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Opinion: Is the car world finally ready for the Audi A2?

Autocar logo Autocar 15/04/2019 James Attwood
a car parked in a parking lot: Audi's electric hatch concept previews the company's long-term design plans © Autocar Audi's electric hatch concept previews the company's long-term design plans Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

The Audi AI:ME concept is intended to look 10 years into the future, but on first sight it made me think about one of the firm’s models from 20 years in the past: the A2. 

The front grill and various styling details show how Audi's design – and the whole car industry – has progressed over the last two decades. But look past that and there's a clear resemblance between the two short, rounded, high-riding crossovers.

When I asked Andreas Mindt, Audi’s head of exterior design, he insisted the similarity was purely “a coincidence”. But he added: “If there are parts of heritage like this, it’s not bad, because it makes it recognisable.”

a car parked on the side of a road © Provided by Haymarket Media Group

The A2 didn’t last, but not because it was a bad car: it was genuinely innovative, efficient and economical and – as our road testers of the time testified – good fun to drive. But it was arguably too big a leap for the Audi brand when it launched in 1999, and just too far ahead of its time. In particular, its aluminium body made it too expensive to produce (and repair), which put off customers drawn to cheaper rivals. 

Audi eventually canned the A2 in 2005, although it has evaluated bringing a new version back on several occasions. Making the economics of a compact city car add up remains a challenge for firms such as Audi, but that should become easier as the economies of scale of electric cars add up. And there's no doubt the rise of electrification and autonomy are going to increase the demand for such cars in the future – as the Audi AI:ME concept itself highlights, with its vision of urban mobility in 10 years' time.

a car parked in a parking lot: How far off the mark was our own redesigned A2? © Autocar How far off the mark was our own redesigned A2? Frankly, though, an electric A2 would be perfect for right now. I’m not the only member of the Autocar team that thinks so: over Christmas, Matt Prior mooted a new high-riding A2 compact car based on the MEB platform (pictured below) – which is pretty much what I saw when I first set eyes on the AI:ME.

The Audi A2 was a great car that was simply ahead of its time. Twenty years on, could the A2's time be now?

Gallery: The mass-production cars that are now rarer than a Ferrari [Read Cars]

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