The A1 is a stylish, high quality and competent supermini, if a little expensive, it has the cabin quality and powertrain refinement that we’ve come to expect from an Audi.
What is it?
There’s been a long run up to the Audi A1 Quattro. First we thought that the car now unromantically known as the Audi A1 1.4 TFSI (with 182bhp) was going to be badged as an S1. There was much talk of 4wd powertrains and other rumours.
Then, almost out of the blue, and just a few days before Christmas, Audi revealed the A1 Quattro and that it would build only 333 of them and all in left-hand drive. Numbers for the UK would be tiny; quoted as 20 but now down to 19, all sold.
The nineteen have bought an A1 that contains 600 new parts, starting with the 252bhp 2.0 TFSI engine at the front. The A1’s platform was obviously designed with all-paw drive in mind because there’s enough space in the tunnel along which the exhaust runs for a carbon fibre prop shaft to also live. The standard fuel tank gets in the way so Audi has replaced it with an upside down saddle tank, which because of the A1 Quattro’s tiny production run, is produced in stainless steel rather than plastic. Further back is a cut and shut version of the TTS’s multilink rear suspension.
Minor surgery has taken place in the shell to provide pick-up points for the suspension including new wheel wells. All-wheel drive is provided by the usual Haldex-supplied system of an electronically controlled, hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch that sends all the torque to the front wheels in normal conditions – until things get un-normal and torque is fed to the rear wheels. You might expect to see a DSG in a car like this, but no, it’s conventional stick with six speeds.
All A1 Quattros come in glacier white with gloss black roofs. There’s a small roof spoiler over the tailgate but otherwise the car is understated. Just a little A1 badge on the boot backed up by the trademark Quattro badge.
The baby Quattro’s cabin is traditional VW Group charcoal with a whiff of colour from red stitching on the deeply bolstered leather seats. There are aluminium cappings on the pedals and a chunky alloy gearshift knob pinched, by the looks of it, from the R8.
What's it like?
Proper assessment of ride quality, the nuances of chassis behaviour, grip levels in corners, and traction out of corners is impossible on thefrozen lake track we tested the car on. All that will have to wait until we get one onto a piece of Tarmac. Chuckability, however, we can judge. With 252bhp and 258lb ft of torque the A1 Quattro is going not hang around on the road. Audi says 0-62mph in 5.7sec. In the days before sophisticated traction control a four-wheel drive hatch with over 250bhp would murder a front-drive rival but not today.
I doubt any of the nineteen who have bought this car will ever have this much fun with it. You don’t even need to use the handbrake, just barrel into a corner, lift and then back on the gas in a lovely drift.
Should I buy one?
Driving the car on snow and ice is great fun but we’ll be serious for a moment. And the price of this rare little rocket is a good point at which to stop grinning and larking about. It’s £41,020. Yes, more money by over a grand than the 335bhp RS3 Sportback. Cayman cash, even. We can assume that A1 Quattro buyers are pretty serious Audistes, probably having owned a string of S and RS models.
But the A1 Quattro wears neither of these badges and I hardly think that Audi would have gone to the trouble of creating the 4wd underpinnings if it didn’t take advantage of it in larger numbers. Audi almost admits that an S1 is on its way. For sure the A1 Quattro will be a rare beast, but it is just not special enough and I don’t think that view will change even after driving it on the road.
Audi A1 Quattro
Price: £41,020; Top speed: 152mph; 0-62mph: 5.7sec; Economy: 33.2mpg; Co2: 199g/km; Kerb weight: 1390kg; Engine: In-line four, 1984cc; Installation: Front, transverse, 4wd; Power: 252bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual