A1 passes with flying colours...
The show-stopping Audi A1 is a car to buy while there are still petrol cars around, writes Campbell Spray
It was good to get back to some smaller cars after vehicles like the Peugeot Rifter and various estates and SUVs have bullied the little i10 in our garage.
However, I didn't expect the incredible reaction to the Audi A1 Sportback which I had last weekend. It was a show-stopper. Neighbours, people in the street and randomers outside the coffee shop just wanted to comment on its style and especially the Turbo Blue colour with a Mythos Black roof which really set it apart.
The one-litre 116bhp petrol engine was also very special and had a great range through the six-speed manual box, so much so that you needed the dashboard to remind you to change up or down.
Audi is using the new A1 to really highlight its 'Vorsprung' ambitions. The S line model I was driving had all that you'd expect in terms of standard technology but then they added further options which included; Audi drive select, seat heating front, contrast package 2, Parking system plus, Bang & Olufsen 3D premium sound system, five-spoke design cast aluminium wheels, Audi connect navigation and infotainment, Alcantara and artificial leather seats, adaptive cruise control, MMI navigation plus, contour/ambient lighting package, and S line interior. A tool kit and jack cost €36 and a grey-tinted windshield strip weighed in at €100. However, I was surprised, with all that lot, that there wasn't a rear view camera which is probably one of the cheaper options to install. Yet, what was on board cost an extra €11,130 and took the S-line AI from an entry price of €28,900 to €40,030 plus €800 p&p. The A1 range starts at €24,650 and a big seller is likely to be the SE model at €26,692, which is not a bad way of getting into a fairly tasty model, even though being called Sportback is a bit of a pose.
Eight years on from the first A1, the car has become more stylish, lower and, I believe, slightly narrower. All of which goes against the current fad for the SUVs that are bigger and higher. The driving dynamics has improved but the much cheaper Ford Fiesta would still have the run on it. Of course, it is still basically a much up-styled Volkswagen Polo or Seat Ibiza but with its all-petrol engines, the A1 is a little corker. A pedestrian, who tapped on my window, wondered if the 30 badge meant it was a massively fast three-litre model. I played non-committal; he was a lot bigger than me and I rather wanted to hold on to the car. In fact, it means that the three cylinder 87w engine corresponds to Audi's band 30 (70-90kw).
Inside, the rear for both seats and luggage is a bit bigger than before. However, I still had trouble getting in because of the sleek height. All the three-door A1s have gone and the car is aimed at an electric-eschewing young mind-set… hmm, we'll see. I loved driving it, although I had to contort myself to get in and the door mirrors - which were more style than utility - were very annoying.
I think the A1 is a car to aspire to and even buy while there are still petrol cars around. OK, the inside could be bit more plush and banish any comparisons with the Polo, but on the whole, for the mid to late €20ks, you can get into the Audi experience. And don't ever believe the joke about the only difference between a porcupine and an Audi. However, the massive cost of the extras can make fools of us all.