New Audi takes party to city streets

Ger­man lux­ury ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer Audi has en­tered the small-car race, with a new hatch called the A1. Rob Maet­zig re­ports on the launch.

Kapi-Mana News - - MOTORING -

Ever heard of homo ur­banus?

It’s a new-age term de­signed to re­place homo sapi­ens, the re­sult of our world hav­ing reached a stage where more peo­ple are now liv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas than in ru­ral ar­eas.

The change ap­par­ently hap­pened in 2007, and ur­ban­i­sa­tion is con­tin­u­ing at such a rapid pace that the United Na­tions es­ti­mates that by 2030 al­most two-thirds of the world’s pop­u­la­tion will live in cities.

It is the pri­mary rea­son why Ger­man man­u­fac­turer Audi has just launched its small­est-ever car.

The A1 hatch will take its place in what is known as the A seg­ment of the new ve­hi­cle mar­ket, along­side such com­pe­ti­tion as the BMW Mini, Alfa-Romeo MiTo and maybe the lesser-priced Volk­swa­gen Polo that is built on the same plat­form.

It has to be said, the new A1 is not cheap, even though it is the least ex­pen­sive Audi on of­fer.

The man­ual ver­sion of the 1.4 litre hatch re­tails for $38,300, or $41,300 with a sport level of spec­i­fi­ca­tion, which in­cludes a sportier sus­pen­sion set up and larger wheels and tyres.

When fit­ted with Audi’s S-Tronic seven-speed auto, the prices are $41,300 for the base model and $44,300 for the sport.

From Fe­bru­ary, even sportier S-Line ver­sions, which will have stiffer sus­pen­sion set ups again, will come onto the mar­ket for an­other $4000. It will also be pos­si­ble to buy the A1 fit­ted with ‘‘com­pe­ti­tion’’ body kits that pay homage to Audi rally cars of the 1980s for about an ex­tra $5000.

Audi’s New Zealand gen­eral man­ager Dane Fisher went to great lengths to as­sure jour­nal­ists the new A1 is the real deal at the me­dia launch.

‘‘This is not an ac­coun­tant’s car, but a true Audi which will of­fer qual­ity and technology at a level not seen in the small seg­ment,’’ he said.

The A1 is avail­able over­seas with a range of diesel and petrol en­gines, but the New Zealand ve­hi­cles are pow­ered by the same 90 kilo­watt 1.4 litre TFSI en­gine aboard its larger cousin, the Volk­swa­gen Golf TSI.

It’s a good lit­tle en­gine, of­fer­ing 200 newton me­tres of torque from just 1500 rev­o­lu­tions a minute, which gives it flex­i­bil­ity of per­for­mance far su­pe­rior to what its cu­bic ca­pac­ity would sug­gest.

When mated to the seven-speed S-Tronic auto, the en­gine will scoot to 100kmh in a very rea­son­able 8.9 sec­onds, and on to a top speed of 203kmh.

Ride and han­dling feel se­cure and ag­ile too, if a quick drive over the Auck­land Har­bour Bridge and up north dur­ing last week’s me­dia in­tro­duc­tion was any in­di­ca­tion.

In fact, the car feels sub­stan­tially larger than it ac­tu­ally is, partly due to the fact the car’s sta­bil­i­sa­tion pro­grammes come with an elec­tronic limited slip dif­fer­en­tial.

It feels sub­stan­tial in­side and has a high level of stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

This in­cludes a pop-up screen that pro­vides all the nec­es­sary in­fo­tain­ment in­for­ma­tion, iPod con­nec­tiv­ity, Blue­tooth, a sin­gle-disc CD player, sports-style mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel, full electrics, and all the nec­es­saries, in­clud­ing cli­mate­con­trol air con­di­tion­ing.

Adding to the feel­ing of sub­stance is the look of the car.

The front-end looks quite mas­cu­line thanks to a new large sin­gle-frame grille; the side view boasts a coupe-like pro­file and an ag­gres­sive shoul­der line that fol­lows the Audi tra­di­tion of two-thirds body and one-third glass; and the rear fea­tures tail lights that can be three-di­men­sion­ally moulded as an op­tion.

An­other in­ter­est­ing op­tion is that the A1’s roof arches can be painted in a choice of four con­trast­ing colours.

Over­all, this new Audi A1 in­stantly po­si­tions it­self as one of the classi­est lit­tle cars around.

Small but sub­stan­tial: The new Audi A1 hatch.

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