So much more than a rebadged Polo, this autumn's new junior Audi is mean, keen and clean
SPORTY IT'S ALL about the sportiness with Audi’s new A1 Sportback, due in the UK in November. From the new design to punchy petrol engines in a fettled VW Group chassis, Audi seems determined to deliver a small hatch that’s got a lot more muscle than the outgoing model.
‘We wanted a must-have design, a high degree of customisation, digitalisation and a sporty chassis,’ says product manager Steffen Tarashti. If that means a car with the direct responses of a Mini allied to less cutesy looks, then the A1 could be onto something.
DESIGN BABY AUDI GROWS UP
The A1 abides by the usual new-car blueprint: longer (particularly between the wheels to boost cabin space), but wider and lower to pump-up the proportions. The roly-poly outgoing A1 resembles a Christmas pudding; this one grafts design cues from the iconic Quattro onto a more wedgy silhouette.
The body-coloured rear pillar is pure Quattro, and ‘really looks like it’s pushing the A1 forward,’ says exterior designer Jurgen Loeffler. ‘The different-colour roof cuts this C-post and makes the car look lower and more sporty. Pronounced fenders (squared a la Quattro) bring the car down to sit nicely on the street. And the three slots on top of the single-frame grille are from the 1984 Sport Quattro.
If they weren’t there we would have had to go higher with the single-frame grille, raising the visual centre of gravity.’
INSIDE A DIVERTING DASH
The cockpit is as convincing as the exterior. The geometric dashboard spears off along different planes ‘to reduce and split up the dashboard volume,’ says interior designer Georg Haslinger. ‘And the black touchscreen and vents contrast with the panels above and below.’ The touchscreen isn’t standard, though digital dials controlled by steering wheel buttons are. Voice control, smartphone mirroring and a B&O sound system all add to the high-tech feel.
Owners can customise the cockpit with coloured trim inserts and LED strips around the vents, door handles and centre console. The centre console is subtly angled towards a driver’s seat that drops nice and low.
CHASSIS A MINTED POLO'S
Under the new A1’s skin you’ll find the MQB-Ao platform familiar from the VW Polo and Seat Ibiza. ‘But it’s 50mm lower,’ says engineer Tobias Junglas, ‘and the steering is more direct and with a differently tuned suspension.’ Its design remains front MacPherson struts and a torsion beam rear.
Customers can opt for standard or sport suspension, with optional adaptive dampers. Audi is yet to reveal full specifications, but Junglas says weight has not increased despite the growth spurt and more equipment. Wheel sizes span 15 to 18 inches; white, black and bronze alloy designs are available.
The new A1 will be introduced solely with turbocharged petrol engines: a 1.0-litre triple with 94 or 114bhp, 148bhp 1.5-litre four-pot with cylinder deactivation, or a 197bhP 2.0-litre. But you can’t have a diesel engine, nor a three-door - low sales mean this new A1 is Sportback or bust.
Moving the vents to either side of the instruments means they're no longer fighting for space with the (optional) info screen. Funky paintwork, too