By: Charles Molefe
I recently had the opportunity to familiarise myself with the Audi A1, first impressions conjure up a number of mixed feelings, firstly, its sheer size, the dimensions from the previous model are somewhat non-existent and secondly the chiselled macho look has certainly made it appealing to a whole lot more potential buyers than what the first iteration did. My experience of the Audi A1 is one of the most memorable ones I have had in a long while, and I am certain that the next couple of paragraphs will explain why.
The model I had on test was glazed in an astonishing blue, Turbo Blue, to be precise, frankly, it reminded me of the traditional WRC blue used on the likes of the Subaru WRX STI. The colour is frankly one of the best I have had on test. My initial walk around resulted in me literally gazing at how aggressive the A1 is, especially in 40 TFSI guise. The car had the optional S line kit with stark 18” cast alloy wheels that filled the arches with ease.
The interior is where the A1 excels, it has ample space to seat 5 in relative comfort and will gulp a fair amount of luggage. The A1 exudes a similar feel as the Volkswagen Polo, however, it feels a lot more premium. The touch and feel that the A1 offers is by far a class leader, competing in a segment that offers vehicles such as the Peugeot 308, Corolla Hatch, Mazda 3 and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta it surely does have a tough time, however, I believe it ticks most of the boxes that its competitors don’t.
Audi has managed to arrange the centre console to be more driver-focused and this enables you to have access to several creature comforts, it certainly does make it a whole lot easier to scroll through the various menus. The vehicle I had on test came equipped with the optional Audi virtual cockpit, Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, contour ambient lighting and the MMI Navigation plus, amongst others. The highlight is by far the Bang & Olufsen sound system, I often found myself in a bit of a conundrum, do I turn the music up or do I keep it civil and listen to the 2.0L turbo burble away, It’s a difficult choice and I believe owners who have ticked the box will be fortunate on any decision they make.
The 40 TFSI A1 is equipped with a very enthusiastic engine, it produces 147 kW and a meaty 320 Nm, this is sufficient to reach the haloed sprint to 100 km/h in a spirited 6.5 seconds. The A1 feels fast and can get you into trouble rather quickly, the challenge I have with the newer vehicles is that you hardly feel the speed, you can be over the speed limit in a couple of seconds irrespective of your intentions.
Overtaking capabilities are supreme, in-gear acceleration is strong in the lower rev range and will surge all the way to redline with ease. Several journalists have mentioned that they are not impressed with the sound that the 2.0L produces. I disagree with their sentiments, the raunchy sounds emitted remains one of the best sounding turbocharged motors I have had the opportunity of testing, it’s not obnoxiously loud, however, you can wake up the neighbours by continuously prodding the throttle pedal. Accompanying the induction noise you have the famous Vrrrr Phaaa being thrown out of the twin exhaust, this for me is good enough, subtle and classy when you need and sonorous when you have to be, I really enjoyed its Jekyll and Hyde character.
Not only do you have ample performance, but you can easily rope in on the spirited attempts down the motorway. Audi claims a consumption figure of 6.5 L / 100km, I was far from that and gladly so, I found it very difficult to behave in the A1, it inspires you to drive it hard and those feelings are spurred on by how it makes you feel when you place yourself In the sports seats and clutch at the flat bottomed steering wheel. You can’t really explain the feeling, however, if you are looking at getting a car that will raise your pulse, this is by far one of the most capable cars available on the market.
Now, all that power needs to have a way of being translated to the road, the A1 lays the power down by transferring the power to the front wheels, you’d think that you will struggle to harness all that power and translate it to the claimed performance figures but the A1 manages to be characterful and well behaved in the same breath. I would even put it out there and say that the Audi A1 40 TFSi with a slight increase of power will easily outperform our favourite hot hatch the GTI, it just goes to show how well balanced and setup this vehicle is.
Having experienced several products from the Volkswagen Audi group, it is clear that the DNA runs very well across the board. It is very seldom that you jump into a few different cars and walk away feeling refreshed, excited and nostalgic each time. Being the entry-level Audi you would think that the manufacturer has skimped on a few of the details, but, they haven’t, the A1’s DNA shows itself from the moment you approach the car to the moment you jump out and continue on your daily tasks, it is filled with quality materials and it will easily compete with any of the flagship sedans that are available on our market. I guess when we parted ways I was sad that I had experienced such a great product and that I can not keep it for an extended duration. The A1 has managed to capture my heart, and it will go down as one of the best products I have experienced in 2019.
Price as standard:
Price as tested:
Bang & Olufsen sound system with 3D Sound
Technology package includes
Audi Virtual cockpit
Audi smartphone interface
Rearview camera system
MMI® Navigation plus with Audi connect
9.0 / 10