IAIN ROBERTSON 

Since 2010, writes Iain Robertson, Audi has been producing a junior league hatchback that fits the urban environment to perfection but an all-new entry point to the ‘Four-Rings’ Audi brand is now revved-up and ready for launch..

Available exclusively as a five-door Sportback, the latest A1 features new styling that leans on the Ur quattros of the 1980s for inspiration, manages to look like many of its VW Group sister models but complements its stance with infotainment and driver assistance systems that are bang on target and whisk it to the top of the technology table.

Lengthened by 56mm to 4.03m, it retains a width of 1.74m and a low-slung height of 1.41m (excluding its aerial). The wide track and short overhangs are intended to emphasise a level of pinnacle dynamism. A new grille outline allied to the implied side air inlets dominates the A1’s snout, above which are three flat bonnet slits that pay homage to the rallying Sport quattro model of the 1980s.

A roof contrast line, which is available in two dark colours, ends above the C-pillar and gives the impression of a flatter roof. All lines on the flanks, from the window edge to the sill, slope upwards towards the rear in a distinctive wedge profile. Attractively highlighted wheels and a low shoulder line gift the A1 Sportback a hewn-from-the-solid stance. Audi is determined to make a most positive impression and knows that it is a process that commences in its dealer showrooms.

For our market, the new A1 will be offered in SE, Sport and S-line specifications. The latter includes larger air inlets, additional sill trims, an elongated slit centrally below the bonnet with two fins and a larger rear wing. The top version at launch (2.0-litre TFSI producing 197bhp, is available only in S-line form, for the moment) features twin tailpipes that add to the car’s visual fortitude and sportiness. Instantly distinguishable A1 light graphics, both fore and aft, are encased within the striking 3D geometry of the lenses. The new A1 is available in a choice of ten colours, which, as an option, can be combined with the contrasting roof colour extending from the A-pillar to the roof edge spoiler. The exterior mirror housings, the side front spoiler lips and the side sills are also available in a contrasting colour. The showroom clarity is being carried into the car’s on-road dynamics. Audi’s predominant thrust is to make this model so desirable that, when an example is spotted on road, it will direct potential buyers automatically to its dealerships.

Naturally, as customisation has been recognised as important to A1 buyers, the new model expands an already varied offering and, as a means of highlighting the scope for additional individual touches, a pair of Launch Edition models will be available in the UK from the outset. One will have a design focus, while the other adopts a more sporting slant. Each will feature elements such as 18-inch diameter alloy wheels in either bronze, white, or black finish, dependent on body paint colour.

The driver-focused cabin will have the customisable, digital instrument display already fitted to higher-end models and all of the controls and touch-screen displays are strongly driver-orientated. The air vent strip on the front passenger side is integrated into a piano black panel. However, in the dark, the cockpit can be brought to life by an optional contour and ambient lighting package that includes LED light elements in 30 selectable colours. Even the entry level SE version features a fully digital instrument cluster, with a high-resolution, 10.25-inch display and a multifunction steering wheel as standard. The optional Audi ‘virtual cockpit’, with its extended range of functions, presents a range of information, such as animated navigation maps and graphics of certain driver assistance systems, placed in the driver’s direct field of vision.

Where Audi Connect is fitted, MMI navigation-plus offers A1 drivers a series of specific functions such as hybrid route guidance that takes into account the entire traffic situation of the proposed route. Additional highlights are the satellite map view and the new 3D city models and up to four map updates per year are downloaded automatically and installed free of charge using the car’s wi-fi setting.

The Audi smartphone interface, which is standard for all versions, ensures maximum connectivity and integrates iOS and Android smartphones using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into an environment in the MMI programmed specifically for them. There are also two USB sockets. Music fans will enjoy the standard DAB radio and a Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System is available from the options list that drives eleven speakers with an output of 560 watts for what should be class-leading sound reproduction.

The cabin is more spacious than before and rear seat occupants will enjoy good head and leg room. The luggage capacity has also increased by 65-litres to 335-litres and, with the rear seats folded, the space increases to a most accommodating 1,090-litres. The load sill height is a comfortably low 67cm.

Naturally, the A1 incorporates a full suite of electronic safety and driver aids that include a Park Assist program. Mind you, the optimised body construction is designed to withstand bumps and knocks but also provides dramatically improved handling, agility and tremendous cabin refinement. The engine choice runs from 92 to 197bhp, all boosted by turbos and cleaned by particulate filters. Initially, three units will be available: the 30 TFSI, a three-cylinder 1.0 litre with 113bhp, a 147bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine (with the cylinder-on-demand efficiency system) in the 35 TFSI, and the aforementioned 2.0-litre, 197bhp unit with 236lbs ft of torque for effortless and pacey progress. All engines can be linked to either a manual gearbox, or the seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission, with the exception of the 197bhp performance variant that uses a six-speed S-tronic gearbox instead (for its inherent extra strength).

The chassis delivers agile handling and an engaging driving experience. The front suspension is by McPherson-type struts, with a lightweight torsion beam employed at the rear. There is a tauter sport suspension option and an upgrade to adjustable dampers. The Mode Select system allows drivers to choose from four driving modes: auto, dynamic, efficiency and individual, the latter of which is driver customisable.

Audi has earned an indomitable reputation for build integrity and high class. However, the company has become a little lazy on the dynamics front, which has led to major chassis alterations on several of its more recent model lines. The A1 is carrying on that series of improvements and I am 100% certain that they will lead to Audi’s entry-level range becoming the car of choice for many drivers.

Conclusion:    Naturally, you can place your A1 provisional order at any time, although the book has commenced officially, with first deliveries being made in November 2018. There is no word at the time of writing on UK pricing but it is likely to follow the current pattern, plus a few Pounds and the range is likely to start at around £21,500.