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.
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.