Revised Audi A1 Sportback a premium tempter
New 2015 Audi A1 Sportback road test review.
THERE comes a time in every father's life when his teenage daughter puts on the doe-eyes and says: "Daddy, I want a car."
A Toyota Yaris or Suzuki Swift used to bring hugs and "Love you" in abundance, but of late the little Japanese offerings just won't cut it, especially for those with or aspiring to chic urban lifestyles.
Oh no. Daddy's little girl wants premium, and why not - they argue - when for "just a few grand more" they can slide into a Mini or Audi A1.
Well, dads beware. There's an upgraded A1 range in town, and these compact style statements have even sharper redesigned looks and a little three-cylinder petrol entry level model that's cheap, frugal and plenty of fun.
With over two-thirds of A1 drivers female, and many driving an Audi for the first time, these design and technology loving buyers will appreciate the A1's included toys to match its style, but as ever there's an options list that can quickly stop these Audis being just that "few grand more."
Audi has nailed its interiors for years now, and the new A1 is a stand out in the segment.
Hop in an A1 and it feels a premium place to be with the cabin flush with soft surfaces, robust switchgear and an overall design inspired by aviation and sailing cues (the air vents ape jet turbine engines for example).
Although aimed at a younger market the cabin isn't as quirky as some rivals - including Mini - but is all class and for front seat passengers at least, roomy enough to bely its compact size.
A pop-up 6.5-inch colour monitor in the dash top keeps the centre console simple and ergonomic, while gear level, steering wheel and shift paddles (when fitted) are a delight in the hands.
Seats are supportive and proved enduringly comfy over hundreds of kilometres of road testing, but the sport seats in the top two models are preferable with greater adjustability and lumbar support. It does seem strange not having any electric movement for the seats, especially when you move up the A1 pay scale.
Youthful buyers and empty nesters won't care too much about rear space, but it is lacking and acceptable only for small (or very tolerant) adult passengers or young kids. It's a compact car and really feels as much in the back.
On the road
There are three A1 Sportback variants (if we leave the S1 to one side) - the 1.0 TFSI, 1.4 TFSI Sport and 1.8 TFSI S Line.
Most intriguing of the bunch is the three-cylinder one-litre entry level model, a buzzy little motor with 70kW. The car's not quick in hitting 100kmh in over 11 seconds, but its turbocharged zippy nature and 160Nm of torque makes it ideal for city life.
On paper if you're a three-pedal kinda driver the 1.4 TFSI Sport looks best value at less than a grand more than the 1.0-litre - especially with the added kit you get - but Audi knows its market will be principally shopping for autos, and that makes the 1.0-litre S tronic version at $28,250 before on-roads looks like the future volume seller.
The 1.8-litre has double the power of the 1.0-litre version, and is a gem of a motor with serious urge that is a true match for the A1's superb chassis.
This range topper is $40k before you start adding toys however - pushing it into the realms of the S1 which would be the preferred choice of performance enthusiasts - so it's reassuring to know each of the A1 range offers driving thrills.
Superbly balanced and with a new electric steering system that delivers good feedback and aids rewardingly accurate turn in, ask any A1 to come and play and they deliver.
None match a Fiesta ST or Clio R.S. for sheer reward, but the A1s ride as comfortably as larger premium cars, especially if you steer clear of Sport suspension and optional 18-inch wheels.
What do you get?
The 1.0 TFSI has rear park assist, Bluetooth, voice control, 6.5-inch screen, cruise control, light and rain sensors and multifunction steering wheel. Move into the 1.4TFSI Sport for $850 more and you get larger 16-inch alloys, auto climate control, sport seats, aluminium trim and LED interior lighting, plus the more powerful if slightly less fun powerplant.
Top range TFSI S Line has 17s, S line exterior styling, xenon and LED lights, navigation, 20GB HDD storage, two SHDC card readers and Sport suspension.
What you don't get is a reversing camera in any model (even as an option), convenience keys are $650 extra, while the add-on packages can soon bump your A1 up to serious money.
If you need decent space or to regularly ferry passengers you'll be shopping elsewhere, but for town and city based singletons or couples the A1 will suffice.
The boot is painfully small at 270-litres, but with split rear seats down you get 920-litres to play with.
Audi's main target is pulling the style-conscious away from the Mini Cooper five-door ($27,750) which is selling strongly. Alfa Romeo's MiTo ($22,500) would also be on the radar, but especially with the entry level A1, those typically eyeing up a VW Golf Comfortline ($25,640) or Mazda3 SP25 ($25,190) for example may look at dropping down a size to go premium with the little Audi.
Audi has dropped its diesel model from the A1's line-up as it's something of an irrelevance with its turbo petrols being so efficient. Across the range consumption is quoted in the 4s and 5s litres/100km - standard these days - and on our test figures didn't creep painfully north of these numbers.
The A1 didn't need much of a refesh as the outgoing model was sharp enough, but the body has been given a more 'masculine design' (Audi's words) to maybe increase its appeal to the boys.
There's an emphasis on 'wrap-around' styling for the bonnet and tailgate, new headlights are of lower profile while the wedged rear lights and wider rear diffuser have been redesigned.
With Mini's market share clearly in its sights, Audi hopes its face lifted A1 can widen its already popular appeal further.
Style and cabin quality are class-leading, while the new three-cylinder entry-level A1 is a fascinating offering ideal for urban life and with S tronic auto can still be had for well under $30k.
The 1.8 TFSI is the most rewarding drive, but its price premium makes the 1.0 TFSI and 1.4 TFSI Sport - also decent steers - the better choices. Don't tick too many options boxes and their value truly matches their style.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
What we liked: Fun 1.0-litre 3-cylinder option, rewarding balance and steering, true premium feel throughout at a decent price.
What we'd like to see: Availability of a reversing camera, electric seats for the higher-specced cars, less of the costly options list.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Model: 2015 Audi A1 Sportback
Details: Five-door front-wheel-drive premium compact.
Engines: All are turbocharged petrols: 1.0-litre three-cylinder generating 70kW and 160Nm; 1.4-litre four-cylinder with 92kW and 200Nm; 1.8-litre four-cylinder with 141kW and 250Nm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual (1.0 TFSI), six-speed manual (1.4 TFSI Sport), seven-speed S tronic auto (1.8 TFSI S Line). Seven-speed S tronic auto optional for 1.0 TFSI and 1.4 TFSI Sport.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 11.1 sec (1.0 TFSI); 8.9 sec (1.4 TFSI Sport); 6.9 sec (1.8 TFSI S Line).
Consumption: 4.2 litres/100km (1.0 TFSI); 5.1 litres/100km (1.4 TFSI Sport); 5.6 litres/100km (1.8 TFSI S Line).
CO2: 97g/km (1.0 TFSI); 118g/km (1.4 TFSI Sport); 130g/km (1.8 TFSI S Line).
Bottom line (before on-roads): $26,900 (1.0 TFSI); $28,250 (1.0 TFSI S tronic) $27,750 (1.4 TFSI Sport); $30,100 (1.4 TFSI Sport S tronic); $39,900 (1.8 TFSI S Line).