For something that takes stylistic cues from Lamborghini’s Huracán Performante (bronze alloy wheels) and the great Audi Sport Quattro of 1985 (vents at the base of the bonnet), our A1 35 TFSI’s performance proved unremarkable and, at times, exasperating, which is a shame given that this engine might have proved a sweet match for a supermini.
In dry conditions, the test car struggled to spring off the mark as nimbly or cleanly as we would expect. Admittedly, Audi’s 1.5-litre four pulls in impressively discreet fashion once the small turbocharger has fully woken up at 1500rpm and, beyond an unusually high biting point for the overly light clutch, there’s little cause for complaint for those who live their lives at a slower pace.
For the rest of us, and for the person paying for a premium hatchback with at least a little sporting ambition, there’s a frustrating lack of urgency because the economy-minded gearing for the six-speed manual transmission is so long. Power is delivered in linear but languid fashion, and so to go anywhere quickly you need to work the engine hard, shifting gears often and using generous and sustained throttle inputs. Sadly, this engine simply doesn’t have the character to reward the effort required and so, for the most part, the A1 35 TFSI feels somewhat limp.
The flip side is that only one swish of the gearlever is required to get you from stationary to 60mph, which is rare for superminis. Our recorded time of 7.9sec nevertheless feels modest for a car that touts 148bhp but weighs only a claimed 1150kg. The less expensive Ford Fiesta ST tested last year reached 60mph more than a second sooner and, in terms of real-world performance, the Audi falls even further short of the mark. For the fourth-gear haul between 30mph and 70mph, it managed a time of 11.5sec – two seconds slower than even the 114bhp VW Up GTI.
Those drawn to this medium-rare A1 by the promises made by its pugnacious looks should therefore check their expectations. The range-topping 40 TFSI – available only in S Line Competition trim and with a six-speed automatic gearbox – looks much more sprightly on paper. With the same 197bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine found in the VW Polo GTI, 0-62mph is dispatched in a claimed 6.5sec, and that’s a figure much more respectable among the current crop of quick hatchbacks.
Where the A1 35 TFSI excels is its touring fuel economy, which at 57mpg means even the modest 40-litre tank stores enough fuel for 500 miles of range.