Two Audis on the road

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The Golf GTi, due to reach the market in Golf 2 form next spring, has become the cult car of the 1980s in much the same way as the Mini-Coopers were so fashionable 20 years ago. In fact the GTi started a boom in small, high performance machines prompting Ford to bring out the XR3 and XR3i, and Opel the Kadett GTE. To ring the changes we have tested the Audi 80 Sport, which is powered by the GTi’s 1.8-litre, fuel injected, 112 bhp engine. Advantages of the Audi are that its wheelbase is 51/2 inches longer than that of the Golf, it has four doors and a large boot, and although it weighs 70 kg more it also has a higher top speed, of 115 mph against 112 mph; it is, in fact, more akin to Golf 2 in these respects.

Audi’s range on the 80 now runs to six models, plus the Coupe GT and Coupe Injection models on the ‘same platform and with similar interior appointments, all having four or five cylinders and the Quattro models with four-wheel drive. It is quite an astonishing array of variations on a theme representing considerable investment, and it is worth remembering that at no time has Volkswagen attempted to badge-engineer the Audi range, taking the more enlightened view that the engineers in Ingolstadt can go ahead with their projects, expensive as they may be, to the benefit of the group as a whole.

As a second cousin twice removed from the Quattro rally car, the 80 Sport is an interesting proposition for people looking for a sporting model at around £7,800 (and it has the advantage of being in a lower tax band at 1,781 cc). Expensive, certainly, at £1,300 more than an XR3i and £700 more than a GTi, but the advantage of having four doors and the feel of a larger car would give the Audi an advantage with some customers.

Cast alloy wheels, 65 x 14, with Dunlop D3 Sport tyres are standard equipment, as are a 5-speed gearbox, twin exterior mirrors, head restraints, laminated screen, a full array of gauges including an econometer, and seat belts for all the occupants.

The heart of the car is the peppy four-cylinder engine which overhangs the front wheels. It has a throaty induction noise and revs freely to the red sector on the rev-counter, not being much slower than the GTi with a 0-60 mph time of 8.7 seconds (half a second quicker than is claimed for the car) and a top speed of 115 mph. It’s fairly sensitive to the style of driving, though, returning 28.1 mpg on a fast cross-country journey to Silverstone for the European Touring Car race, but 33.9 mpg on quieter journeys including trips into Central London.

The car has an extremely useful 15-gallon fuel tank giving it a range of at least 400 miles, though Audi’s claim of up to 680 miles being “feasible” sounds rather far-fetched unless you like driving along motorways at a steady 56 mph! We found that 4,000 rpm is a comfortable cruising speed, representing an indicated 87 mph which should be good for 30 mpg overall.

The 80 Sport does not have power steering, and suffers a little in being rather heavy at low speed, but low geared for fast driving. The longer wheelbase makes the Audi a rather more forgiving car than the GTi, with less understeer, and has the added benefit of smoothing the ride and making it less choppy.

Only three colours are offered, white, silver or black, and while we found the Audi Sport stripes and lettering tasteful some might regard them as bait for the law, and they can be deleted from the specification”80 Sport” lettering is engraved on the rear side window glass, and this would be sufficient for some people. In summary, a fast, comfortable and well equipped family car, not quite the most expensive 1.8-litre model on the market but right at the upper end of the sector, and well-worth a second look if you are considering a Golf GTi but could afford a little more. — M.L.C.