in the A2 TDI.
The Audi A2. The car that failed to reinvented the city car because it was too far ahead of its time. And that’s why it’s in the good section of The Gay UK’s GBU. Audi used its 4 rings of confidence to shake things us and make things different.
Just don’t mention the amount of cash Audi lost on each A2 sold!