We're always excited about new small cars; after all, we live in a metropolis where traffic is the norm rather than the exception, fuel prices are high and streets are getting tighter everyday.
There are many models to choose from in if you're in the market for a subcompact hatch; cars that come to mind include like the Fiesta, Swift, Spark or the Picanto. In the premium class, however, it's really just the MINI Cooper and the Volvo C30.
Perhaps the new A1 hatchback from Audi can change that.
For the longest time, the Audi A3 was the brand's entry level model, but now PGA Cars is bringing in the new, much smaller A1 hatchback, further making entry into the premium/luxury sector more 'affordable'. The new hatchback is squarely targeted at young, successful individuals who want a car that gets them around the Metro with ease, delivers good consumption, has a fun drive, and does so in eye-catching style.
Let's begin with design. Audi's signature look goes well for the new A1; it's not retro like the Cooper nor is it in any way like the C30. Unlike the A3 that PGA Cars brought in before, the A1 is a 3-door hatch. The front end is definitely Audi with the hexagonal grille (still resembles the prior trapezoidal grille) and the LED-laced headlamps. The character line stretches from the very front all the way to the back, along with bulged fenders for a lower, wider stance and look. I particularly like the sportback rear end as well as the contrasting paint finish on the roof arch in the other models (though peculiarly, this white A1 didn't have it), breaking up what could have been a monotonous exterior.
Inside, it's signature Audi again, with surfaces and materials (apart from the leather) that look like a cow sat on them; nicely textured, impeccable quality. The switchgear and layout of the controls are simple and easy to understand. The cabin may be predominantly black, but they broke up the monotony by using some metal trim as well as red and white backlighting.
The interior is expectedly snug; it is a small car after all, but legroom in the back seems a little better than the MINI's; still, I wouldn't recommend seating 3 adults in the back. Cargo space is also pretty good considering the size, as the A1 can accommodate 270 liters of cargo with a full cabin or 920 liters with the rear seats folded down.
Behind the driver's seat -keyfob in my pocket- I fire up the new A1. PGA Cars are bringing in the 1.4 liter TFSI variant, and we've got high hopes for what it can deliver. Despite its size, thanks to turbocharging and direct injection, the 1.4 gas engine makes 122 PS @ 5000 rpm with 200 Nm of torque at 1500-4000 rpm.
Along with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission, or S-Tronic in Audi-speak, the new A1 accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 8.9 seconds according to official data. No reason to doubt this figure, as the A1 is quite peppy, and given that it has a turbo, you can really feel the thrust when the boost kicks in. Top speed is quoted at 203 km/h.
What's remarkable about the A1 is its handling. The C30 wasn't a remarkable drive, but the MINI Cooper is. I'd say the Audi is in between, but leaning towards the better side of the spectrum when cornering. It may just have MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam in the back, but the A1 does deliver decent driving fun, yet retains some comfortable qualities.
Short wheelbase cars tend to be bad on pockmarked roads, but the A1 does do quite well to suppress the bad stuff. Maneuverability is very good around town. It's quite zippy, and based on the short drive we had with it in town, the fuel eco meter registered 13.2 km/l (7.6 liters per 100 km). Pretty good.
Of course, the Audi A1 does come at a price. At PhP 1,980,000, the A1 1.4 TFSI is quite expensive, but it still undercuts the MINI Cooper 1.6L, and that's important.
I'd say the new A1 delivers on the promise of efficiency, fun handling, excellent manueverability in town and Audi's signature style. I'll still choose the Cooper in terms of driving excitement, but given the price and what it delivers for it, Audi has given us a very worthy challenger in the new A1.