A good friend of mine has recently just bought back his parents’ old Audi TT 225. It is a 2002 car on a ’51 plate with 73k miles on the clock, to the nearest big dot. Considering its age, the mileage is low and as a result, bodywork and interior are in pretty good fettle. The paintwork may look a little dull, but nothing a good polish and clay bar won’t tidy up.
The Audi TT was a roaring success at launch. It sold like hot cakes, thanks to its unquestionably cool styling and choice of powerful engines. There was the 1.8 litre unit which was tuned to 178 bhp and 222 bhp, and a more powerful 3.2 litre V6, also seen in the Volkswagen Golf R32. The MK I TT has grown into a modern classic, and can be picked up for such a bargain, too – this car was a steal.
The interior is minimalism at its finest. As a result, it is timeless and will age gracefully, just like the rest of the car. The driving position is OK, but a little awkward for somebody of my height (6′ 2″) I felt as though I wasn’t low enough. I think this had something to do with the seats. They look good, and are comfortable, but aren’t particularly supportive where it counts.
I was interested to see how the car drove so was kindly offered a short drive of the car. On a cold start, the exhaust erupts with a sporty rasp and settles into a high-revving burble for around two minutes, whilst the oil pressure equalises. We gave the car the mechanical sympathy it deserves and allowed the fluids to get up to temperature – it is an old car! After 15-20 minutes of considerate driving, keeping the revs below 3,000 rpm, it was time to exploit the car’s capabilities.
A short boot in second gear from the traffic lights on a dual-carriageway roundabout was sufficient to see the car is plenty fast. The turbo kicks in around 2,800 rpm and sustains its 207 lb ft of punch through to 4,500 rpm.
I wanted to see what the car’s chassis dynamics were like so we pulled off the motorway and onto a couple of my favourite B-roads. The TT at launch, was never regarded as one of the finest handling and dynamically capable cars. However, in comparison with newer cars I have tested and the electrically-assisted power steering systems they now have, I simply cannot agree with these opinions. The steering feel has a distinct clarity, and you are able to feel each and every crack in the tarmac, and up to the point where adhesion levels are over the limit. Having said that, it is hard to actually encourage some slip from the front axle, as soon as the car registers a loss of traction, it counteracts it by distributing power to the rear wheels which keeps the car tight. Enter hard into a corner and you find the front pushing out as understeer, but this then manifests itself into a tonne of grip. The completely natural steering feel is the sweet spot of this car. Any understeer you encounter can be overcome as you adjust the yaw angle on the throttle, with every confidence in where the car is going to be.
The 1.8 litre engine pulls like a train through its rev range, just before running out of puff at the red line. There is one thing I would say, however. I think the best way to release the car’s power is to change up early and experience that constant power surge in short bursts, rather than stringing out gears. The gearbox seems to have short ratios, which despatch peak power mid range. This set up keeps you navigating through the six speed manual gearbox, which is in no way a complaint. The motions of exiting a tight corner, getting on the power in second, change up to third, and drop back down into second for the next corner are slick. The throw of the gearstick has a smooth fluidity to it as you select each cog.
After just a short time in the drivers seat, I was able to tell a lot about the car. Good old-fashioned control weights and hydraulic assistance will always communicate better with the driver and as time has gone by, so have opinions about the way the MK I TT handles. It does have a tendency to drift away from you, but because it is so predictable, it is easy to adjust throttle and steering inputs to counteract the spine shuddering feeling of understeer.
With thanks to; Joel Middleton
Engine Size: 1.8 litre, in-line four, 20 valve, turbo
Top Speed: 151 mph
Power: 222 bhp
Torque: 207 lb ft
Transmission: Six speed manual
Driven Wheels: All-wheel drive
0-62 mph: 6.1 seconds
Combined MPG: 30.8
Length: 4,041 mm
Width: 1,764 mm
Height: 1,345 mm
Kerb Weight: 1,465 kg
Price Now: £3,000 – £9,000
Star Rating: * * * *