Audi will take the fight to the hot-selling Mini with the new A1 Sportback, which will be packed with technology, safety kit and the brand’s latest premium features in a bid to make it the most generously equipped supermini on sale.
The second-generation A1 will arrive in November with the aim of drawing new and young customers to the brand. The outgoing A1 is Audi’s third-best-selling model in the UK. It has been a consistent seller for Audi across Europe, too, with annual sales in the region only once dipping below 90,000 units since it was launched in 2010. But with rivals such as the Mini achieving more than double that figure (it sold in 215,549 units last year), Audi has yet to tap into the full sales potential of this segment.
The new A1, the smallest model in Audi’s range, has been given a dose of sporting design, with nods to the brand’s Quattro rallying heritage, including a single-frame front grille and three flat bonnet slits that reference the original 1984 Sport Quattro.
Like its Volkswagen Group MQB A0 platform siblings, the VW Polo and Seat Ibiza, the new A1 comes exclusively in five-door form and has grown in size (it’s now four metres long) to increase cabin space, particularly in the rear, and add 65 litres of luggage capacity.
Power is provided by a choice of turbocharged TFSI petrol engines, with no diesel offered. There will be a 94bhp 1.0-litre three-pot and 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre four-cylinder units offering up to 197bhp.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a seven-speed S tronic automatic 'box optional. The most potent 197bhp model, the 40 TFSI, gets a six-speed S tronic transmission as standard.
Later, the A1 will be offered with a natural gas engine in mainland Europe, but not in the UK. A 250bhp all-wheel-drive S1 is due to arrive in 2019.
The new A1 can be specified with optional adaptive damping and top models are offered with firmer sports suspension.
As standard, the car gets a 10.25in all-digital instrument cluster and a multi-function steering wheel. With the exception of the entry-level model, A1s come with a centre console touchscreen of 8.8in or, in top models, 10.1in. These MMI systems feature touch-operated handwriting recognition technology taken from the range-topping A8. There’s also more advanced voice control technology.
The sat-nav system will feature an internet-connected location search, including Google's search engine or Google Maps. With the MMI Plus package, there will also be live traffic updates.
Along with a DAB radio, there’s online smartphone functionality, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as LTE tech to boost a phone’s signal via the car’s antenna. Entertainment is topped off with a choice of two high-quality audio systems, the bigger of which is a 560W Bang & Olufsen 11-speaker set-up that, Audi claims, is unrivalled in this segment.
Additionally, the A1 comes with a raft of driver assist features, including pre-sense radar-based technology that can recognise cars, cyclists and pedestrians, even in fog, to offer automatic accident mitigation. The same radar technology enables adaptive speed cruise control that works at up to 124mph and can bring the car to a stop. The car is also available with a reversing camera, parking sensors and an automatic parking system.
The new A1’s starting price could jump to around £16,500, bringing it close to the Mini, which starts from £16,605 in five-door form. Expect to pay more for a special launch edition, which will come with bespoke bronze 18in wheels and tinted lights.