By on August 4, 2014

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Banovsky’s Car of the Day sets the clock back 15 years to look at a vehicle that was tragically ahead of its time. So much so, that it makes the Prius look unimpressive.

The Audi A2 was an all-aluminum microvan capable of hitting 78 mpg in its most fuel-efficient trim level. As Banovsky writes,

The impetus was simple: get four people from Stuttgart, Germany (the most direct route passes through the middle of Switzerland on the way!), and on to Milan, Italy using only a single tank of fuel. Distance? 500 km (310 miles.) 

Of course, after you’re done designing a 4-seat, 5-door MPV with a length two inches less than a modern Toyota Yaris 5-door, there’s not much room for a massive fuel tank for long journeys. At just 34 litres (8.9 U.S. gallons), that means the A2 would have to consume just 6.8 L/100 km or (34 US MPG). Don’t forget, though: the route from Stuttgart to Milan would take you over the alps and you’d have four people onboard, some bags, and a few sticks of gum. 

The target Audi hit? Just 3 L/100 km (78 US MPG.) If you’re keeping score at home you’ll know that’s an improvement of 17 mpg over a Toyota Prius. 

Of course, the 78 mpg figure was for the A2 TDI 3L, which used a special, ultra-efficient diesel engine and other tricks like redesigned body panels to hit that figure. The A2 was also made entirely of aluminum, which makes the bespoke body panels all the more amazing. And expensive.

The A2 cost an absolute fortune to produce, and fuel prices weren’t high enough to entice people into buying one. Production lasted just a few brief years before Audi cancelled the program. One can only imagine that with the current adoption of aluminum, the greater acceptance for small, fuel-efficient vehicles and the increased cachet of the Audi brand, the A2 would have a much brighter future today – and be capable of even greater fuel economy gains. Then again, with the improvements we’ve seen in the last 15 years, would aluminum construction and other expensive technologies even be necessary?

 

 

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97 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: Audi’s Aluminum A-Segment Wonder...”


  • avatar
    balreadysaid

    all this shows is how messed up our government is. technology exists to solve the problems that they create!

    • 0 avatar
      alsorl

      Which government my has this issue ? This car was never sold in the USA.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        I think you’re right.
        Just tried searching for it on carsoup, edmunds and cars.com. Not listed. Wiki says it was produced until 2005, so I thought there’d be some around.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        There is an absolutist black and white line of thinking in the USA that all government is bed/evil, no matter what.

        • 0 avatar
          mr.cranky

          @ttacgreg- Tragically true.

          Those who clamor for less regulations are forgetting (or maybe weren’t around) when the market dictated safety features, etc.

          Oh wait. It didn’t, except for seatbelts. It took government intervention to make cars safer.

          How can that be a bad thing? Sure, cars are heavier and car design is a joke.

          But, not everyone is a wanna-be Nurburgring racer.

          • 0 avatar
            Drewlssix

            I think you are quite off base here. OEs have pioneered every safety feature I can think of from safety glass (ford) to airbags (GM iirc) and there has always been a steady customer demand for safety. What tha US government has done is rode the coat tails of manufacturers and customers to enact regulations that simply mirror natural developements. Where they have tried to lead rather than follow they have always seemed to misstep. From mandating cat converters rather than allowing OEs to decide how to meet standards to the failed attempt to mandate auto locking doors for “safety” ignoring the fact that door locks do not secure the doors, they simply disconnect the handles.

    • 0 avatar

      While this car wasn’t in the US, I agree with you.

      LET THE FREE MARKET WORK.

      Instead of passing regulations to FORCE people to buy cars with certain specifications, let them gravitate towards a car that meets their needs.

      When certain models no longer sell – they will be DISCONTINUED.

      The models people want will be continued, refined and benchmarks will be reached naturally.

      That’s why the F-150 has done so well. People gravitated towards it.

      Cars go through evolution too.

      It’s not that this Audi was “ahead of its time”. It’s that it was a “species” that came about and for whatever reason didn’t find a niche necessary to keep it alive.

      Survival of the Fittest: Car Edition.

      • 0 avatar
        matador

        I know the car makers would never allow the government to get away with this, but here’s my take:

        The U.S. should recognize most of the European/NCAP safety guidelines. Of course, we’d need to change the color of the turn signal bulb, and stuff like that, but why not?

        Allow us to import what we choose. I could have a brown, diesel station wagon easily, and BigTruck could have a Chrysler 300 with Lancia badges.

        Why not?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          This IS going to happen, because the car makers now want it to happen. It is just too expensive to make cars to two different, but ALMOST the same regulatory regimes. I expect harmonized safety and emissions regs sooner rather than later. We are in the current mess because the Big 3 wanted it this way, as they sold one set of cars here, and a different set over there. Now it has to be one size fits all for economies of scale. And today the regs are so close anyway that the differences are relatively trivial, if still expensive.

          I don’t expect them to make personal import any easier though – there is no upside to the car makers in that.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            Agreed.What has changed is that Ford, GM, and FCA are now global companies, rather than American companies with stock in foreign businesses.

            And, now, suddenly they realize that the protectionism that they lobbied for in generations passed are forcing them to pass up economies of scale and driving up the cost of doing business. So, now they’re lobbying to have the rules changed.

            Once the reader understands what this means about how power and government really works in the USA (as opposed to how we wish it would work), then we’ll all vote better.

        • 0 avatar
          kingofgix

          @ Matador

          Station Wagons were killed by regulations? ?? ???????????

          Explain that to me. They get better mpg than a comparable CUV due to less wind resistance. They have less issue with rollover due to lower COG. What regulation exactly was it that mandated lower mpg and less safety?

          • 0 avatar
            Drewlssix

            A wagon is a car. It must meet strict emissions standards. A crossover is a truck and must only meet truck standards. Thus every wagon sold hurts the CAFE score since they suffer relative to sedans while the less frugal “light truck” cuv helps CAFE scores. That is why few OEs sell actual wagons in the US any more. If you want a wagon version of your favorite sedan they probably sell a slightly lifted visually beefed up version in wagon form for you.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “It must meet strict emissions standards. A crossover is a truck and must only meet truck standards.”

            There hasn’t been a difference in smog emissions since 2004.

            “That is why few OEs sell actual wagons in the US any more.”

            Station wagon market share peaked in 1959.

            Let me repeat that: Market share for station wagons peaked in nineteen hundred fifty-nine. That was 55 years ago. You really expect automakers to build cars that started to decline in popularity during the 1960s?

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Smog emissions may be the same (I assume that’s true), but there are many other things that come into play. Things such as departure angles, tire track width, and other things that I don’t know that much about.

            But, a CUV gets classed differently, and gets a loophole or two.

            ——————

            Do I expect manufactures to make cars that used to be popular? Yes. Chevrolet pickups were popular, and still are. They’ve evolved. Cars have, too. Look at a 1974 Impala. Now, look at today’s Impala.

            Do I expect a 1968 AMC Ambassador wagon to be produced today? No. But, do I want a Jetta Sportwagen or a traditional Volvo? Yes.

            I personally would like to see the import requirements lowered. That way, if I want an Opel wagon, I can order one in. I’ll wait the few months.

            Or, 25 years, apparently.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        What popular cars have been killed by regulation?

        Heck, how did regulation play any part in the death of the A2?

        This rant is apropos of nothing.

        • 0 avatar
          matador

          Station wagons.

          Ford Ranger

          1/2 of the Volvo Wagon Lineup

          Chevrolet Express Van 1500 (If you believe it)

          Pretty much any station wagon.

          Dodge Dakota (Maybe)

          Station wagons.

          ————————-

          You get the point. We all get CUVs, and Europe gets all the brown station wagons.

          Well, guess what: I want one. This stupid Coffee program is stopping me from getting my diesel Audi A6 Avant (quattro, of course).

          And, I don’t like that!

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “We all get CUVs, and Europe gets all the brown station wagons”

            Does this look like a station wagon to you?

            We get CUVs because we want butch. Europe gets MPVs; (large) station wagons are on the wane there as well.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Station wagons were killed by minivans.

            Ford Ranger wore-out its tooling. Ford decided not to invest in a replacement.

            Not sure what Volvo wagons have to do with any of this. Volvo “Outbacked” their whole lineup because that’s what their paying customers wanted.

            CAFE is the only reason why Audi sells any diesels in America. The reason why they don’t sell an A6 wagon is because it wouldn’t make enough money.

            What you blame government for, I blame the fact that US customers buy off-the-lot instead of special-order. Audi and Volvo can’t afford to have 1,000 brown manual diesel wagons in stock each, in case somebody actually wants one. The situation is different in Europe where customers commonly order a car and wait 6 weeks for it to be built.

            Further evidence: commercial trucks come in endless configurations, and they are the only vehicles that Americans (specifically fleet managers) regularly special-order.

      • 0 avatar
        pookieloc

        This is silly. Externalities preempt completely free markets. Things like pedestrian safety and greenhouse emissions will not be optimized in deregulation.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Agreed.

          So, fix the externalities problem using taxes and regulations, and then skip the protectionism for those multinational busibess institutions which don’t need it and which have a responsibility to act in their own self interest[0][1].

          [0] Which is only sometimes aligned with the interests of The People, regardless starry eyed economic-libertarian theorists wish to believe.

          [1] Yeah, I know it won’t happen.

      • 0 avatar
        daver277

        Survival of mechanical dinosaurs brought about by short-sighted focus groups and fear-inducing advertising.

      • 0 avatar
        mr.cranky

        @bigtrucksreview- The free market was allowed to work at one point. We got cars with exposed steel dashboards, no airbags and absolutely no crumple zones.

        Seriously, have you seen a video out there of a 1959 Impala vs a 2009 Malibu?

        Without government intervention, we’d still be driving cars like the 1959 Impala and fatalities would be much higher.

        I hate to say it but safety features aren’t just there to protect drivers. They are there to protect drivers from OTHER drivers, especially those who shouldn’t even be behind the wheel of a car!

        • 0 avatar
          Drewlssix

          I hate to tell you this but you are wrong. Government didn’t create a single safety feature. Not one. Safety glass was a ford product and a very successful bit of marketing. Same thing goes for safer steering wheels dashes braking systems crumple zones airbags and anything else you care to mention. The US government atleast has simply “mandated” those things that were already existant and on their way to common place. I say without the contradictory regulations we have suffered through we would have far better cars today. From performance to safety MPGs and emissions. Don’t give credit where it isn’t due.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      balreadysaid:

      Brainwashed by anti-government billionaires and their captive media much?

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Preschoolers would love this thing. It looks like one of those oversized, kid-friendly toy cars that are not easy to swallow. The proportions are kind of ghastly, but the car itself sounds kind of cool.

    Wasn’t there another car written about on here which had a target of 3L/100km? Perhaps a VW (makes sense VW/Audi).

  • avatar
    daver277

    The Honda Insight1 was also an aluminium wonder way ahead of it’s time back 15 years ago. Both had styling considered odd and since mainstream new car buyers have difficulty looking forward 10 years and thinking outside the box, they were not in high demand.
    Loosing money on every one sold made Audi and Honda reluctant to make lots and give purchase incentives but they both loved to show the world what they COULD DO.
    The time is here for new versions that can crack 100 mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      Well it didn’t help that it was a two-seater, either. But the Insight was and is absolutely awesome, and is quite sought-after by enthusiasts and ecofiends alike. I would love to have one as a second car (EDIT: third car), alongside my diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      alsorl

      But if you drove the A2 you didn’t look like a part time grade school instructor that lived in his parents basement. Meaning I’m sure most people that drive the A2 probably don’t look embarrassed as does almost every driver of the Honda insight1.

    • 0 avatar
      Drewlssix

      Why would the consumer look a decade away when deciding on a car today? Seriously, would you? Don’t you buy the best car for you now rather than a car you think might make sense once it’s well out of warranty with a decades worth of wear on it? Buy the car you want/need now and if in a decade you need a 78mpg wunderschnitzel presumably along with the rest of the market I’m sure one will be available.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Funny, if you asked me “Hey, is the A2 still being sold in European markets?” I would have quickly answered “Yes, of course.”

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Ignorance is bliss, lol.

      I kid I kid. I do wonder how the A1 compares in all aspects. I’m sure with some tweaks it could do everything the A2 did, at a much lower inflation adjusted cost.

  • avatar
    Øyvind Birkeland

    I have a sweet spot for the A2! Especially up here in cold northern Europe where rust is a major issue, having an aluminium car would make a huge difference! Too bad it never came with quattro (the only Audi without that option since the mid-eighties i think?)
    It truly was ahead of it’s time, especially regarding fuel economy. However, it also showed a more concerning part of the automotive future, with a hood that would not open in the normal way, giving no access to the engine. The flip down grill gave access to the dip stick and refilling window washer fluid. Seems like this is a trend that the industry is following, at the expense of the consumers.
    However, the A2 is a weird little Audi that got too little attention and in my mind would be a much better option than a Prius if one were to look for a fuel efficient car.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    It’s adorable! The Audi Rondo!

    Never knew of it. I’m sure it was twice what I’d ever pay for a vehicle.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I didn’t know the MB R-class and a Honda Odyssey had a baby.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    OK, I get it. Not a lot of people here love tall, small, monospace vehicles.

    Sergio is my only hope.

  • avatar
    marc

    “So much so, that it makes the Prius look unimpressive.”

    Errr…. not quite. For a number of reasons. First, the mpg of the Prius in Europe is around 70-80 mpg, depending on which cycle one uses. So to get a real comparison of the two cars’ mileage ratings, one would need to use the same cycle or same real world tests. In the real world, years after year, there continues to be little much out there that beats the prius (without a plug). Except when you’re talking slow, miserly penalty boxes.

    And that is the second reason why this actually makes the Prius look impressive. With the Prius you get no penalties for the exceptional mileage, You get a roomy, feature-laden, reasonably quick car. Not some slow, tiny penalty box. That would be the model of A2 that could actually beat the mileage of a Prius.

    One other way to beat the Prius would be to combine all the technology, features, space, performance and comfort into a small, tidy package. And the only way to do this would be to charge a preposterous amount, which seems to be another flaw of the A2.

    I know people love to proclaim everything from the Polo to the Hummer to the Bluetecs to the XL1 as the next Prius beaters. But for technology, features, comfort, space, performance and (of course) efficiency-all at a desirable price, I think it is still unbeaten. And a better one is just around the corner.

    Bring on the hate.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Did the Prius do all that 15 years ago? And there are only no compromises if you don’t care about that whole driving experience bit. I am a Prius fan BTW.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        This would have overlapped with Gen 2 Prius, so yes the Prius would have done all that. For your second point, I don’t imagine it was a real thrill to drive the 78mpg A2 that took 14.9 seconds to get 0-60.

        • 0 avatar
          Beerboy12

          The Prius is not exactly a bag of giggles to drive either… At least the little diesel motor has torque and will respond to gas peddle pressure. The A2 most likely handles better because it is light. Something that is useful when doing mountain passes.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “At least the little diesel motor has torque and will respond to gas peddle pressure”

            As well the motors in the Prius. In fact, they’ll do it better. The electric motors produce all their torque at 0 rpm. Off-the-line performance is not something hybrids tend to be lacking in.

            This car is slow. That little diesel would have had some turbo lag and absolutely no top end. This isn’t VW 2.0 TDI, let alone a BMW 3.5 or Cummins I6.

            The Prius, even the first-generation Echo-lookalike, would leave the A2 well behind.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          Worth noting that the Gen 2 Prius took about 13 seconds to get to 60, if the batteries were charged (Car and Driver found once they ran out, you were looking at nearly 20 seconds).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Sorry, but what you give up with the Prius is any sort of driving involvement. It drives like a video game, at best. And compared to a modern diesel that can equal its fuel economy at least on the highway, the Prius is anything but quick. Which is why despite its otherwise stellar qualities, it is an also ran in Europe. Perfect car for my Mom, not something you could pay me to drive everyday.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        Sometimes Mom knows best.

        You’re assuming the A2 in question was a joy to drive. I think not.

        If the Prius’s only sacrifice is that it is not a joy to drive, I will take that, as nothing in a 30 minute commute on Bay Area freeways would be a joy to drive. For most people, there is nothing in their daily routines that offers them the possibility of thrills behind the wheel. The thrills they do want on monotonous commutes are comfort, convenience, space, serenity, and safety. The Prius has that all in spades.

        • 0 avatar
          PCP

          You think not.

          Well I happen to have driven one on a regular basis in the last ten years (even though it’s not mine) and I can confirm it actually is fun to drive. And I am talking about the 3l version. Interestingly, way better than the 3l Lupo. And yes, it even does the claimed mileage.

          Now I have only driven the Prius (Gen 2) once, and my opinion is hardly statistically relevant, but it was not half as fun.

          Still I consider the Prius to be a technological achievement, and its transmission is really impressive – as long as you don’t actually have to drive it.

          • 0 avatar
            marc

            I am on my second Prius, a Gen 3. It’s fun…a different kind of fun. But much more pleasant to drive than the Gen 2.

            And I suppose there may also be a differnet kind of fun involved in the terror of taking 15 seconds to merge onto a freeway.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          If you think a Prius is serene, you need to get your hearing checked – or since you are in the Bay Area, maybe you never get over 30mph? Also an interesting definition of comfortable. They are certainly roomy enough, and safe enough, but so is my dishwasher. And actually, *I* picked the Prius-V for my Mom. I agree that they are really terrific transportation appliances for someone who views a car the same way they view other household appliances, I have more ambitious priorities. They really should just be the Toyota Maytag. And as I have pointed out on here – so far, in 3yrs and 30k on both cars, the Prius-V has been LESS reliable than my supposedly in the shop every other day BMW. Go figure.

          Ultimately, not everyone commutes to work in the Bay Area. You could quite literally not pay me enough to deal with that crap on a daily basis, it’s bad enough the 4-5 weeks a year I am out there for work. Driving around my fair city is quite enjoyable. At least in something that is entertaining to drive.

        • 0 avatar
          PCP

          Your own words:

          You think…
          You suppose…

          Fact is, legal highway speed here is 75mph, and not once has there been terror involved in merging into traffic. Stick it in the right gear (3rd, usually) and let the turbo do its job. We are talking about a basic 5 speed transmission with automated clutch (granted, I prefer a classic clutch). Relation between revs and speed is simply linear. Anything above 1500 rpm gets you enough turbo boost (it’s a small turbine). Kerb weight is less than 1900lbs (855kg).

          The 0 to 62 figure is certainly true – but it doesn’t say much about real life driving. And while I don’t know for how much the automated clutch comes into account, it clearly is – too much (test drive a Smart and you’ll know what I’m talking about).

          In real life, you join traffic while already rolling (here you’d usually be doing about 50mph). Switch off the Eco mode (in fact, rather drive w/o anyway) and if you’re scared, the A/C, but that’s not even necessary.

        • 0 avatar
          Drewlssix

          You think driving pleasure is all in high speed idiocy. I can promise you there are many cars that deliver a satisfying drive regardless of the commute. My old mazda could make me smile in the worst traffic. It alwayse amazes me to hear people blow off a stick because they have a stop and go commute! As if anything but running it to 5th or 6th then cruising is a burden! The car was comfortable at 130+mph and with sticky tires it was a gripping monster, it even pulled respectably well. Just a shade slower than my trans am but the real joy came in experiencing the various subtle forces at play when accelerating changing gear braking and turning. And all those things could be felt clearly at sub legal speeds while going with the flow of traffic. The Prius offers none of this. It is at the same time numb and coarse. You feel nothing from the tires but you hear them howl and moan all day long at speed. The ride is both harsher than it should be while failing to have any handling character what so ever.

    • 0 avatar
      Buckshot

      “One other way to beat the Prius would be to combine all the technology, features, space, performance and comfort into a small, tidy package”

      Enter 2014 Honda Civic 1,6d.

      And it´s fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      By my definition, if I’m riding in the backseat, and the two occupants of the front seats are conversing with me, and I can’t hear them because of the noise of tires, thrumming of body panels, etc., then that vehicle is a penalty box.

      Unfortunately, I just described my last ride in a Prius. Sorry. It’s not “hate.” It’s experience.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    “So much so, that it makes the Prius look unimpressive.”

    Except that the Prius is available today, gets a solid 50mpg for about the same price as a regular 30-35mpg sedan and it’s profitable for Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. (And I didn’t, as it took me much longer to make the same point.)

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      No one mentions the super-duper price tag on the A2, the main reason it is not around today.

      • 0 avatar
        kingofgix

        +1

        I think reality shows that the Prius absolutely killed this thing technologically and in the marketplace. A2 was a commercial failure. Prius is a phenomenal success.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Audi sold every A2 they ever bothered to make, at a premium price, and as a couple of posters here have noted, it is still sought after as a used car in Europe. It was basically a technology demonstrator for Audi), it was never intended to be a runaway best seller. It was only ever sold in Europe. The Prius is very successful in America and Japan, but sells in quite small numbers in Europe. So I fail to see how you can say one is a phenomenal success and the other a commercial failure when they were never actually competitors worldwide. You might as well say a Corvette is a dismal seller vs. a Camry! It’s true, but it completely misses the point.

          To put some numbers on it, if Wikipedia is to be believed Audi sold ~176K A2s in six years (1999-2005), but it took Toyota 10 years to sell 200K Prii in Europe (2000-2010). So for the years that they were actually competitors in Europe, the A2 had to have outsold the Prius, despite being a both more expensive and much smaller car.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Oh. By your figures, it has sold 6% of the number of Priuses sold and was never considered competitive enough for sale outside Europe by Audi.

            My mistake. A stunning success. I should order one today.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            And yet, in Europe, it outsold the Prius during its production run. Proving once again that unlike Americans, Europeans rarely buy cars by the pound (or kilogram, as the case may be). It was a limited production technology demonstrator. In Europe, it is still a highly-regarded and sought after car – I would call that a success. Even now, very few people in Europe have much interest in the Prius in any of its sundry variations.

            Ultimately VAG decided to not pursue this part of the market with the Audi brand after this experiment. They have plenty of other brands to choose from, after all. You can still buy super-efficiency versions of the smaller VWs, just as there was at that time a VW Lupo with the same drivetrain as the A2. Just not with the very expensive aluminum construction.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “Just not with the very expensive aluminum construction.”

            So, the technology demonstration came to nothing? Thanks for clearing that up.

  • avatar
    virages

    Hey that’s my current ride! We have a 2004 A2 with the 1.6l FSI engine. It replaced concurrently my wife’s Renault Clio II (1.2l 65hp), and my Alfa Romeo 147 (2.0l 150hp). Since we are a one car family now, t is the best of both worlds. It replaced a car that could not get out of it’s own way, and one that wanted to drink all the gas. It’s not as powerful as the Alfa, but it has similar power to weigh ratio (950kg compared to 1300kg), so I get to have fun. And it was consistently getting 35-40mpg, so good for our budget.

    Now, however it’s getting long in the tooth we’re at 200,000km and it’s developing mystery ailments probably due to carbon build up from the direct injection.

    Luckily for me other car companies are finally developing light weight cars (less than 1000kg) after gaining so much weight. There might be a replacement for this thing if it ever craps out on us. I don’t want to give it up though.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The basic problem with cars like this, and the original Impulse, is that the level of technology necessary to achieve this level of fuel economy makes them very expensive. And if you can afford an expensive car, you tend not to care very much about the price of fuel, with the exception of a relative few “green over all else” types. So the market for an expensive fuel sipper is very, very limited.

    Toyotas achievement with the Prius really is impressive, in that they brought a similar level of fuel economy to the masses. If they could only make it decent to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      “…if you can afford an expensive car, you tend not to care very much about the price of fuel, with the exception of a relative few “green over all else” types. So the market for an expensive fuel sipper is very, very limited.”

      While I agree that this has been absolutely the case in the past, the “green” impetus seems to be spreading well beyond just the fanatics. Tesla S outsold S-Class, 7-Series, and A8 in the US last year – expensive cars bought by people who certainly don’t need to worry about cost of fuel.
      I thought I would point this out only because I believe it’s cause for celebration, and on several levels.

      You’re absolutely bang-on about the Prius.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Didn’t our gub-mit have their own “design” of a safe car that they were pushing around 25 years or so ago?

    It was far past FUGLY, and of course, since it was pushed by a class of people who’d flunk mech 101 with a score so low even Obama could beat it, it couldn’t do anything as designed.

    Someone ought to push that pic.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I was looking at the specs thinking that’s not that exciting but then I remembered it was 15 years ago and technology has leap forward since then, especially in the diesel space.
    The Prius comparison is interesting because the Prius takes the technology approach, over engineered and overly complex with batteries, electric motor, gas motor and complex drivetrain compared to the relatively simple light body, turbo diesel.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    The profile of this car as shown in the picture on this article is surprisingly reminiscent of my Prius C.
    Speaking of which, I drove it from Colorado to Santa Fe New Mexico this morning and fill up when i got here came in at 60.1 to the gallon driving at the speed limits, meaning a maximum of 65mph.

  • avatar
    Johann

    “Production lasted a few brief years?!” What utter rubbish you’re uttering there. The A2 had a dead standard and 100% planned for and executed SIX YEAR live span from 1999 to 2005. Just like any other German car. Get your facts straights before writing please.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      Derek seems to have difficulties with those pesky “facts”. Maybe he likes to write from the heart – too much actual research might cramp his style…

      • 0 avatar
        Drewlssix

        Sorry but six years is brief. You won’t find many “successful” cars with such a short life span and it being planned dose not make that span of time any less brief. I can’t think of a single other german car with such a short life that could be considerd successful and I reject the notion that six years is “normal” for german cars. Face lifts and even significant redesigns don’t count. Six years is about right for a gen2 version based on the same chassis with cosmetic changes repackaging of equipment and added/deleted drivetrain options but such a short lifespan for either a platform or a badge is not normal no matter the nation of manufacture.

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    I live in the vicinity of Frankfurt, the Taunus area, which is known for its rather affluent demographics.

    It is just plain astonishing how many A2 you still see here. Hit the road here on any given day, and you’ll encounter one in traffic.

    It is also one of the most sought-after pre-owned vehicles on the German market, and used prices for well-maintained cars are very high.

    I have to disagree about the comments here deriding the design of this thing. IMHO, it still looks amazingly current and modern with its angular Bauhaus-inspired style. I’d even say they could still easily build this thing in exactly this shape and form today. It’s an ageless design.

    One of the designers involved, BTW, was Luc Donckervolke, who also designed the Lamborghini Murcielago — another design that will age very well, if you ask me. From what I know, Donckervolke is now head of design at Seat, which have recently cranked out the very attractive Seat Leon hatchback.

    Great article which rightfully draws attention to one of the most remarkable models the German car industry has come up with in the last few decades.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      This is *exactly* what we miss out here in the U.S. We can say “Oh, J Mays designed this car” without the period after the “j.” You guys in Europe get a relatively plebeian car and can say, ” Luc Donckervolke designed this car” and you get to pronounce all those diphthongs and vowels. What do we get? A guy who doesn’t want to use a period.

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    @Rod Panhard: You’re barking up the wrong tree. You should address J Mays with your complaint ;)

    EDIT: Reply button no workie for me

  • avatar
    SELECTIVE_KNOWLEDGE_MAN

    Audi A2 3L was pretty much just an attempt at having a Lupo 3L rebadge where the price would be somewhat justified.

    But let’s revisit the numbers in the article:

    “If you’re keeping score at home you’ll know that’s an improvement of 17 mpg over a Toyota Prius.”

    Audi 3L: 3.0 l/100km

    Prius (Euro cycle): 3.9l /100km

    Difference: 0.9 l/100km, or 18mpg.

    But in Europe there is a more comparable “prius”, the Yaris hybrid which is currently coming out in a new version doing 3.3 l/100km making the advantage 0.3 l/100km, or 7mpg.

  • avatar
    Johann

    krhodes1 said:

    “And yet, in Europe, it outsold the Prius during its production run. Proving once again that unlike Americans, Europeans rarely buy cars by the pound (or kilogram, as the case may be). It was a limited production technology demonstrator. In Europe, it is still a highly-regarded and sought after car – I would call that a success. Even now, very few people in Europe have much interest in the Prius in any of its sundry variations.”

    Very true. I bought a brand new A2 in 2001 and had it for 111,000 miles and 9 amazing years. Loved that little beast. The fuel economy, the scarcity, the sound of that 3 cylinder engine, the panoramic glass roof. I didn’t care for the rock hard suspension (done after the A-class elk affair) that meant 10mph over speed bumps, but also means go kart handling around smoother roads.

    For the same money I could have had a boring as toast 170hp V5 Golf. Yet I got the 75hp Audi. I could trash the Audi all the time to 100% and not get into too serious trouble. But trashing a V5 leads to trouble (it’s obviously faster to 60 and in top speed) and they float on country lanes like a barge (I had a partner a few years later with one and I NEVER took the V5 on a Sunday for a spin, always taking the A2).

    And because they are not plentiful, are scarce and still look great, they have held their second hand values very well. A Mercedes A-class similarly priced in 2002 is now worth about £600 vs the A2 being worth at least £2,500.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “The Audi A2 was an all-aluminum microvan capable of hitting 78 mpg in its most fuel-efficient trim level.”

    European reported fuel economy is invariably grossly inflated. You should probably knock off a good 20-30% off of that figure in order to convert that into American.


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