With my background in design, I know I really shouldn’t be saying this. But ever since I saw the Audi A1 metroproject concept at the Tokyo show in autumn 2007 I have had a niggling thought in the back of my mind.

There was something about the car’s rather plump, potato-esque, shape that reminded me strongly of another car.

When the pictures of the final production A1 arrived, I couldn’t resist asking the obvious question any longer.

I am the only one who thinks the baby Audi looks remarkably like an Austin Allegro?

There’s something about the short, tubby shape, the sweep of the C-pillar, the amount of bodywork above the front wheel and that deep ‘shoulder’ surface that runs off the front wing and down the side of the car.

Even the Allegro’s side windows seem similar in proportion and shape to the A1’s.

I have met Harris Mann – ‘designer’ of the Allegro – a couple of times. A charming chap, he showed me his original design sketch for the Allegro.

It was a sharp, wedgy, coupe with a narrow nose and rising window line. Unfortunately, what passed for production engineering at BLMC in 1970 saw the management to change its plans, and fit the Allegro with an existing heater and engine, which were too tall to fit under Mann’s sharply-drawn bonnet.

So they simply lifted the bonnet line up until they could accommodate the engine and heater. Rather than pass it back to the design department to try and tidy up the result, the Allegro went into production. Amazingly it was made for a decade, from 1973 until 1983.

As for the A1, it’s roughly based on the Polo, so there seems to be no good reason for its podgy form.

Interestingly, the Audi A1 does have an obtuse BL connection. The concept A1 was called the Metroproject. However BMW, which owns the Metro badge, objected rather strongly to this and Audi had to purge its files and the web of pictures and text that used the ‘metroproject’ name.

And funnily enough, Harris Mann was one of the lead designers on the original Austin Metro…