A1FOR EF­FORT

Audi’s A1 looks and feels like a pres­tige model with­out the price tag, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

AUDI HATCHES A PLAN FOR THE SMALL CAR PRES­TIGE MAR­KET

BRAG­GING rights for the least ex­pen­sive pres­tige car now be­long to Audi’s A1 — just don’t ex­pect to tell your friends about it from in the car. A $29,900 starter price for the At­trac­tion model is a show­room lure, but Blue­tooth comes as part of a me­dia pack that costs an­other $1800, or 6 per cent of the base price.

At a time when $ 15,000 ve­hi­cles have Blue­tooth as stan­dard, it’s a cal­cu­lated gam­ble by the Ger­man com­pany, which is con­fi­dent the sub-com­pact car’s Mini-es­que ‘‘ ex­treme cus­tomi­sa­tion’’ op­tions will be com­pelling for its tar­get au­di­ence.

And they’re prob­a­bly right. The A1 is steer­ing straight at ur­ban pro­fes­sion­als with pro­jec­tions that half the buy­ers will be women who will pay to per­son­alise their ve­hi­cles.

The Mini ex­pe­ri­ence — very few Minis are sold stan­dard — backs that up, but it will also quickly push the Audi well into the mid-$30,000 bracket and be­yond if you tick enough boxes.

Value

THE ba­sic propo­si­tion is com­pelling—$30,000 or $169 a week for three years will put you be­hind the wheel of a base model that feels and looks ev­ery bit like a pres­tige Audi.

The styling is classy and sig­na­ture Audi in­side and out, mean­ing the fit and fin­ish are as good as any­thing this side of a Bent­ley.

Against that is the fact most of the ve­hi­cles at last week’s launch were about $35,000, and fully op­tioned-up Am­bi­tion mod­els were ap­proach­ing $50,000.

Stan­dard gear in­cludes a sin­gle-disc CD sys­tem with a glove­box-mounted aux­il­iary in­put SD me­mory card slot and a 16.5cm colour dis­play.

The ba­sic me­chan­i­cals are more im­pres­sive with a chas­sis and en­gine that, while bor­rowed from the Polo, are a bet­ter drive than its VW Group sta­ble­mate.

Technology

The 1.4-litre en­gine uses a turbo and di­rect­in­jec­tion to gen­er­ate 90kW and 200Nm, with the six-speed man­ual do­ing it while us­ing only 5.3litres of petrol for 100km, and emit­ting 124g of CO a kilo­me­tre 2 The seven-speed S-tronic is an­other $2300, but it is prob­a­bly the pick for most buy­ers and is just as fuel-ef­fi­cient and marginally bet­ter on emis­sions.

That puts it at the top of its class for fuel con­sump­tion and will be a big part of the A1’s ap­peal.

The stop-start sys­tem is stan­dard on both trans­mis­sions and fires up so quickly it’s vir­tu­ally seam­less when the clutch/ac­cel­er­a­tor is de­pressed.

In­side there’s a high-res­o­lu­tion 16.5cm monitor that pops out of the dash, but you need to tick the multi-me­dia in­ter­face op­tion to make it re­ally trick. The op­tional LED in­te­rior lights and xenon head­lights are also worth the in­vest­ment, both in looks and prac­ti­cal­ity.

Style

THE looks are the first ob­vi­ous ap­peal of the lit­tle Audi. It’s not retro-chic like the Mini, but it isn’t aim­ing to be. With the ( op­tional) con­trast­ing roof arches, the baby Audi is an im­pos­ing sight.

It cuts through the wind well too— ex­ten­sive wind-tun­nel test­ing has cut the drag co-ef­fi­cient to 0.32, mak­ing the A1 one of the slipperiest cars in its class.

The in­te­rior is clean and at­trac­tive in reg­u­lar trim, but re­ally comes alive with a splash of colour. The A1 is an invit­ing place to be with the colour-coded air-vent sleeves and door trim

Cus­tomise: Audi is tar­get­ing buy­ers who will pay to per­son­alise their ve­hi­cles.

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