The entry-level Audi TT is an entertaining car despite a smaller engine and lack of all-wheel-drive
Small wonder The Audi TT has a sporty appearance and is an engaging drive. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Coupes, cabriolets and roadsters are commonly regarded as having the most beautiful car body styles. These cars, while low on practicality and generally not sold in large numbers, often become icons for their brands.

The Audi TT, launched in 1998, is one of the brand's most iconic models. Now in its third generation, the TT comes in both coupe, in 2+2 seating and roadster forms. The roadster has ditched the two rear seats to make space for its folding roof.

The TT coupe tested here is nearly identical to the one driven by The Straits Times in April 2015, when the third-generation model was launched here. It has the same svelte exterior profile and distinctive shape. Inside the car, a virtual cockpit that has since become a feature of new Audi cars sits pretty.

What is different is that this is an entry-level TT, powered by a downsized 1.8-litre engine. Compared with its sibling's 2-litre power plant, this engine has a considerably lower output (180 vs 230bhp, 250 vs 370Nm). Power is channelled to its front wheels, instead of all four wheels in the case of the 2-litre car.

The car has a lower top speed (241 vs 250kmh), and is slower in the century sprint (7 vs 5.3 seconds). But it is also less thirsty (5.9 vs 6.4 litres/100km).

For aspiring owners, the most compelling difference is the lower price tag. Downsizing the engine and ditching quattro all-wheel-drive shaves a hefty $34,500, or about 14 per cent, off the TT 2.0's $254,200 list price.

I drove the TT for some 460km over a weekend. The smaller engine and lack of all-wheel-drive did not diminish its fun factor. The slower century sprint time and lower top speed are inconsequential in daily drives.

The torque kicks in at a very low engine speed of 1,250rpm. This gives the car a brisk but relaxed feel on the move.

The steering feedback is sharp and responsive, which keeps the driver involved.

What impressed me most was the TT's fuel consumption. Over 460km, I recorded an average of 8.1 litres/100km. Many German cars are easily twice as thirsty as their specs suggest.

The most disappointing aspect of the car was the two rear seats. The seat back was too upright and there was no legroom at all. My 19-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter complained of backache and cramped legs barely five minutes into a 25-minute ride from Serangoon to Changi.

The rear seats are best reserved for toddlers and handbags.

While the TT has a high-performance RS variant that rivals the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, the entry-level TT is attractive in its own right.

It may not be a sports car, but it offers a sports-car look and an engaging drive. And its relatively high fuel efficiency and low price tag will endear it to those who want to sample a sexy two-door without having to spend too much.