Audi TT

The words 'Audi' and 'bargain' have rarely, if ever, appeared in the same sentence together. Until now, that is. So what's changed? Well, the German manufacturer has launched a new entry-level version of the TT Roadster. It's still powered by the trustworthy 1.8-litre turbocharged engine which has helped make the model such a huge success, but the unit has now been detuned to produce 'only' 148bhp - its bigger brothers deliver 178bhp and 222bhp.

Some people will be disappointed that Audi has ditched its quattro 4WD system, but few will complain about the new TT's asking price, reduced running costs and bigger boot capacity. The 150 could be one of the most sought-after cars in Britain this summer. Get your order in early.

The words 'Audi' and 'bargain' have rarely, if ever, appeared in the same sentence together. Until now, that is. So what's changed? Well, the German manufacturer has launched a new entry-level version of the TT Roadster. It's still powered by the trustworthy 1.8-litre turbocharged engine which has helped make the model such a huge success, but the unit has now been detuned to produce 'only' 148bhp - its bigger brothers deliver 178bhp and 222bhp.

However, the advantage of doing without the additional power is that you save at least £4,900 when opting for the newcomer over other soft-top TTs. That's right, the 150 Roadster can be yours for only £21,450, which puts it on a par with the Alfa Romeo Spider 2.0, while undercutting a base-model Mercedes SLK 200 by £3,340. In fact, this model doesn't cost much more than the £19,995 MG TF160.

So how is Audi able to offer the ultra-desirable two-seater at such a price? The answer is simple - the car has no quattro 4WD system, making it the first front-wheel-drive TT to be sold in the UK. Enthusiasts will doubtless be up in arms about this, but there's no need for them to be. With 148bhp on tap, the 1,335kg TT 150 isn't powerful enough to require four-wheel-drive traction unless there's ice around. In most circumstances, you would be hard-pushed to notice the absence of the quattro set-up, anyway. There's no torque steer or scrabbling for grip at low speeds, and ESP stability control remains a standard feature.

In fact, there are advantages which come from sending power to the front wheels only. The 150 is 100kg lighter than the 180 model, does five miles more to the gallon and emits less CO2. In addition, without the power-sapping habits of the driven rear wheels, the new car is not that much slower - it sprints from 0-60mph in 8.7 seconds.

The mid-range acceleration doesn't feel quite as robust but, apart from that and a five-speed manual gearbox - the Audi's more potent brothers have an additional ratio - the TT driving experience remains intact. That's not necessarily a good thing considering the wooden handling and flat engine note but, in terms of desirability, Audi's roadster takes some beating.

Getting rid of the 4WD gadgetry has resulted in another valuable side effect: the boot has virtually doubled in size. Previously shallow, it's now capable of swallowing enough luggage for an extended continental tour. And you can be certain of feeling comfortable on your travels as the TT's cabin has lost none of its charm. The design is stunning, the driving position excellent and, most surprisingly of all considering the attractive price, equipment levels are generous. Audi deserves to be applauded for including a powered hood, electric wind deflector, climate control and height-adjustable sports seats.

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