Another Audi rolls onto the streets of the UK and Europe, turning heads, making people talk and representing the brand in a very different way, in a market that commands the majority share of cars sold in the UK... the Supermini's.
Alfa Romeo have done it with the MiTo, and BMW set a trend with launching MINI, both successful examples, unfortunately it seems both these cars have been tagged with gay men and women drivers, so in turn have become part of the stereotype. Audi however are going to shake up the market with the new A1, in my opinion, as from the moment you first meet this super-mini, you can see why they've already sold 2010's 2,000 units.
Talking points have definitely focused around design, as with any super-mini, design is key to impressing potential buyers, get this right and you can be forgiven for many issues the car might have. Create an icon and people label the mishaps as 'quirky' or 'unique'. Audi though, are making it known that they aren't relying on 'retro icons', but classing the A1 as 'edgy' staying true to their 'always moving forward' attitude. Regardless of this of course, they don't need to rely on 'quirky', as the A1 looks and feels premium from the inside out. The chrome roof contrast lines, that we've seen in various French cars, seems to fit beautifully into the shape, and are completely customisable at £350. The Audi championed running lights keep the car pure and striking with it. The extruding rear end suspends the lights, and creates a pinched, high rear - adding to the sporting nature of the brand. The one detail that could improve the looks of this car is an Armani model hired to just stand around to pose next to it while you're in Tesco's doing the weekly shop, and even then I think the car would be more interesting to look at.
Moving onto interior loveliness and the standard Audi quality, that we've come to know and love, greets you with an open embrace, saying "come in, get comfortable". Audi's goal was to create the feeling of driving a big car, in the compact restrictions of a super-mini; this is achieved by little touches Audi have included. The luxury aids that this car is equipped with plays a big part in how you would react to the car's 'premium' feeling, for example, heated wing mirrors and the full multimedia interface that the A8 features brings simple tasks like changing radio station or climate control, a new luxury user experience that is nothing like any other super-mini I've seen before. Space is of course an issue, and one that doesn't follow the 'small car, big feeling' motto that comes with the A1. I found that sitting in the rear, headroom is limited to say the least; even the legroom wouldn't boast any superiority, so I've settled on accepting the A1as an occasional 4-seater, unless of course you're Snow White.
I tested both the 1.6 diesel and the 1.4 petrol S Tronic (that means Automatic). Both engines are impressive within their own right, with both returning impressive fuel consumption figures, 70mpg and 50mpg respectively. I found the 1.6 more suited to driving at higher speeds, however traffic won't be an exercise to burn fuel thanks to Audi's start/stop technology that features in both the models I tested. Which brings me nicely on to the petrol engine derivate, and what a brilliant unit it is! The 1.4 S Tronic features a 7 speed twin clutch gearbox, meaning one clutch is poised ready to change up or down depending on your driving style. The automatic brings with it steering wheel paddles for manual gear change which is a nice touch, and as soon as you drop the lever into 'sport' you really notice a difference. Achieving 0-62mph in a quick 8.9seconds, the A1 changes pitch to a lower, beefier tone, and gear changes are much later to give you the maximum power. This said, the gear changes when driving at slower speeds can be quite lengthy, so if you're planning to save the planet, make sure your out of sport.
When it comes to handling, Audi's as a whole are tight, precise and effortless with it. The A1 is no different either, which makes this MINI competitor brilliant for nipping in and out of side streets to avoid the traffic round town. The suspension is quite firm however, adding to the sporty feeling of the super-mini, but maybe too firm for a road trip to Paris at the weekend. That said, it's a much more comfortable ride than its competitors and the seats feel better supported, and if it gets too much to handle then take a pillow and stop whining.
Lastly, I am forced to bring up the issue with the A1's pricing. I'm afraid if you want luxury super-mini, you'll pay for just that. Although the entry level model will set you back a rather acceptable £13,420, the top of the line 1.4 S Tronic, S line model will make a dent in the wallet at £18,665. Saying that, Audi seem to have attracted the right custom as the average cost of customers orders is up at £23,500, so it's all about additional options and customising your perfect A1, which isn't rare for super-mini fanatics to spend the right money for their perfect car.
Overall the new A1 truly captures the essence of Audi's aim to bring a big car feeling into a compact super-mini. Not only do you get the excuse to throw an 'Official Super-mini Owner' party to celebrate joining the ranks of the 'uber gay', but you also get the mature edgy design and great styling that the A1 achieves so well. The greatest boast about the new A1 has to be the premium feeling you get when sitting inside. The high-end materials used to make the dashboard and elements, the solid feel of the buttons and components, and the lasting impression that the A1 leaves you with is just so that you will have nothing to complain about in making the decision to buy an A1. But bear in mind that the first and only 2000 A1's in 2010 have all been sold, so you'll have to put your name down on the waiting list to get one next year. But, Audi make it work so well, meaning no matter what model Audi you drive, you all share the same Audi experience that the brand brings with those 4 little rings, and I have to say the A1 will do well, regardless of the cost. Now all we have to do is decide what the A1 drivers will call themselves collectively, we've got the 'Mini Mob' the 'Beetle Bunch', perhaps the A Team… I don't think that's been used before, has it?