Just spent the weekend racking up 300 miles in my favourite car of the year so far. It’s not an AMG, M car or volume 286.3 of the Porsche 997, instead it’s a very small Audi with a rather powerful engine.
The Audi A1 TFSI comes with a 182bhp version of the 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged engine found in the VW Polo GTI, Skoda Fabia vRS and Seat Ibiza Cupra.
While I’m generally a fan of those three VW Group cars, all of them are really pretending to be something they’re not. They may be quick and look sporty, but they’re certainly no Renaultsport Clio Cups on the twisties.
Audi has taken a different approach with its most potent version of the A1 we’ve seen so far. Legend has it that on the eve of last year’s Paris motor show, the car went to VW Group chief Martin Winterkorn for its final sign off.
At that stage, it still had an S1 badge on it. And Winterkorn wasn’t prepared to let a car without four-wheel drive get an S badge. So it appeared at Paris under the 1.4 TFSI badge, and so it has stuck for production.
So when you get into the A1 TFSI, you’re not expecting a balls out hot hatch. What you get is a quick, stylish hatch with more than enough power to raise a smile, high levels of refinement and lots of grip, but not that final level of involvement you’ll get from the Clio. Which is fine, as you’re not expecting it to be - it’s not wearing an S badge.
I can justify the car, just not its price. You won’t get much change from £21,000. The ‘real’ all-wheel drive S1 due next year is going to have to be rather special to justify the price hike, although I plan on being first in line to find out.