The A1 is but little outside, but all Audi inside.
BRIAN BASSETT finds the A1 Sportback is All Audi
THE Audi A1 was first introduced in 2010 as an attempt by Audi to strengthen its entry point to the brand.
In this it has been successful. In 2010 some 52 000 cars were produced worldwide, with A1 production rising to 123 500 units by 2012.
Worldwide some 80% of Audi A1 drivers are new to the brand and in South Africa the car has also sold very well, with over 10 000 vehicles purchased by the marketplace.
The A1 shares the Volkswagen Group’s PQ25 platform with the popular Polo Hatch and is Audi’s offering in the light hatchback market. Loosely referred to as a supermini, the A1’s logical competitor is the Mini Cooper.
Lately, however, the number of competitors has increased and we were anxious to drive what appeared to be a special small car.
We offer our appreciation to Prunella Naidoo, new car sales manager at Audi Centre in Pietermaritzburg, for making this possible.
Like most Audis. the five-door A1 Sportback has an understated but distinctive presence.
The swept back LED headlights offer excellent visibility at night and driving on a Midlands farm road on a dark autumn evening, I felt confident and in control. The rears LED lighting offers useful illumination and, as you open the boot lid; two large interior sidelights illuminate whatever is being done. As expected, the build quality is superb and the car has character and substance.
The A1 offers big car levels of quality and every aspect of the interior feels genuinely premium.
The seats are covered in a heavy, hard-wearing cloth and the front seats are adjustable and supportive, with side bolsters.
As a tall guy I had my doubts about fitting behind the wheel, but the driver’s seat is completely adjustable, as is the leather-covered, multi-function, threespoke steering wheel.
Controls are simple, and minimalist in character and the dashboard has a 6,5-inch screen, operated by a master controller, which handles the audio and navigation systems, as well as whatever connected technology with which the A1 may be equipped.
The rear seats will take two adults in comfort and three with a squeeze, but the front seats will have to be adjusted. Tall passengers will also find that their heads brush the rear roof and their legs will need to be drawn up on either side of the front seats.
Luggage space with the rear seats in place is a small 270 litres, but with the rear seats folded down in 60/40 fashion, this rises to 920 litres.
Safety and security
The A1 has a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, which makes it as safe as the driving styles of other road users and you allow. The car has over 20 safety devices, amongst which the most important are Anti-Slip Regulation, Electronic Diff Lock, Electronic Stabilisation Control, ISOFIX Child Seat Mountings on the rear seats, as well as a safety steering column. Six full-size airbags, head, front and side, protect passengers and of course seatbelts for all.
There is also side protection and the Integrated Head Restraint System could save your life. The car has an alarm and central locking.
Performance and handling
The three-cylinder, 999cc engine in the A1 is not to be taken lightly. It makes 70 kW/160 Nm, which is expressed via a seven-speed tiptronic gearbox. 0-100 km/h takes about 12,29 seconds and top speed is around 186 km/h.
Fuel consumption is about 5,2 litres per 100 km. The gearbox and the engine are beautifully matched to provide a quiet, sophisticated and refined performance. The A1 is firstly a comfortable urban runabout with responsive steering, but it also shifts on the N3. With two quite meaty passengers in the car, I was impressed with its performance and the gear change is silky smooth.
I also drove the car on two D Roads in the Midlands and was once again impressed by the way it handled the ruts and potholes and the absolute stability it retained throughout the drive, sometimes at speed.
However, it must be said that the A1 is in no way an off-roader and choppy stretches of bad roads must be handled carefully. If you are likely to need a vehicle for rough roads, try the Q3.
Costs and the competition
There are 16 models in the A1 range starting at around R280 000 for the three-door entry model and ending at about R490 000 for the S1, Sportback Quattro. The model we drove in satisfying comfort comes in at around R305 000.
The car comes with a five-year, 100 000 km extendable maintenance plan.
Also look at Alfa Romeo Mito, Mini Cooper S, Citroën DS53 and Abarth 595.
The A1’s powerful little 1,0 is as comfortable in the city as it is on the highway.