Trendy socialite which stands out in the city crowd
Remember when mobile phones were just that — phones.
From the early days when a BlackBerry was the primary trusted business source, things have progressed rapidly.
The modern smartphone is seldom used for talking. Most users are instead obsessed with tweeting, Snapchatting, Facebooking or TikToking, hashtagging here and there.
Compact cars have gone through a similar evolution … but while smartphones have found more pockets, sales of pint-sizers have contracted. Even before the current COVID-19 crisis, these micro machine were on the downward trend as buyers maintain the SUV rage.
Audi’s little A1 Sportback has been a trailblazer in the prestige realm. Primarily battling against BMW-owned cult hero, Mini, none of the luxury carmakers battle in the city car class.
The second generation A1 arrived this year bolstered with a whole heap of technological kit.
Proving good things come in small packages, the little Audi starts from about $37,000 drive-away. Big money for a petite hatch, but for many those four rings on the front are priceless.
Testing the middle-ground 35 TFSI variant, this A1 costs an extra $3k with additional under-bonnet firepower over the base model.
Most A1 buyers are new to brand, so they’ll be impressed with the standard kit which includes 17-inch alloys, 8.8-inch touchscreen featuring smartphone mirroring apps for Apple and Android devices as well as digital radio partnered to an eight-speaker sound system, wireless phone charger, while all the driver’s information is displayed in 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster.
There are some noticeable absentees, like leather trim and dual zone aircon. You can visit the optional extras aisle, where leather adds $1850 and also comes with sports front seats.
Our car also had a style pack which added LED lights, folding side mirrors and 18-inch alloys for $2990.
White and green are the only complimentary colours of 11 on offer. Metallic black, yellow, white, blue, three shades of grey and red are all at least $990 extra. One of the cool choices is the roof in contrasting black.
An all-inclusive Audi servicing pack costs $1480 for three years or $1990 for five years.
Warranty coverage remains at three years and unlimited kilometres, whereas the likes of Mercedes-Benz and parent company Volkswagen is five. A current sales offers inclusive of free servicing and a five-year warranty doesn’t include the A1.
During last year’s crash testing the luxury hatch was lauded for being the first light car to achieve a five-star rating against ANCAP’s most stringent test criteria.
With emergency braking that not only monitors for cars but also pedestrians and cyclists, as well as lane keeping assist that can steer between white lines, along with front and rear parking sensors, the A1 comes with some good credentials.
Although for this money you would rightfully expect more given what’s on some mainstream vehicles. Missing from the list is radar cruise control to maintain a set distance from other vehicles in traffic, blind spot monitoring and automatic parking.
Boasting a wheelbase stretched by 94 millimetres compared to its predecessor, the A1 is also 56 millimetres longer.
These improvements translate to improved cabin space, as well as a much larger boot.
Rear seat accommodation remains tight for adults, although that’s par for the city class course. Two growing boys didn’t have any issues in the back as long as those riding upfront were thoughtful.
Apart from finding your way through the touchscreen menus, all the operations are basic in a cabin featuring a combination of hard plastics and soft-touch materials. Manual aircon means simple dials and controls for the temperature and fan.
The driver can easily configure preferred information, including techno, speedo and satnav via the steering wheel buttons.
Tech savvy owners will appreciate the two USB outlets (including type A and C), as well as the ability to change the interior lighting between 30 options.
Using the same foundations as the VW Polo, Audi gives the A1 more flair and firepower. Our 35TFSI is powered by a four-cylinder engine punching out 110kW/250Nm, while the base model A1 gets a three-potter shared with the Polo delivering 25kW/50Nm less.
Exercise your right ankle and the A1 is sprightly and responsive.
While the power won’t throw occupants into the seat backs, the weight of just above 1160kg helps achieve a 0-100kmh sprint of 7.7 seconds. Not bad for scooting around town.
Feeling robust and solid on the highway, the A1 displays confidence in varying terrain. Accurate steering makes easy work of changing direction quickly and it excelled during some testing country drives through hilly terrain.
Fuel consumption over a week of driving around town and on the highway saw an average consumption of 7.1 litres for every 100km supping premium 95 octane unleaded. On the open road usage dipped to just above five litres.
The upgraded tech features and more powerful four-cylinder engine makes it a better buy than a plain Jane VW Polo.
While there are champagne tastes, for now this is as far as the beer income will stretch. I love an Audi.
MINI COOPER 5 DOOR $36,160 D/A
Maintaining the essence of Mini, the five-door has practicality smarts over the three-door version. Also requires extra investment to upgrade to the features one would expect for this money (but Minis do have good resale), powered by a turbo three-cylinder 1.5-litre good for 100kW/220Nm.
MAZDA2 G15 GT $27,485 D/A
Attractive offering inside and out, under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder delivering a less convincing 82kW/144Nm. Has a five-year warranty, and a strong features list.
Admit it, most of us are swayed by a badge. The A1 35TFSI is fun to drive with impressive composure. There are cheaper city cars around, but few can match the A1 for panache.
AT A GLANCE
Audi A1 Sportback 35 TFSI
PRICE $40,117 drive-away (prestige city car)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3yr w’ty (short); services $1990 5 years (OK)
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW/250Nm
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB with cyclist and pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, parking sensors (needs more)
THIRST 5.8L/100km (about right, 7.1L on test)
SPARE None, repair kit (not great but standard)
BOOT 335L, 1090 seats folded (fine)