IT’S STILL the smallest car in Audi’s range, but the A1 has grown up for its second coming. An increase of 56mm sounds small, but at 4029mm long its even longer than its Mini five-door rival – a car that seems to stretch the supermini tag to breaking point.
It’s a larger, more mainstream look for the A1 that lacks appeal in dowdy specs, but you can personalise to glamorise, and the growth spurt is welcome inside – the A1 feels more spacious even up front, while four adults can travel in comfort and the boot grows 65 litres to 335 litres. That’s a sizeable 57 litres larger than a Mini’s.
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This is a grown-up feeling cabin too, with an edgy origami dash laden with slick infotainment. Nice that both the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 8.8-inch central touchscreen are standard. Shame the high-tech façade wobbles slightly when you spy some cheap plastics as high as the door tops.
Think less is more when it comes to engines. The 40 TFSI is the most powerful, essentially a Polo GTI with the Cinderella treatment – the A1 and Polo share their MQB platform, though the Audi is likely to be more than 10 percent costlier, based on European pricing. Its 147kW 2.0-litre turbo has a charmlessly flat delivery and no great turn of speed, and there’s some steering corruption, an occasionally grumbly ride too. Mostly it just lacks fun.
The 35 TFSI – a 1.5-litre turbo four that can drop to two cylinders – has a calmer, more natural feel, and the slick six-speed manual also increases the sense of engagement over the 40 TFSI’s standard and rather anodyne dual clutcher. It is, however, clearly slower, and still delivers its 110kW in a monotonous fashion.
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We weren’t expecting to prefer the three-cylinder engine, but we do. There are two tunes, and we tested the more powerful 30 TFSI. No, it’s not quick with 85kW, but somehow there’s more turbocharged attitude in its powerband, making it feel more energetic. It also weighs a huge 145kg less than the 40 TFSI – there’s enough performance, it steers and rides nicely, and the 30 TFSI even feels fleet-footed and keen through the twisty stuff.
It’s easy to spend even more than the A1’s already high base price, but our pick’s a three-cylinder 30 TFSI with a manual transmission and some choice options, not a more powerful model with a lower spec.
S1 and only
Audi won’t crown its new A1 range with an S1 hot hatch. Last time it swapped the base car’s torsion-beam rear suspension for a multi-link set-up to clear the quattro all-wheel-drive system’s rear differential and driveshafts. That’s been vetoed on cost/development grounds this time, even though the last car made a profit. One senior insider suggested electrification and autonomy are consuming significant resources, making such projects less viable. Could Audi compromise with a front-drive S1? ‘We prefer not to,’ came the reply.
Model: Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI
Engine: 999cc 3cyl, dohc, 12v
Max power: 85kW @ 5000-5500rpm
Max torque: 200Nm @ 2000-3500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-100km/h: 9.5 sec
Price: From $29,000 (est)
On sale: Q2 2019