Lux­ury taste on on a beer bud­get

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - Craig Duff

BRAG­GING rights for the least-ex­pen­sive pres­tige car now be­long to Audi’s A1.

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 it’s tar­get au­di­ence.

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

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


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 is as good as any­thing this side of a Bent­ley.

Against that is the fact most of the ve­hi­cles on last week’s launch were around $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 6.5-inch 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.


The 1.4-litre en­gine uses a turbo and di­rect-in­jec­tion to gen­er­ate 90kW and 200Nm, with the six-speed man­ual do­ing it while us­ing just 5.3-litres of petrol for 100km, and emit­ting 124g of CO2 a kilo­me­tre.

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 part of the A1’s ap­peal.

In­side there’s a high­res­o­lu­tion 6.5-inch monitor that pops out of the dash, but you need to tick the multimedia in­ter­face op­tion to make it re­ally trick.


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.

The in­te­rior is clean and at­trac­tive in reg­u­lar trim, but re­ally comes alive with a splash of colour.

Audi says the base At­trac­tion ‘‘is the richly ap­pointed, high-char­ac­ter ver­sion; Am­bi­tion the sporty and dy­namic vari­ant.’’

You can pick the pair by the fog­lights, chrome ex­haust tips and stan­dard 16-inch al­loys on the Am­bi­tion (the At­trac­tion runs on stan­dard 15-inch rims).


Pro­tec­tion is one A1 as­set that doesn’t in­volve choices.

The car’s six airbags, high­t­en­sile body and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol earned it a five-star rat­ing by Euro NCAP.

Audi says pedes­trian pro­tec­tion is an­other pri­or­ity, with a de­formable front end that is de­signed not to kill com­muters or cost you a for­tune in the case of a low-speed hit.


The first de­cent cor­ners proves the A1 is one of the sporti­est cars in the sub-com­pact class.

The steer­ing has enough play on cen­tre to al­low for ner­vous twitches, but is pre­cise as soon as it starts to turn.

Feed­back from the tyres to the steer­ing wheel is nearly as good as a Mini and the per- for­mance is also on a par. The en­gine feels far more pow­er­ful and flex­i­ble than a 1.4-litre mill should.

The down-low torque en­cour­ages changes well be­fore the red­line, but the speedo nee­dle rolls around the dial at a very re­spectable clip.

Audi claims 8.9 sec­onds for 0-100km/h and that sounds about right, but it is the cor­nerto-corner mo­men­tum that is most im­pres­sive.

There’s also plenty of grip from the seats to keep the oc­cu­pants set­tled through the cor­ners.

STYLISH: Audi’s A1 hatch has been de­signed for driv­ers who want stylish qual­ity. Al­though it boasts a bud­get price tag, op­tions soon bump up the cost.

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