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by Steve Siler

Audi TT
2003 Audi TT
Ever since we first laid eyes on the fabulous Audi TT, we were in love. Small yet dignified, it had an appeal that only grew stronger the harder you looked. Today, it remains innovative and compelling: a contemporary classic if there ever was one. Truly, the TT's brilliant combination of high-tech shapes and distinct Bauhaus overtones represents true art in motion; it would look just as at home in a museum as in a garage.

The interior of the TT remains one of Audi's masterpieces. Like the exterior, the theme is circles and squares, circles and squares. But this is design with purpose: form really does follow function here. It is in the TT that we first saw the cool circular air vents whose diveted aluminum surrounding trim rings actually twist to open/close the vents. There are A-braces at the bottom of the dash with padded inserts to serve as a leg rest. The gauges are big and legible, although the radio buttons could be bigger.

Still, the TT's innovative approach to virtually everything you interact with makes it a great place to spend time. Especially cool is the Baseball Optic leather treatment available only on the convertible, with its saddle color and wide-looped stitching made to fit your butt like a [baseball] glove. A power retractable glass wind deflector on the convertible mimics the design of the roll bars perched just behind the seats. Cool. So what if the trunk can only hold your purse?

The base TT features a 180-hp turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a Tiptronic automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, while you can step up for the more potent 225-hp version of said engine that brings with it a six-speed manual transmission and grippy all-wheel-drive. Good fuel economy for both, too.

Like most of the vehicles in this guide, the ride quality of the TT is not luxurious, but the upside of that is that it corners brilliantly, especially with the all-wheel grip of the twin-turbocharged version. What's more is that the TT's stiff structure keeps it from shaking to bits over bumps. All said, the TT is a piece of automotive history, the kind of car that you'll look back on and glean with pride for having owned one.

Price: $33K-$42K