High expectations as Audi’s Mini rival hits road

Affordable quality is the idea of Audi’s latest new model, and Motoring Journalist DAVID HOOPER, says this stylish little newcomer is definitely worth a look.

The Audi A1 is a stylish little car that offers a personable alternative to the Mini.

GERMAN carmaker Audi’s model range has grown more rapidly than most in recent years as the brand has raised its game and firmly established itself as a premium manufacturer.
It’s dealers and customers have become accustomed to new model launch after new model launch, but I can’t think of another new vehicle in the current range which has created the buzz in the dealerships and the level of expectation that has greeted the company’s latest new model, the A1.
Since the demise of the cleverly-designed A2 a few years ago, the smallest car in the range has been the A3, which has left a bit of a hole at the bottom end of the market, and Audi is one company that doesn’t like holes!
So here’s the A1, a three-door hatchback, built to the standards you would expect of a premium brand, with prices starting from £13,420 – but before you take a sharp intake of breath, I should point out, as the company was keen to do, that this prices includes the new 20 per cent VAT rate which comes into force from January 1.

There are plenty of options to make the car’s interior just the way you like it.

The car looks very smart – I particularly liked the contrasting roof colour line which runs around the edge of the roof highlighting its coupe styling, which for £350, can be ordered to compliment or contrast with the rest of the car’s paintwork.
The interior, too, can be customised to the owner’s specification, with different coloured materials in the seats, and of course an options list as long as your arm – or as deep as your pocket.
Audi says the A1 brings true premium quality to a compact sized car for the first time and this car is important to the brand because it will attract customers who have previously been unable to afford a car bearing the four rings. It will also to appeal to those wanting a second, or even third car in the family, but who don’t wish to compromise on quality. It will also attract those with a green conscience, downsizing from a larger car.
A high specification comes as standard in the A1 across three model lines, SE, Sport and S line trim levels, and this is the only model in the range, other than the A8 to feature the Multi Media Interface 3G+ along with the latest infotainment platform.
There are three engines initially, the 1.2 TFSI with 86PS and a five-speed gearbox, the 1.4 TFSI 122PS, with a six-speed box or a 7-speed S tronic as a £1,450 option, or a 1.6-litre TDI 105PS, with a 5-speed box.
More versions of the car will follow shortly, but an interesting point worthy of note is that all the launch models, thanks to slippery aerodynamics and efficient engines, escape VED in the first year.
The low running costs theme is continued with a 5 year/50,000 mile service plan for £250 for retail customers.
Like the BMW Mini, Citroen’s DS3 and Fiat’s lovely 500, the A1 options list provides almost endless ways of personalising your car, but some of the highlights for me would be the keyless go with a start/stop button so you never need to take your car key out of your pocket or handbag, and a Bose surround sound hi-fi system.
Importantly for Audi customers, industry experts CAP Monitor predict the A1 will lose less of its value over three years or 60,000 miles than any of its competitors, retaining 55%, while the next best car, the Citroen DS3 will retain 49%, better than the Mini One at 48%, followed by the BMW 116d SE at 44%.
During the UK launch exercise around Windsor, I drove the 1.4 petrol and the 1.6 diesel versions of the car. As you would expect, the diesel was slightly noisier, but pulled strongly once on the move, while the petrol version felt lively and responsive. Both cars were comfortable to drive, and I have no complaints about their ride quality or handling abilities.
Inside, the cars feel roomy, even in the back, and the dashboards, although fairly black at the lower end of the range, do benefit from some of the more colourful items on the options list, like the coloured air vents to brighten things up a bit.
The Audi A1 then scores on just about every level. It looks smart, will hold its price well and is good to drive. If you want a classy small car, then I would suggest this one is worth investing some time to have a proper look at.

The attractively-styled A1 is certain to be a hit with buyers.

Rating: ★★★★★☆

THE VITAL STATISTICS
RANGE:
From 1.2 TFSI SE (£13,420) to 1.65 TDI S line (£17,865).

ENGINE: 1.6, 105PS four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.

CO2 EMISSIONS: 105g/km.

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 118mph. 0-62mph in 10.5secs. Combined: 70.6mpg.

WEBSITE: www.audi.co.uk

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