The new Audi A1 Sportback has plenty of what makes big Audis nice to live with, but also has something they lack
Munich, Germany - Put Audi’s rootin’-tootin’ RS models, as well as the excellent R8, aside for the moment. Then, give us any modern Audi and, without actually driving, we’ll tell you how it will drive: Very sane, predictable, comfortable, no major sins of any sort, plenty of power and precision.
Audi’s regular models do understatement and quiet efficiency very well, but they tend to blend into one homogenous brand experience, especially if they have the same engine (for instance, the new A6, A7 and A8 all have the same 3.0 V6).
That’s why this violently yellow compact hatch is such a breath of fresh air.
It’s the second-generation Audi A1, now switched to VW Group MQB underpinnings, which brings with it the newest technology, as well as the usual benefits of more space, performance, refinement and more.
The A1 was originally Audi’s answer to MINI -; a small, stylish hatch with enough funk to attract those who simply didn’t want another boring sedan. Luxury compacts have been hit hard by segment competition from crossovers, and in our mind, this simply makes the A1 even more special now.
The fact that it looks like a rally-stage refugee in its Python Yellow paint is one part of the equation, the other is the S Line kit that accounts for the roof spoiler, wide front intakes and big 18-inch wheels. Audi fans will enjoy the new vent line between the bonnet and Singleframe grille - a nod to the original Audi Quattro.
(Click HERE to read about our time in the original Audi Quattro Turbo Coupe)
(We drive the legendary Sport Quattro too... click HERE to read about it!)
Endearingly, the yellow theme extends to the interior, with the tartan upholstery and trim panels looking like someone went to town on them with a highlighter. It’s delightful, almost irreverent after the stoic monolithic-ness of bigger Audis, although the A1 packs some of their best tricks too.
(Click HERE to read about the Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI and the Daihatsu Charade GTti)
The large 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument panel is still a treat for the eyes and one of the best around - it’s sharp, free of lag, and easy to read - while the new touchscreen-based MMI system frees up more room.
The switch from controller to touchscreen is easier to accept here, since the compact A1 has less interior real estate, and the screen is placed within easy reach of the driver.
With the MQB switch, the A1 has grown considerably, adding 56mm to its length and now measuring just over four-metres long, while the wheelbase goes from 2469mm to 2563mm, and as a result can fit four adults with decent comfort.
While we were scheduled to drive the A1 with a 1.0-litre turbo engine and 115hp, we certainly weren’t going to complain about getting the most powerful A1 of the lot (S1 aside).
200hp in a small car is just nice, and ripping onto the autobahn, it reminded us of the last A1 with a 2.0-litre we drove in the same place - the rather hard core, limited-edition S1 quattro.
(Click HERE to read about our Audi S1 quattro drive)
The 2.0 has more than enough shades of its rare predecessor to bring a smile, its handling is lively, but not overly darty or unstable so as to make autobahn work difficult. It holds high speed without being intimidating, and honestly, it no longer feels like a compact hatch, but something far more mature.
A brash burbling soundtrack from the four-pot engine is a perfect match for the violent yellow paint, and it’s hard to stop yourself from driving like a boyracer in the A1. While traffic jams and rain were the order of the day for our test drive, on what little empty, twisty bits we could find the A1 quickly blipped, squealed and darted its way straight to a driver’s heart.
Singapore is looking to get the car this year, says the official word from Audi, and the 1.0 will be the standard issue model though Audi also adds that drivers who want the 2.0 are more than welcome to indent one.
With hot hatches quickly climbing the rungs from hot to searing (the new Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 has almost 400hp for cripe’s sake) it’s harder-hitting, smaller compacts that deliver the not so insane fun they used to – and the A1 is prime example.
PHOTOS Derryn Wong
AUDI A1 SPORTBACK 2.0 TFSI
Engine 1984cc, inline4, turbocharged
Transmission 6spd S tronic dual-clutch
Top Speed 235km/h
Fuel Consumption 6.0l/100km