Audi’s little-known subcompact hatch turns 50

By automotive-mag.com 2 Min Read

The Volkswagen Golf celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, but there’s another Volkswagen Group hatchback that was launched at the same time as the venerable VW, and that’s the Audi 50.

Penned by Lamborghini Miura and Countach designer Marcello Gandini, together with Audi designer Hartmut Warkuß, the designer of the Audi 80, the 50 subcompact hatch was launched in 1974, during the height of the oil crisis that started the previous year.

It measured less than 11.5 feet long, had two doors, and its engine mounted up front. The engine layout was a novelty for a small Audi at the time as the car’s NSU Prinz predecessor had its engine at the rear. The decision was to enable designers to add a larger cabin while keeping the exterior dimensions small.

Two versions were available, each weighing around 1,500 pounds. The base 50 LS grade came with 49 hp and a more potent 50 GL had 59 hp. The top speed was around 95 mph.

1974 Audi 50

Audi limited sales to Europe, and even there, where small hatches from the likes of Fiat, Renault, and of course VW sold in significant numbers, the 50 went unloved and Audi ended production after just four years. A little over 180,000 examples were built during that time.

In addition to being considered too small by many Audi buyers, it also didn’t help that VW would start selling a rebadged version in 1975 with a lower price tag as the first Polo.

Audi would later concentrate on cars in bigger segments, though the automaker would eventually return to the subcompact segment in 2010 with the launch of the A1 hatch.

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