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Audi A1 First Drive

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Audi has refreshed its premium compact offering for 2015, the Audi A1. Since it was first launched in 2010 Audi has sold in excess of 500,000 A1’s worldwide. Unsurprisingly Europe is their largest market, with the vast majority of cars sold in the United Kingdom. The A1 may be the entry-level model for the German brand, nevertheless its significance to the whole range can’t be under estimated. Four out of every five customers who purchase an A1 are new to the Audi brand. These conquest sales are therefore likely to help retain new customers to the brand. 

You have to look closely to spot the differences on this lightly facelifted Audi. Principally, the new A1 has redesigned bumpers and lights, the familiar single frame grille is broader and flatter. What is new though and worth taking a closer look at is the introduction of Audi’s first three-cylinder petrol engine. This 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged unit replaces the 1.2-litre TFSI from its predecessor. The 1.0-litre petrol engine model wears the Audi Ultra badge, signifying its efficiency. There’s a second Ultra model in the new A1 range too, with a 1.4-litre TDI model available. Audi is also offering the A1 with a 150hp 1.4-litre TFSI engine with cylinder on demand technology and a powerful 1.8-litre TFSI petrol variant that produces 192hp and 250Nm of torque. The two three-cylinder engines are mated to a five-speed manual transmission, the other models come equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, with Audi’s superb seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic automatic transmission available optionally.

 

We test drove both three-cylinder engines at launch. The three-cylinder petrol engine is far more refined than other three-cylinder units. Sitting in traffic you wouldn’t know there’s a cylinder missing under the bonnet, unless you rev the engine. Power is an adequate 95hp coupled with 160Nm of torque, this provides satisfactory performance in and around the city. Audi claims it can return a combined fuel consumption of 4.3L/100km coupled with CO2 emissions of 99g/km this variant has an annual road tax fee of €180. The five-speed manual transmission has a light fluid gear change. One of the A1’s strong points is the premium feel to its interior, it may be the entry-model on Audi’s extensive line-up, nonetheless it’s finished to the same high quality standards that its larger and more expensive siblings encompass. The A1 has a new electro mechanical power steering system, in town and on the open road it works fine, with a weighted feel at speed. The chassis is competent and surefooted, although it doesn’t instil the grin-inducing factor that the Mini Hatch does so well.  

The gap between the three-cylinder petrol variant and the three-cylinder diesel model is far closer then you may imagine. The 1.4-litre TDI Ultra engine produces 90hp, five less then its petrol rival, although it boasts an additional 70Nm of torque, with 230Nm being sent to the front wheels. Naturally it’s more efficient, with a claimed combined fuel consumption of 3.4L/100km, with 89g/km of CO2 it’s seated in the same tax bracket as the aforementioned petrol alternative. The additional torque is the only real noticeable difference when driving this A1, apart from the increased noise bellowing from the TDI unit.

After driving both variants, our preferred choice is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol model. It’s more involving to drive, with a responsive zippy-like drive around town, which is where the vast majority of premium compact cars like the MINI Hatch and Volkswagen Polo spend their time.

Like its competitors customers can customise their A1 from a choice of trim levels and additional options. There are 12 exterior colours on offer and over one million colour and trim combinations available, so having a unique A1 is easily achievable. Audi’s excellent Audi Connect infotainment system is obtainable for the A1, through this you can setup a wifi hotspot in the car and access a multitude of apps including Google maps for the navigation. When this new A1 arrives in Ireland next March, customers can choose from three trim levels, the entry-level, SE and S Line. The base model will come with 15” alloy wheels, a concert radio, a multi-function steering wheel and driver information system as standard. Prices are yet to be confirmed, however we would envisage them commencing in the region of €21,000 OTR. There will be a €600 premium to the Sportback five-door variant.

This revised A1 complete with two new frugal power plants will continue to attract conquest sales for Audi. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine coupled with the Sportback body is our pick of the range.   

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