The UK is the biggest market for the Audi TT in Europe, so the latest version needs to drive well on our challenging roads to stand a chance of matching the sales success of its predecessors.
Yet for all its sporty design flourishes, the model that’s most likely to seduce tax-conscious British buyers is the new 2.0-litre TDI Ultra, the latest of the brand’s fuel-sipping range of diesels that now includes the A4, A5, A6 and A7, with plenty more to come.
Of course, buying a slinky coupe is not always a strictly rational purchase, but this Ultra version of the TT promises effortless 150mph performance with affordable family car running costs. Is there a catch?
Well, at launch this model will only be available with front-wheel drive, equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. That does keep the price down though, and in the Sport trim we tried the Ultra is actually the cheapest version of the new TT you can buy, starting at £29,770.
What's the 2015 Audi TT 2.0 TDI Ultra like to drive?
Foul weather and poor road surfaces aren't unusual in the UK, and we were confronted with a great deal of both on our test drive in the Scottish Highlands.
However, the treacherous conditions were actually the perfect showcase for the new TT's impressive handling. Even without four-wheel drive, the car generates immense grip in corners, and the light, accurate steering gives the driver plenty of confidence, so you can place it accurately on the road.
Audi has put a lot of work into trimming any excess weight from the TT, and it feels nimble and keen to change direction as a result. There is hardly any lean in the body when you turn the wheel into a bend.
Every model in the range comes with a button on the dash labelled ‘Drive Select’, which allows you to toggle between different settings for the steering weight and throttle response. The Dynamic setting adds weight to the steering, but no extra feel, so most of the time you're better off in Comfort, Eco or Auto.
Shortly after the launch, buyers will have the option of adaptive dampers which constantly adjust and should give the TT even tighter body control and a smoother ride. That said, the standard car already rides very nicely. It shrugs off uneven cambers, sharp crests and rutted potholes with assured ease, and never gets thrown off line or sends any nasty kickback through the steering column.
If anything, the engine is even more impressive. It produces the same 181bhp and 280lb ft of torque as the 2.0-litre motor in the Golf GTD, but some internal tweaking means it's smoother than its sibling. Once it gets going you can barely even tell it's a diesel, because there's a smooth, flexible spread of power from 1500rpm right up to the redline. It even sounds quite pleasingly rorty when pushed.
On paper, it's over a second slower to cover the 0-62mph sprint than the 227bhp petrol model, but on real roads the gap in performance never feels that big, and you can build speed with remarkable ease. The six-speed manual 'box has quite a long throw, but it's still a joy to use, with a precise shift action and nicely weighted clutch. Swapping ratios never feels like a chore and the TT is easy to drive in stop-start traffic.
The benefits in running costs are hard to ignore, too. Official figures of 67.3mpg combined and 110g/km make the TT Ultra one of the most efficient sports cars money can buy, and no matter how hard we tried, the trip computer refused to dip below 43mpg at any stage on our drive. A more scientific test will have to wait until our True MPG team gets its hands on the car.
Perhaps the only downside to having such a refined engine is that other noises in the cabin become a lot more noticeable. The Sport model comes on standard 18-inch alloy wheels, but the TT generates a fair bit of road noise on coarse surfaces, even when pootling along at 50mph, and it gets louder at speed.
All other noise is well suppressed, apart from the occasional flutter of wind noise from around the frameless doors..
What's the 2015 Audi TT 2.0 TDI Ultra like inside?
Simply sumptuous. Even after spending a short time behind the wheel of the new TT, you're left with a lasting impression of just how pleasing it would be to live with every day.
Pristine fit and finish, classy materials and beautifully damped switches are all par for the course with any modern Audi, but the TT brings in a high-tech, minimalist approach to cabin design that feels really sporty.
A 12.3-inch screen tucked into the instrument binnacle is the window to all the car’s systems, and it’s a real showstopper. A digital set of dials, trip computer, media output and sat-nav (when added) can all controlled via the steering wheel or by an intuitive rotary dial between the front seats, so you never need to divert your eyes far from the road.
The system will take some getting used to if you've spent time in a car with a screen in the centre of the dashboard, but most functions are easy to find and adjust, and the simple actions quickly become second nature - even if your passenger is going to feel quite left out.
Various clever design touches – such as the air-con temperature readouts and dials mounted centrally on the vents – catch the eye. However its a shame this fancy climate control system can only be equipped as part of the £1590 Comfort and Sound package. It's desirable kit that most buyers will want to specify.
Drivers of all shapes and sizes will be able to get comfortable thanks to a broadly adjustable wheel and super-supportive seats finished in Alcantara and leather – even on base Sport trim cars. For a low-slung coupe, the TT also has excellent all-round visibility, so it never feels unwieldy or claustrophobic inside.
Equipment levels are good enough on Sport that the step up to S line – which costs £2550 more – is hard to justify. A DAB radio, USB port, air-con, and keyless start are all included, so the main benefits of stepping up a trim are a set of LED headlights (instead of xenons) larger alloy wheels, S line exterior styling and auto lights and wipers. Unfortunately, rear parking sensors and cruise control cost extra on both trims.
The rear seats remain as useless in this TT as they were in the previous two generations of the car. Even children will feel cramped, and adults won't be able to get in (let alone sit comfortably) without serious athleticism. They are, however, useful for luggage space, and the rear seats fold totally flat, allowing you to extend the shallow boot’s floor, and making it easier to load a set of golf clubs or other bulky items in the process.
Should I buy one?
Some things seem too good to be true, and we wouldn't blame you for thinking the TT Ultra was one of them. Not only is the diesel model cheaper to buy and run then both its petrol counterparts, but it's also predicted to hold on to its value better, so as a private or company buy, it makes great financial sense.
Somehow, though, it also manages to be virtually as fast, refined and agile to drive as the other models in the TT range. It is equally at home cruising along at motorway speeds or blasting down a narrow back road, but will also travel hundreds of miles between fuel station fill-ups. Add to that a class-leading new interior and there really isn't much to complain about.
True, anyone after a hardcore sports car might be a little disappointed by how clinical and composed the TT is, but for everyone else it's an utterly convincing small coupe.
What Car? says...
Audi TT 2.0 TDI Ultra
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £29,770
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 7.1 seconds
Top speed 150mph
Fuel economy 67.3mpg