Audi’s new A1 supermini is poised to become the biggest-selling model in the firm’s history following its UK launch this October. Priced from around £14,000, the A1 will provide Ingolstadt with a direct rival to the popular Mini Cooper.
The A1 was first seen as the metroproject quattro concept at the Tokyo motor show in October 2007; the production car features many of the same styling cues. From launch, two petrol and two diesel engines will be available, all of them featuring direct injection technology and turbocharging.
Audi claims the A1 is the sportiest and most luxurious car in its class, and has provided the car with a glut of standard kit plus Mini-style customisable options. Following the three-door hatch will be five-door Sportback and cabriolet models, as well as a Cooper S-rivalling S1.
Audi is pitching the A1 as the “sportiest car in its class” featuring “unique and modern” design. The front end is little changed from the original concept. Most striking are the LED daytime running lights, which feature the ‘wing’ design from the larger A8 and R8 Audis. The concept’s large, trapezoid single-frame front grille is retained. S-line models get more pronounced front foglights.
Audi claims the car will be the most aerodynamic in its class, with a drag coefficient of 0.32. The A1 has short overhangs, a high beltline and a roof spoiler that all contribute to its sporty stance. Its wheel arches can house up to 18-inch alloys.
The sloping C-pillars give the A1 a coupé-like profile. These elements and the roof arch can be specified in a contrasting colour to the rest of the bodywork. Wedge-shaped, single-piece lights feature on the rear hatch, using LEDs as standard. Twin exhaust tips are available with selected engines, and all models get an integrated black rear diffuser. Audi will offer the car with a choice of 10 exterior colours.
Audi is keen to point out just how ‘upmarket’ the A1’s interior is for a supermini, and the cabin is where you’ll find most of the new car’s Mini-style customisable options. The interior styling has been inspired by the wings of an aeroplane and its four air vents are said to resemble the turbines of a jet.
Three trim levels are set to be offered to British buyers at launch: standard, Sport and S-line. Sports seats are standard on Sport models and above, and leather seats are available as an option.
Other options include an LED interior light package, heated seats and leather trim for the steering wheel and centre console. Optional trim colours include a striking wasabi green, but white, red, beige and violet can also be specified.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system — found in models higher up the range — is another option in the A1. This top-of-the-range system is controlled using a centre console-mounted joystick, and includes features such as a 3D navigation system, 20Gb of storage for music files and iPod and Bluetooth connectivity. This information is displayed on a 6.5-inch TFT screen, which rises out of the top of the dash.
Boot space is 267 litres with the rear seats up and 920 litres with the split rear bench folded down. This compares with the Mini’s figures of 160 litres and 680 litres.
Engineering and tech
The front-wheel-drive A1 will share its steel-based platform with the Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia. But the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension systems have been tuned to provide the A1 with what Audi claims are more distinct and engaging dynamics than its siblings. Sport and S-line models come with a tuned sports set-up. The steering is electro-hydraulic.
The A1 is 3950mm long, 1740mm wide and 1420mm high. These external dimensions mean it is longer, wider and taller than the Mini. But its 2470mm wheelbase is only 3mm longer than its chief rival’s so, as in a Mini, rear leg room is likely to be tight. Audi says that at 1045kg, the A1 is the lightest car in its class. The Mini weighs in at 1135kg.
All A1s get an ESP system with a built-in electronic differential lock. This aims to reduce understeer and improve traction by braking an inside front wheel when it detects a large load while cornering. Excess torque is then channelled to the outside wheel to apply more power to the road.
The A1’s flagship engine is the 120bhp 1.4 TFSI petrol unit. It takes the car from 0-62mph in 9.2sec and on to a top speed of 124mph. This engine is available with the dual-clutch seven-speed S-tronic gearbox, which comes with optional paddle shifters and shaves 0.1sec off the 0-62mph time. But its main benefit is to fuel economy, which improves by 3.1mpg over the six-speed manual car’s, to 55.4mpg.
The entry-level petrol engine is the 85bhp 1.2 TFSI unit. With this engine the A1 returns 55.4mpg and emits 119g/km of CO2.
Audi’s 1.6 TDI engine is available in two states of tune in the A1. The more powerful version produces 104bhp and offers fuel economy of 72.4mpg. The lower-powered 89bhp diesel’s economy is even better, at 74.3mpg, and its CO2 emissions of 99g/km ensure it qualifies for free road tax.
All A1s get stop-start and an energy recuperation system that stores energy lost under braking in the battery.
The A1’s expected £14,000 starting price is only slightly higher than that of the base Mini Cooper (£13,715), and the rest of the range will be priced to compete model for model with the Mini.
Production of the A1 will get under way in Brussels shortly.