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Audi TT Roadster 1.8 TFSI

Click to view picture gallery Audis latest TT Roadster model —
  the 1.8 TFSI —
is an excellent way
  to downsize and downprice without
  losing face

CAR MANUFACTURERS have to lower the CO2 exhaust emissions of their new cars or face stiff financial penalties, so putting smaller, less powerful and more fuel-efficient engines into an iconic range has to be a good move. Drive forward the Audi TT 1.8 TFSI, priced at a credit-crunch-friendly 23,915.

Audi describes this two-seater Roadster as 'more attainable but no less desirable'. And it's true: It allows owners to weather the economic storm while still enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. This new-to-the-range, drop-top TT is currently only available as a two-seater Roadster with an electronically-operated canvas roof and, as yet, the smaller engine transfer is not available for the fixed-head 2+2 TT Coupes.

The all-new 158bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder petrol engine with 160g/km of CO2 emissions slips neatly into the Roadster range beneath the 2.0-litre, 197bhp TFSI model with a CO2 output of 200g/km that costs 27,360. Both models are front-wheel drive via a six-speed manual transmission.

Whilst road tax (150) and company car tax (19%) levels for the new 1.8-litre unit are lower, the combined cycle fuel economy of the 2.0-litre unit is slightly better, at 36.2mpg, than the new 1.8-litre's official 34.1mpg — exactly my road test figure. For the record, road tax for the 2.0-litre is 215 and BIK tax 25% and it costs 3,445 more to buy, so in terms of purchase price and tax then Yes, the new 1.8-litre option makes good economical sense.

In terms of performance there is little meaningful difference given today's traffic congested roads and the growing number of pointless speed cameras. The 1.8 takes 7.4 seconds to reach 62mph and has a top speed of 139mph; the 2.0-litre takes 6.7 seconds to get to 62mph and its maximum speed is 147mph — hardly an issue in real life.

The new 'attainable' TT Roadster doesn't miss out on equipment levels either and is most definitely not a cut-price, ill-equipped range starter model. And should you be worried that your fellow motorists might spot you have 'downpriced', don't be: there's no tell-tale 1.8 badge on the boot to give the game away.

With 184lb ft of torque
delivered from 1,500rpm,
the TT 1.8 TFSI
is a sound performer
1.8 TT customers get the still iconic, more macho new-generation body style (which, incidentally, is 58% aluminium), the same advanced high-tech chassis and suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, electric windows, powered soft top and wind deflector, heated glass rear window, electronic climate control, stereo radio/CD and driver's information system. At extra cost the TT 1.8 model can be ordered with Audi's magnetic ride adaptive damping system although in my experience the ride is firm and controlled enough without it.

All the quality and neat design of the more powerful models is there in the new 1.8-litre version: it looks, and feels, like a TT throughout. Which means it also inherits one of the TT's minus points — very poor rear-quarter visibility with the hood raised. Far less troublesome is the fact that there's no exterior button to open the boot lid (you have to do it from the key fob).

Some drivers will find the TT not so much fun in the handling department as some of its rear-wheel drive competitors from other premium brands, but that doesn't stop the TT being a sound performer.

The new 1.8-litre engine uses more fuel than the larger 2.0-litre unit because it is worked that little bit harder. However, because the maximum torque of 184lb ft is delivered from just 1,500rpm, this petrol unit is remarkably responsive at low speeds and during acceleration. It drives well in congested traffic conditions and cruises happily at legal speeds.

The sixth gear is a very 'tall' ratio to maximise fuel economy and to produce the lowest CO2 figure possible to reduce tax penalties, so look on it as an open road cruising gear because in the 40-50mph band the engine is happier in fifth gear.

Reasons to buy include the iconic TT roadster styling, the praiseworthy new 1.8-litre engine, the fast and easy-to-use powered canvas roof and an unexpectedly roomy 250-litre boot. In return you have to accept poor rear-quarter visibility with the roof up but don't forget the other good news: the lower purchase price, road tax, company car tax and insurance costs. All in all, it sounds like a good deal to me! — David Miles

Audi TT Roadster 1.8 TFSI
| 23,915
Maximum speed: 139mph | 0-62mph: 7.4 seconds | Overall test MPG: 34.1mpg
Power: 157bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 160g/km | Insurance group 16