The A1 is but lit­tle out­side, but all Audi in­side.

BRIAN BASSETT finds the A1 Sport­back is All Audi

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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