By Sala Masindane
The Audi A1 has had the honour of being the entry point into the Audi brand since 2010. Locally it has done well for the Audi brand moving over 100 units monthly. Notwithstanding being largely peerless (we see you Mini Hatch), the designers appear to have pulled all the stops to make the second-generation A1 stand out. Having gone a bit bigger, the A1 still retains its compact personality and recently we spent time with the range-topping A1 40 TFSI S-Line to see if the drive matches the handsome looks.
Even though it’s shorter by 56mm from its predecessor, the new A1 is more angular and sportier than the outgoing one. The A1 stands out with its new grille, side air inlets and three flat slits below the edge of the bonnet (which pay homage to the Sport Quattro). The air inlets are larger in the 40 TSFI S-line and there are additional sill trims whilst the side view features a wide flat sloping C-pillar with roof contrast line. These are available in two dark colours (black and grey). The optional Dynamic Package, which includes red brake calipers and larger brake discs, a sound actuator and Audi drive select, is standard on the 40 TSFI. The A1 is lit up by new LED lights with a distinct graphic design. These are standard on the 35 and 40 TFSI models. This is all complemented by a larger rear wing on the S-Line trims.
Open the door and you are met by improved new materials and displays. The dashboard features smart inlays and LED interior lighting that mimics the exterior body colour. This theme continues on the door panels as well. We would have preferred Audi’s finger friendly handbrake as opposed to the dated conventional one that has been used in the A1 (it actually feels like that offered in Polos). The new A1 has a fully digital instrument cluster that has a high-resolution 8.8-inch displays. On the entertainment front, the A1 has a 10.1-inch MMI infotainment touchscreen that displays the navigation system as well. The options box in our test unit was also been ticked with the Audi smartphone interface that comes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus two USB interfaces.
To remove the clutter on the dashboard, the new Audi A1 has moved away from the dial knobs and implements a touchscreen system to access features such as music, navigation, etc. The new touch system requires some getting used to and is not as intuitive as one would like at the initial stages. But once you get the hang of the system, you are able to operate it effectively while keeping our eyes on the road easily. We found the cabin space to provide comfort and decent head and legroom for all passengers.
Drive and Engine
We can safely confirm that the new Audi A1 40 TSFI S-line is a driver’s car. It has steering that is precise, predictable and easy to judge. It is also nimble and grippy, and fares well on twisty roads plus it is fun to drive when moving around town. Overall, the ride is firm yet controlled, offering enough comfort over potholed city roads and speed humps. The 2.0 turbocharged petrol engine is a darling as it is responsive and not shy to let you get a taste of its power instantly. This is thanks to the 147kW and 320Nm of torque. The engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters should you yearn for a spirited drive. There is tons of power at low speeds which enables you to jump off the mark easily as well as zip through traffic without any problems.
Once the Dynamic mode is activated a world of pops and crackles are heard from the little pocket rocket. Yes, the A1 is the classier sibling compared to the Polo GTI, but we feel the Polo has more drama in the exhaust sound department. In terms of fuel efficiency, we managed a good return of 6.9l/km which is not far from the claimed 6.0l/km especially since most of our travels were stop and start around the city. The passenger’s access to the car was quite easy thanks to the car sitting much lower. Three adults might struggle at the back, but road trips won’t be bad with the boot space having increased by 65-litres compared to the previous generation and now measuring at 335-litres.
Unfortunately the A1 40 TSFI shares a similar engine with its cousin, the Polo GTI, and the price difference between the two is almost R100,000. This of course will open the comparison and value for money conversation. Alas, there’s space in the market for both.
The Audi A1 40TFSI is priced from R488,000. The price includes the Audi (Maintenance) Freeway Plan (five-year/100,000 km).
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