In the Old World, the mantra “bigger is better” does not hold true. Europe’s roads are jam-packed, parking spaces are scarce. There, luxury and premium cars can be small. The best example is the Audi A1; loosely based on the ubiquitous Volkswagen Polo, it offers top-notch amenities and performance for its class. Now Audi has unveiled the second generation.
At 158.7 inches long, 68.5 inches wide, and 55.5 inches tall, the new A1 is similar in size to a Mini Hardtop. But instead of cuteness, it oozes contemporary style and modernity. The front air intakes and the Audi Quattro–style blisters over the fenders, beloved by chief designer Marc Lichte, convey a subdued aggression. The three-door version has been dropped, and henceforth the A1 comes with five doors only; that’s why it’s officially called the A1 Sportback.
Like the bigger and also recently redesigned Mercedes-Benz A-class, the Audi A1 takes pride in offering premium technology in a very compact package. A fully digital instrument panel is standard, as is MMI infotainment with, in the two upper trims, a touchpad for inputs. There is an optional voice-command system, and the top-level navigation setup is ultra-quick, with 3D maps and real-time updates that include current gas prices. Buyers also can order an 11-speaker, 560-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo system, which is pretty impressive for a car this size.
The roster of available driver-assistance systems is on par with those of Audi’s larger sedans and includes a system that will park the car automatically under the watchful eyes of 12 ultrasonic sensors. Notably, the adaptive cruise control works from a stop, up to 125 mph, and back again.
Initially available with a range of turbocharged gasoline engines that ranges from a 95-hp 1.0-liter three to a 200-hp 2.0-liter four; the A1’s top speed should exceed 150 mph with its top-level engine. That version, preposterously called “40 TFSI”—thankfully, American Audis have been spared this nomenclature for now—comes only with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The lesser models are available with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box. But that’s not the end of the powertrain story: We fully expect Audi to once again launch a top-level S1 model with around 250 horsepower.
A driving-mode selector lets you adjust various chassis and powertrain parameters to your preference, and cars can be ordered with a conventional suspension or a lower sport suspension, and adaptive dampers are on offer. It’s clear that the A1 far surpasses the feature set and sophistication of similarly sized cars available in the United States, and it tops its European competition as well, including the quirky Mini and Citroën’s aging DS3. Given that it would be a fairly spendy proposition on our shores, and that Americans generally have a taste for bigger beef, there’s no chance the A1 will come to the States. Too bad—we’d love to have a chance to drive one on our roads.
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