THE AUDI A2 claimed a number of firsts. It was the first aluminium supermini, it was the first five-door car capable of going 100km on three litres of fuel and was also the first Audi model launched in two decades not to be offered with quattro all-wheel drive.
Volkswagen Audi got very hung up on the 3L/100km thing three-litre thing around the turn of the century, and there’s a great – probably apocryphal - story behind it. Dr Ferdinand Piech chairman of the VAG board heard that a ‘three litre’ Renault Clio was on the cards and devoted huge resource to developing the 3L/100km VW Polo and Audi A2, only to find that he’d inadvertently squared a car capable of noodling 100 kilometres on three litres of fuel up against a mid-engined 3,000cc V6 hooligan.
The A2 never made it here to Australia. Not in any significant numbers, in any case. Audi brought three cars in as the most tentative toe in the water and this is one of them. One of the others was converted into an electric car and the third car’s whereabouts is unknown.
A handful of personal imports also made it into the country but these aluminium scoots remain vanishingly rare. This one’s for sale through Audi Penfold Burwood, who were good enough to let Unique Cars have a quick pedal.
Reacquainting myself with the A2’s quirks takes a while.
The tall first gear and narrow rear window aperture take a bit of getting used to, but it’s a delightful car to drive.
Weighing in at just 895kg – a modern five-door 1.4-litre Audi A1 tips the scales at 1200kg – the A2 feels light on its feet, with a focused ride and a lovely supple gearchange. The interior design has aged well for a car that’s fifteen years old and the Luc Donckerwolke styling which looked so bizarre back in 1999, now blends in well with the moderns.
If anything the A2 was too far ahead of its time. The complex Audi Space Frame aluminium construction and the dedicated line and tooling at the Neckarsulm plant meant that the A2 was expensive to build and was priced accordingly, which saw it outsold by around eight to one by the Mercedes A-Class.
It’s packed with clever ideas though, from the front grille that folds down to allow you to top up and check fluids to the triple-level boot, the rear seats that fold without lowering the head rests and the double-lidded sun visors.
Is $22,000 a lot to pay for a 2002 supermini? In bald terms, yes. Is it too much to pay for possibly the coolest supermini built this century and a car that you’ll never see coming the other way? You know, I don’t think it is.
PERUSE THE original documentation for the A2 and you’ll find the novel folding flap at the front of the A2 is front of the car is called the “Serviceklappe”, which translates roughly to service panel. Behind it are the filling points for oil, screenwash and the dipstick. It also created a good deal of confusion about the A2’s actual bonne, which was falsely rumoured to be sealed.
It even hoodwinked that august tome, Car and Driver, who wrote that one “...feature of the A2 that may foretell the future: the sealed hood”. In actual fact, it’s not too hard to remove the bonnet panel, with two twist-lock catches doing the job. At 8kg it’s not that heavy when it does come away, but you’ll rarely feel the need.
ENGINE 1390cc 4cyl DOHC 16v petrol MAX POWER 55kW @ 5000rpm MAX TORQUE 126Nm @ 3800rpm TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual WEIGHT 895kg 0-100KM/H 12.3s
TOP SPEED 173km/h ECONOMY 6L/100km ON SALE Now