Spirited Audi A1 is all grown up and feisty
If the minuscule proportions of the old A1 kept you away, then the new car will be a pleasant surprise
Audi SA has launched the new Audi A1 as a larger car with a more aggressive look, available in three engine flavours of 30, 35 and 40. The seven-car model line-up is fitted exclusively with automatic transmissions.
The compact five-door hatch also gets improved digital conveniences, a more polished ride quality and pretty much every dynamic chassis edge from the Volkswagen Group’s front-wheel-drive MQB-A0 platform it shares with the current VW Polo.
The body restyle features a bolder, lower-placed new shape single-frame grille with side air inlets and a trio of slits above the grille. Add the now de rigueur Audi feature of pumped-up flanks and sharply angled daytime driving LED shape (standard on 35 and 40 TFSI) and you have the most aggressive looking, non-S or RS Audi thus far.
Distinct rear light clusters, cool alloy rims from 15 to 18 inches and the opportunity to paint the roof in a contrasting high-gloss black or grey with any of the 10 available choices of body colours finish off the exciting aesthetics.
The new model has grown in length by 56mm to 4.03m, but remains 1.74m wide. This advantage is felt as early as entering through any of its doors, with no impediment to head movements. Nor is there a need for a tummy tuck-in to settle down comfortably. Luggage capacity has increased by 65l to 335l. Fold down the rear seats and you increase loading space to 1,090l.
No matter which A1 you choose, the driver-centric interior is vibrantly affluent with premium materials and the option of the Audi Virtual Cockpit with its animated graphics. Decorative inlays and accents are black but you can brighten the vibe with silver, yellow or mint options.
All models come standard with a fully digital instrument cluster with a touch input high-resolution 22cm display, MMI radio plus, multifunction steering wheel and voice control. Optional equipment includes Audi smartphone interfacing, two USB ports, Audi phone box with wireless charging or a Bang & Olufsen Premium sound system.
There are Standard, Advanced or S line trim options, the latter aimed at customers with a sporty bent and brings with it larger front air inlets and a larger rear wing. Sign up for the top of the pile 40 TFSI and you get a pair of rear pipes instead of a single one.
The Dynamic Package, available only as an option on 30 and standard with 35 TFSI S line, gives the A1 a tauter sport suspension, red brake calipers, larger brake discs, a sound actuator and Audi drive select. Three more packages: Comfort, Technology and Lights reflect their headline themes through specific items.
There is also a special Launch Edition model known as Edition 1, and it’s based on the S equipment line but exclusively sprayed in Python Yellow. It gets 18-inch Audi Sport alloys, a black contrasting roof and black exterior mirrors.
Three petrol turbo engines with outputs ranging from 85kW to 147kW propel the new car. The entry-point 30 TFSI powered by a 1.0l three-cylinder turbo petrol was excluded from the media launch but the mid-range 35 with its 1.5l four-potter and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is a refined and spirited drive experience.
It cruises well on smooth or weather-beaten roads and also displayed good posture and agility when I got a little playful with it on a few twisty sections of the drive.
The same can be said of the 2.0l 40 TFSI model with a more formidable 147kW and 250Nm output. It’s a superb tourer when you want it and a junior athlete when you need it to be. Unlike the rest of its siblings it uses a six-speed dual-clutch option. There’s no talk of quattro or high-performance models as yet.
Audi A1 30 TFSI S tronic - R359,900
Audi A1 30 TFSI Advanced S tronic - R373,900
Audi A1 30 TFSI S line S tronic - R388,900
Audi A1 35 TFSI S tronic - R429,900
Audi A1 35 TFSI Advanced S tronic - R443,900
Audi A1 35 TFSI S line S tronic - R458,900
Audi A1 40 TFSI S line S tronic - R488,000
Prices include a five-year/100,000km Audi Freeway plan