Wednesday 12th December 2018
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First drive: 2019 Audi A1. Image by Audi.

First drive: 2019 Audi A1
Turns out that the star of the all-new Audi A1 is the modest entry-level 1.0-litre version. With options, natch.

 



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2019 Audi A1

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Aggressive new looks set the 2019 Audi A1 apart from its predecessor and its arch rival, the curvy MINI. That eye-catching appearance hides a more spacious car that comes with a huge standard specification and loads of technology. The all-petrol range will even include a 200hp model that isn't billed as a hot hatch, though we reckon the best of the bunch is fitted with a three-cylinder engine.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI S line
Pricing: 21,660 as tested; starts at 18,540 on-the-road
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 111g/km (VED Band 111-130: 165 in year one)
Combined economy: 57.6mpg
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Power: 116hp at 5,000-5,500rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 2,000-3,500rpm
Boot space: 335-1,090 litres

What's this?

A brand-new Audi A1 Sportback. That final word is noteworthy, as the 2019 A1 will not ever be offered in three-door format. Neither will it be available with a TDI diesel engine. Instead, there'll be a range of turbocharged petrol options. The entry-level unit is the familiar 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine, sold in 95- and 116hp states of tune. They're badged '25 TFSI' and '30 TFSI' under Audi's new nomenclature. Next up is the 35 TFSI, powered by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine with cylinder-on-demand technology and a 150hp output. Topping the range is the 40 TFSI, using a 2.0-litre engine producing 200hp.

The latter is the only engine that gets a dual-clutch S tronic automatic as the only gearbox, which is optional for all the others (a six-speed manual is standard). All cars are front-wheel drive and we're told there will be no quattro-equipped S1 this time around.

Pricing is as yet incomplete, as some versions come on stream later in 2019, so the starting price of 18,540 on-the-road quoted here is actually for the A1 30 TFSI, not the 25. The entry-level trim line is called SE and it's well-equipped, including all-LED lights, 15-inch alloys, electric windows front and rear, loads of safety equipment, air conditioning, an 8.8-inch colour touchscreen for the infotainment and an impressive looking 10.25-inch digital screen in place of traditional instruments.

Step up to Sport and the A1 gains 16-inch rims, Audi Drive Select driving modes (excluding the 25 TFSI), cruise control, rear parking sensors and plenty of aesthetic enhancements inside and out. The S line cars look more sporting again and come with 17-inch wheels and a more prominent styling kit for the exterior, with sports seats and other enhancements inside. Sport suspension is also standard, though buyers can deselect that at order time. Additionally, if you've gone for the 35 TFSI engine, you can upgrade to S line Style or Contrast editions, which go to town on the appearance, with bold paint colours and 18-inch alloys included. The Style has a bronze-accented theme to it, while the Python yellow paint of the Contrast Edition is, well, contrasted, with lots of dark or black detailing.

Finally, the 200hp '40 TFSI' engine will be exclusively available in S line Competition specification. It comes with adjustable damping, red brake calipers, grey door mirrors and its own steering wheel design.

How does it drive?

Despite its sporting appearance, the new Audi A1 still doesn't hold a candle to the MINI in terms of driving dynamics. Once you can live with that from the outset, then you should get on handsomely with the new A1, as it's competent and safe and it does most things well. The manual gearbox, for instance, is slick and pleasant to use. The pedals are well-weighted, so they're light enough for lots of town work, but not completely bereft of feedback. The steering is adequately direct and the weighting is fine, though the system is not exactly brimming with information. Grip levels are high, though the A1 is not the type of car you go searching for the limits in, as it's quite benign.

That is, of course, a good thing when it comes to just covering ground in safety, and if you stay away from the larger and more eye-catching wheels in the range, the A1 rides bumps and undulations well. Wind noise is kept at bay, as is tyre roar (again, if you resist the temptation of big rims) and the little Audi is equally at home on the motorway and in traffic-choked city streets. The 2.0-litre engine is remarkably loud when worked and though it is undoubtedly fast, it feels out of place in the chassis of the A1, even with its adjustable damping. The 1.5 is a better fit, but even it pales when driven back-to-back with the diminutive 1.0-litre option.

In 116hp guise, we reckon this is the ideal engine for the new A1. It's quiet, smooth and has plenty of go. No doubt it might feel a little overwhelmed by a full complement of passengers and luggage over mountainous terrain, but otherwise, it's a perfect fit for a car that's likely to spend a large proportion of its life in an urban situation.

Verdict

While the 2019 Audi A1 makes a more compelling case for itself than ever before, with useful gains in practicality, the promise of high residuals and low running costs, we reckon there's still a gap between it and the MINI in terms of the driving experience. That's less obvious when it's the lovely 1.0-litre engine under the bonnet and anyway, we really like how the new A1 looks, inside and out, which is all that will matter to a large percentage of buyers on the hunt for the best premium supermini their money will buy.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 20 Nov 2018









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