Audi has been careful to avoid creating any cars which could weaken its premium status, and until recently, would have considered a Fiesta-sized car brand suicide.
A sharp change in the world economy, customer’s growing environmental awareness and the success of the small and premium Mini has changed all that.
Audi has responded with a car which is superbly of its time. There’s no doubting it’s worthy of the four-rings either in the way it looks, or in its engineering, and it’s no surprise the A1’s arriving in the UK this year are all sold.
The A1 has a 270 litre boot, making it 100 litres bigger than a Mini’s. This expands to 920 litres of space with the rear seats folded down.
This fact, and its modern anti-retro design, give it a more grown-up and sensible feel than the British icon. This is reflected in the exterior options list, which includes silver roof arches and various alloy wheels, with no mention of Union flags, racing stripes or chequered roofs.
Inside, the A1 boasts one of the finest interiors of any small car, with classy materials and enough interesting design features to make it memorable. It’s not as quirky as a Mini’s cabin, but those who find the oversized retro speedometer in that car a step too far, will feel more at home in the sensible A1.
At launch there will be two petrol and one diesel model to choose from; an 81bhp 1.2-litre TFSI, a 120bhp, 1.4-litre TFSI or 103bhp, 1.6-litre TDI, which offer acceleration from 0-62mph in 11.7, 8.9 and 10.5 seconds respectively.
A seven-speed S-Tronic semi-automatic gearbox is available with the petrol engine, which makes quick and intuitive gear changes, but has a tendency to shift to high gears in the name of economy.
Hot 180bhp version on its way
Early in 2011 a hot version of the 1.4-litre petrol will also be available with around 180bhp, featuring the supercharged and turbocharged engine seen in the Polo GTI, Seat Ibiza Cupra and Skoda Fabia vRS.
After driving the smallest Audi with both the 120bhp 1.4-litre TFSI and the diesel, it’s the former which suits the A1 best. While the diesel is impressively quiet and frugal it doesn’t offer the sense of driving fun the small petrol can manage.
Even the petrol falls short of offering the level of driver pleasure found in the Mini, Citroen DS3, or even in the excellent Fiesta.
All the A1’s we drove were fitted with firm Sport suspension, which resulted in an overly firm ride on UK roads. And, while there is plenty of grip on offer, the A1 lacks the intuitive and eager response the Mini and Fiesta provide through their steering wheels.
The Audi A1 has a low starting price of £13,145, but very few customers are likely to spend this little, and many have already spent well-over £20k on A1s. Choose some essential and desirable options and the price shoots up.
The good news is the A1 should prove a good investment, as it’s expect to hold onto more of its value than any other small car, Mini included.
Running one will be pleasingly thrifty too, with all models available now qualifying for free road tax for the first year of ownership thanks to CO2 emissions of less than 124g/km.
Drive the 1.6 TDI carefully and Audi(http://www.autotrader.co.uk/
With a great image, build quality and interior the Audi A1 will be a desirable car for many. It’s also admirably clean and economical, but enthusiast drivers will be hoping the forthcoming 182bhp 1.4-litre TFSI will be a more exciting drive to rival the Mini.
Model tested: Audi A1 1.4 120bhp S-Line, Audi A1 1.6 TDI S-Line, Audi A1 1.4 120bhp SE S-Tronic
On the road price:
Date tested: October 2010
Road tester: Andy Goodwin
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