by - 27/12/12
It seems every time Nicole and Keith, Mary and Frederick etc touch-down in Australia, Audi basks in the glory with a fleet of A8 limousines and Q7 SUVs prominent at every photo opportunity. Stars and starlets aside for a minute folks, we reckon Audi has a star on its hands carrying a price tag starting with a ‘2’ – the Audi A1.
While the international jet-setters enjoy their free luxury Audis, buyers of the A1 don’t get short-changed in ‘Audi-ness’ – this chic compact oozes style despite its budget-beating price.
Now, with five-door models to broaden the lineup, even more Audi A1s will be appearing during pick-up times at trendy schools from Ingolstadt, Germany to Ivanhoe, Victoria…and just about everywhere in-between. And urban professionals too will enjoy the extra versatility provided by those extra doors.
Car Showroom’s Audi A1 Sportback five-door was the mid-grade Ambition model, powered by the 1.4 TFSI petrol engine. As per the norm, Audi offers the A1 Sportback in three model grades – entry-level ‘Attraction’ ($26,500) and up-scale ‘Ambition’ ($33,450) and range-topping ‘Sport’ ($42,500)
Those prices are for a six-speed manual (as tested), for the seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission, add $2,350 (except the Sport which is auto-only).
Amongst the extras, the Audi A1 Ambition adds 16-inch alloy wheels (15-inch on Attraction), sports suspension, front fog lights, front centre arm-rest, sports seats and two-tone interior trim with gloss black/alloy highlights
In ‘Audi-Volkswagen Speak’ the letters TFSI stand for turbocharged direct injection. Our A1 test car was powered by the 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine with 63kW of power and peak torque of 160Nm from 1500rpm.
Our Audi A1 Sportback drove through the six-speed manual transmission and, as we knew from previous tests with this engine, response was rapid and came with a racy exhaust note when you got a few revs on-board. Zero to 100km/h takes just 11.9 seconds.
As always with the Volkswagen Group, impressively low fuel consumption and emissions were a highlight – 5.1l/100kms and 118g/km of C02.
In targeting younger buyers with the A1, Audi’s interior stylists have tossed-out the usual Audi design manual and delivered a contemporary look we really like. For starters the four, round air-vents across the dashboard look like jet engines.
Then, in the centre of the dashboard is a retractable 6.5-inch screen for audio (10-speaker system with the usual connectivity) and navigation. When folded, you simply give it a tap and the screen mechanically rises into position – an impressive inclusion in a compact car in this price range.
With multiple adjustments for the seats (sport seats standard in the Ambition model tested) and the usual slick Audi steering wheel, a first-class driving position is readily achieved and sporty drivers will feel right at home in the A1. Instrumentation too is the usual high-class Audi job with black-faced dials, day-glow red needles and white graphics – including an indicator light for optimal gear changes.
All trim materials are the expected Audi quality with abundant soft-touch elements and, in the Ambition model tested, alloy and high-gloss black highlights.
Rear seat accommodation is on par with segment rivals – the five-door A1 delivering 11mm more headroom in the rear than the three-door.
Luggage capacity isn’t massive at 270-litres (920-litres with all seats folded).
The arched roof and short overhangs of the compact (3.95-metres in length) Audi A1 are well-known and integration of the extra doors in the five-door version hasn’t upset the styling applecart. While length and wheelbase (2.4-metres) are identical to the three-door, the five-door Audi A1 is six millimeters taller and six millimeters wider.
To accommodate the extra doors and provide enhanced rear-seat space, the five-door Audi A1 sees the B-pillars shifted forward by 23cms and the roof is 80mm longer. The C-pillar adopts a higher, longer contour.
At the front, the five-door A1 is identified by some minor changes to the grille.
As per the three-door, you can order your five-door Audi A1 with the roof and rear spoiler painted in a contrasting colour – black, grey pearl effect or silver metallic. If you’re buying, go ahead with the contrasting colour – they look great.
Of course aerodynamics plays an important role in reduced fuel consumption and even though the A1 is the entry-level Audi, there’s no cost-cutting in that area. The curved body shape, underbody panel, roof spoiler and even subtle lips on the tail-lights contribute to a drag Cd of just 0.32.
Whether it’s the chic A1 we’re testing here or the superb R8 supercar, Audi doesn’t discriminate when it comes to driving dynamics. The Volkswagen Group uses the same turbocharged 1.4-litre engine in some Golf models and, given the lighter weight of the Audi A1, the 90kW/200Nm provides plenty of zip.
As always, a sprint over our high-speed mountain roads test loop brought a pleasing exhaust note as we worked through the six-speed manual.
Underneath is a MacPherson strut front-end and torsion beam rear – all with twin-tube gas dampers. Audi A1 runs two suspension calibrations – the entry-level Ambition model with a more comfort-oriented set-up and the Ambition (as tested) and Sport models scoring dynamic sports suspension.
Combined with electrohydraulic power steering, an electronic limited slip differential and Audi’s usual driver-friendly ESP tune, the Audi A1 really does deliver a high-tech and dynamic drive which belies its budget-beating price tag.
Over the twists and curves our Audi A1 was a delight – precise, quick and responsive…just as you’d expect from any Audi.
Around town, light operation of the clutch and a handy 10.6-metre turning circle meant the Audi A1 was nimble and refined.
‘Urban Professionals’ is the moniker marketing people thesedays attach to city-dwelling folks with no children. Combine them with school run mums and you’ve got the Audi A1 target market nailed.
While the former group only need a luggage area big enough for a gym bag or yoga mat, the latter group might find the Audi A1 a tad snug for their cargo requirements.
We’re Audi fans here at Car Showroom and even the harshest critics would concede there’s a lot to like about the A1 – starting with very sharp prices.
We like the ‘softer’ styling on the outside and we definitely like the trendy looks inside (Audi is appealing to a younger audience with this car). And we certainly like the ‘pep’ of that turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, matched to the usual pin-sharp Audi chassis.
Clearly the extra convenience of five doors will broaden the appeal of this funky German compact.
The MINI Countryman is a hot-seller worldwide and, priced from $37,700, presents as a rival for the five-door Audi A1. Chalk-up a 90kW/160Nm 1.6-litre for the entry grade MINI Countryman and maybe a tad more room inside than the A1.
BMW 1 Series hatchback might be on your radar. Starting at $36,990, the stylish Beemer goes hard thanks to its 100kW/200Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre (116i) and of course delivers BMW’s classic rear-drive dynamics.
Although larger overall, we’d definitely be looking at the superb Mercedes-Benz B-Class. A 90kW/200Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre powers the $38,950 entry-grade B180. It’s all Mercedes-Benz class, wonderfully styled and built and a Car Showroom favourite for sure.
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