Pint-sized chic of Audi A1
JUST wait for the latte set to get a gander at this pint-sizer wearing four rings.
Aimed squarely at the young, ambitious and fashionable, the A1 is a chic little hatch bursting at the bolts with charms to lure new buyers to the premium brand.
Helping whet the appetite of new car buyers is the price, with the base models starting from just under 30 grand.
But there is another sweetener – for $169 a week over three years and then a balloon payment of $18,500 you can get into the entry-level A1 with a manual box, and that includes scheduled servicing and tyre and rim insurance for the life of the deal, along with the first year's comprehensive insurance.
Despite the price tag there is nothing cheap and cheerful about the A1.
You get the usual Audi quality, and nothing feels second rate about the cabin materials.
The instrument cluster with the large round dials – black faces, red needles and white numbers – are clearly defined, while the circular vents with chrome finish provide an edgy feel to the predominantly black colour scheme.
The sports seats are supportive and the driver has the ability to raise and lower the pew, while the steering wheel also has telescopic adjustment.
Head and leg room is reasonable for a car in this genre and getting into the back is made easier by the almost flat-folding front seats.
Donor platforms don't come much better.
The A1 shares its underpinnings with the VW Polo that has been lauded the world over.
Yet the Audi derivative shares little else.
The Citroen DS3 and the Mini Cooper lead the way in drivability in this segment, but the A1 also manages to push the envelope as an engaging performer.
The cool stability control system that uses an electronic differential to distribute varying levels of torque to either of the front wheels help keep it planted through corners.
One great feature is the cruise control, which stays operational even if you change gears.
What do you get?
There are two trim lines, the entry level Attraction and the variant we drove, the Ambition.
The latter is the more sporty variant, and gets a few more bells and whistles for a few extra grand.
Those looking for a super premium little hatch with all the trappings of success will need to pay for it.
The likes of the three-spoke sport steering wheel, cruise control, air-con, MP3 compatible CD player with 6.5-inch colour display, and safety features include front airbags, thorax/pelvic side airbags and head airbags are standard across the range.
Audi offers good media and style packages for those who want additional customisation and cool gadgets, although they will cost from about $1500.
Audi is a newcomer to this segment, and, together with the Citroen DS3 ($35,990), Volvo C30 T5 ($38,450) and Alfa Romeo's MiTo QV ($34,990), gives the Mini Cooper ($34,000) a run for its money.
The boot is small due to a high floor housing a space saver tyre and the battery, but the spilt fold rear seats do open up a reasonable cargo area.
Rear seat space is limited, and while you can get your standard upright child seat into the back, a horizontal baby capsule is just about mission impossible. Those about 165cm and under won't have too many issues with leg and head room, but it is only a four seater.
Peripheral vision is okay, but while the side mirrors look the goods, they are too small to offer reliable side awareness.
Like other premium sporting machines, the fuel consumption defies their dynamics. Our test proved slightly higher than the official average at about six litres per 100km, but that is still frugal going.
The package deal of $169 a week is alluring and the interest rate of 9% is pretty similar to what you'll get on a personal loan.
There are some supermodel genes for the A1.
The side mirrors are mounted on the doors like Audi sporting heroes TT and R8, while the interior borrows some technology and looks from the A8 limousine.
Roof arches in a different colour add a groovy dimension to the hatch which has a wide-ranging appeal and reeks of modern class.
Picking up an A1 at base price of $29,900 is ambitious – the options list is long.
Our Ambition model remains pretty good value at just under 33 grand, but it too had a heap of extras which improved the test experience.
But even without some of the cool gizmos, the A1 is a fun and rewarding drive. You can attack bends with confidence and the interior reeks of premium finishes.
And for the young up-and-comers, the most important thing is the badge cred. Buyers can sit back and enjoy their reflection in the four rings while getting a caffeine hit.
Model: Audi A1 Ambition.
Details: Three-door four-seat front-wheel drive premium hatchback.
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo charged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 90kW @ 5000rpm and peak torque of 200Nm @ 1500-4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic with S-tronic dual clutch self shifter with steering wheel mounted paddles.
Performance: 0-100kmh 8.9 seconds; top speed.
Consumption: 5.3 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: $32,650.