Audi calls it “the next big Audi”. It is an utterly impressive 2-door hatch created using the same platform that gives rise to the more mundane, and half-as-pricey, Ibiza and Polo. Whether it will shape a cult like the TT could be a matter of debate. But then, Audi itself is a cult of refined and understated taste.
The Audi A1 drives smooth and solid. Though the initial upturn velocity isn’t as seamlessly gained like an A4 or the other siblings, the A1 squeezes out the essence of an Audi Drive to fill a small cup of absolute pleasure. The passing acceleration will not disappoint you if you have a point to prove, while the dynamic suspension and the cross-axle lock that counter steers in corners add up to the precise handling.
Even though the Superminis are mostly favoured by women with their heads up, the solid drive of an A1 with its remarkable steering agility can make it appealing to men of the sensitive kind as well. Even the gearshift looks and feels like a manual one with a classic rounded leather grip at the top. The tubeless 15” radial tires also offer a solid, firm drive with a distinctive sporty character.
Fuel efficiency: Despite the fuel efficiency claims pitched at 5.3 L/100 km, my Drive was able to achieve only around 8.3 L/100 km. Satisfying scores, coz you wouldn’t have known it’s a 1.4 L, if I hadn’t told you! [CO2 emission (g/km): 119]
The front façade and the headlamps with their LED signature are unmistakably Audi but the rear lights belong to the Volkswagen family rather than the Audi kin.
The rear looks simple and is saved of many frills, other than the rear roof-edge spoiler with LED brake lights, the sharp cut of the rear lamp cluster and two purposeful chrome-covered snouts. If you have the Audi S-line package, that will further bolster the looks from bonnet to boot.
Contrasting colours are available for the roof arch but I felt the body coloured arches of my Scuba Blue A1 suited the car better, for the absence of contrast brought less of the Mini to mind!
Cabin and controls
Inside an A1, detailing is painstakingly attended to – as expected of a car that you are expected to talk to, laugh with and cry on.
The dials look bold and sporty reminiscent of a chronograph dial. Driver’s info pops up conveniently on the screen in front without having to resort to the centre console monitor. I found the deep red and black that marks the lit up dials sporty and intriguing, especially when only the red needles show up in the dark. The stowaway MMI screen is an interesting twist on the road, allowing simple yet elaborate navigation through the controls.
The seats look elegant in a blend of black sprint cloth and leather. The multi-function sports black leather steering wheel has the cruise control buttons, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio spin wheel.
The individual is at the centre of the A1 design. Right from the console controls facing the driver with an almost imperceptible tilt, to the stingy legroom or the total absence of any sort of storage or lighting at the rear, everything underlines this inclination. But I should be fair in adding that the A1 doesn’t keep the family out, and comes with even a baby seat provision.
However, the ride at the back of an A1 isn’t half as comfortable as in the front. Invite two adults to occupy the back, only at the expense of the front riders’ comfort. But children would find the windows of convenient height to enjoy the view outside. In fact, it was my toddler’s first ever drive during which he stayed put in his baby seat without any fuss! The ISOFIX clips are pretty easy to slip in the car seat.
There isn’t much storage room in the cabin, with the door storage too shallow for anything much. But the boot is larger than you would expect in a Supermini and can fit in a couple of airport bags or a stroller!
Audi 1 Vs Mini Cooper
If you overlook the fact that they vie for the same pie, flaunts similar muscle, and sometimes speak for the category’s design in unison, all rational comparisons of the A1 to the Mini is a figment of marketing fancy or that of a very confused Audi or Mini fan. While Mini, even in its most modern avatar, maintains the makings of a classic as defined by Mini itself, the Audi A1 is a much more contemporary subcompact.
It clearly beats the Mini in areas like cabin space and boot space, making it more practical to own even for the family type. The uncanny resemblance seems to be their exactly same output of 122 bhp, even though the Mini Cooper tends to pick up more easily than the Audi 1 thanks to its 1.6 L engine, while the A1 turns into a powerhouse once it eases into the drive.
Price: Ambition AED 112,000 / Ambition S line AED 131,000
PLUS: 3 year/ 75000 km maintenance service package • 3 year warranty • 24 hour roadside assistance
Drive & Picture Courtesy: Audi Middle East