The advantages of four-wheel drive can’t be understated – especially in wintery conditions
Even the prototype A1 feels good inside. For our drive, ESP was disconnected
unning the same 1.4-litre engine as the Polo GTI, it packs a solid 185bhp and 184lb ft
The four-wheel drive system brings improved off-the-line performance and greater security
Upcoming 1.4T quattro is a model set to be positioned one rung below the S1
Revised instrument cluster for the A1's performance boost
1.4-litre turbocharged engine launces the A1 to 60mph in 6.9 seconds
What is it?
The decision to base the Audi A1 on the same PQ25 platform as the Volkswagen Polo’s is logical enough. Except that the PQ25 was engineered for front-wheel drive only. So Audi faced a dilemma for its more powerful A1s, including its high-performance S1.
Audi originally eyed doing the S1 with front-wheel drive. But after some thought about the ramifications to the image of its traditionally four-wheel-drive S-car line-up, that idea has been ditched in favour of a costly engineering programme to provide the PQ25 with four-wheel drive capability – the first fruits of which are driven here in the form of an early prototype fitted with the same driveline as the A1 1.4T range-topper.
What’s it like?
The mods to the A1’s existing structure are fairly straightforward. They include a propshaft running aft from the gearbox – a standard six-speed manual in our car – together with the adoption of an electronically controlled, hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch. Along with an added pair of rear driveshafts, it all adds 90kg to the car’s weight.
The new clutch – basically the same unit used on four-wheel-drive A3s – continuously apportions drive between the front and rear wheels depending on prevailing traction, and it can send 100 per cent to either axle.
The advantages of four-wheel drive can’t be understated – especially in wintery conditions like those of our first drive of the upcoming 1.4T quattro, a model set to be positioned one rung below the S1. Running the same 1.4-litre engine as the Polo GTI, it packs a solid 185bhp and 184lb ft.
The four-wheel drive system brings improved off-the-line performance and greater security without altering the A1’s intrinsic driving character. But with our experience restricted to a short drive on an icy track, we’ve yet to fully know what effect it will have on day-to-day driving and the A1’s impressive agility.
Should I buy one?
While giving the A1 an extra dimension, the addition of four-wheel drive to the PQ25 structure looks like having an effect outside the Audi line-up. It is yet to be made official, but VW is rumoured to be looking to be looking at a four-wheel-drive CrossPolo and Polo R – models made possible by Audi’s insistence to go beyond front-wheel drive for the A1.
Audi A1 1.4T quattro
Price: £21,800 (est); Top speed: 140mph (est); 0-62mph: 6.9sec (est); Economy: 45mpg (est); CO2: 140g/km (est); Kerb weight: 1215kg (est); Engine type: 4 cyls, 1390cc, twin-charged, petrol; Power: 185bhp at 6200rpm; Torque: 184lb ft at 2000-4500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual