Audi A1


Debut: 2010
Maker: Audi
Predecessor: A2 (2000)



 Published on 7 Jul 2010
All rights reserved. 

Having learned the lesson from A2, Audi opted for a conservative approach...

Exactly 10 years ago Audi launched the ground-breaking A2. Car enthusiasts must remember how stunning it was, no matter from its ASF aluminum chassis, 0.28 drag coefficient or sophisticated design and packaging. It was a technical tour de force that only the Empire of Ferdinand Piech could create. However, like many other pet projects of Dr. Piech, the A2 made no commercial sense at all. It was simply too costly to build and to sell for a small car. Eventually, it died in 2005 without replacement.

Having learned the lesson, Audi opted for a conservative approach on its new A1. It is every bit conventional - a steel monocoque body, MacPherson struts and torsion-beam suspensions, front-wheel drive (yes, it is the only Audi without offering Quattro), a series of TFSI and TDI engines, twin-clutch gearbox, electric power steering, XDS electronic differential… well, isn't it too much like your bread-and-butter Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia or SEAT Ibiza ? No prize to guess on which platform it based.

Apart from the MMI multimedia interface, I can't find any technologies unique to this Audi. Certainly not one related to dynamics. So an inevitable question comes into mind: what really separates the A1 from its cheaper siblings ? or put it this way: what does Audi want to do with A1 ?



Audi's styling department has lost the magic it used to enjoy in the past decade...

The answer is to steal sales from BMW's Mini. That is also an unfortunate answer. We know Mini is Mini because it drives really different from other superminis. It drives different because it employs different technology, such as a multi-link rear suspension. Most important, Mini does not share platform with others. The Audi is different. It wants to earn maximum profit (to recoup the loss of its predecessor ?), so it does not waste time and money to develop new technology and unique components. Moreover, high percentage of component sharing ensures it can be built at the same Belgium plant as Polo. To ask for premium prices, the A1 deceives buyers with different styling, packaging materials and chassis tuning, then asked Justin Timberlake to film its commercial. Is it really worth the premium ?

Depending on your priority. If you ask for a tasteful styling, you may be disappointed with the A1 like me. It's neither Mini retro nor DS3 controversial. It looks rather ordinary compared with its edge-cutting predecessor. The A8-style headlamps (with LED daytime running lights) did little to lift its style, ditto the now familiar single-frame grille, which looks terribly oversized for a small car. The two-tone color scheme, with different color on roof rails, is nowhere as stylish or customizable as the roof graphics on Mini. It seems that Audi's styling department has lost the magic it used to enjoy in the past decade.



Quality is unrivaled

However, if your priority is quality, the baby Audi may still satisfy you. Audi seems to have spent most effort in this area. Although this is the cheapest Audi, it still have that feel of unrivaled build quality. Soft plastics surround you in the cabin. Air vents and switch gears are nicely made. And then you will notice the solidity of the chassis and thick insulation once on move. The baby Audi raised the bar of interior quality to new level, easily leaving Mini and DS3 behind. It also provides competitive space. Rear seat room is more generous than Mini, if not as good as mainstream superminis like Ford Fiesta. Mind you, the A1 is 3-door and 4-seat only.

If your first priority is driving dynamics, then I would not recommend this car. Although the A1 is slightly sportier than Polo, it is not as great to drive as Mini or Fiesta. This can be seen from two areas. In terms of powertrain, the combination of 1.4 TFSI engine and 7-speed S-tronic gearbox is not a perfect choice for driving fun. With only 122 horsepower on tap, the A1 feels brisk but not quick. 0-60 mph takes 8 and a half seconds. Worse still is the way it delivers its power. It does not promote an enthusiastic driving style. It peaks at just 5000 rpm and cuts off oil at 6000 rpm. The long gearing and slightly sluggish downshift places priority on fuel economy. Comparatively, the BMW 1.6 turbo on Mini and DS3 feels so much sweeter.


Lift-off oversteer is no replacement to a sharp turn-in, which is lacking in A1.

The chassis tuning of A1 is slightly sportier than Volkswagen Polo. Its steering rack has a quicker ratio and its electrical assistance gives it heavier weighting. The suspension gets stiffer setting, but you won't find its ride harsh unless you opt for the sportiest 215/40R17 tires. In fact, the stiffer body shell and better insulation of A1 deliver big car refinement, especially at high speed. The heavy steering also makes it feel a bigger car than it is. Nevertheless, the extra weight of its helm does not translate into more feel. Like most front-drive Audis, its steering feels numb, and it lacks the sharp turn-in of Mini or Fiesta. These cars steer into corners as if their front wheels are running on rails. The A1 is more civilized. Its nose runs wide if you push it into the bend. Lift off throttle mid-corner, you will find its rear axle surprisingly lively, which means oversteer can happen in a controlled manner. However, this is no replacement to a responsive and accurate steering, which is a must for hot hatches. Overall, its handling is nowhere near the top of the class.

Compare with Mini, the A1 has its charm - better build quality, more space and better refinement. However, because it offers average dynamics and precious little character, we can only give it average rating. It might be commercially more successful than the late A2, but it won't caught our hearts like its predecessor.

Verdict: 
 Published on 24 Nov 2011 All rights reserved. 
A1 1.4TFSI 185 S-line

Until the introduction of S1, which will be distinguished by Quattro and an engine producing well over 200 horsepower, the hottest A1 will be this 1.4TFSI 185. Its rivals include Mini Cooper S, Citroen DS3, Fiat Abarth 500 as well as traditional hot hatch stars like Renault Clio RS and Volkswagen Polo GTI. With a top speed of 141 mph and 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds, the baby Audi is fast enough to most drivers pursuing a small hot hatch. Its £21K price sits at the high end of the spectrum, but in return you get a tasteful look and the best quality cabin in the class.

The underpinnings of this car is basically the same as Polo GTI, or to lesser extent Skoda Fabia vRS and Seat Ibiza Cupra. Its power comes from a 1.4-liter Twincharger engine that is boosted by a supercharger at low rev and a turbo at high rev. Audi claims a slight, 5hp advantage at the top end, which explains the number "185" in its name. Torque, however, remains the same at 184 lbft from 2000 to 4500 rpm. The 7-speed dual clutch gearbox is also shared with its siblings, although Audi calls it S Tronic instead of DSG.


This powertrain combines lively performance and good refinement. The automatic mode of S Tronic enables a relaxing cruising not possible on most rivals' manual gearboxes. On the flip side, keen drivers will dislike its compulsory automatic upshift in manual mode, which denies them of full control. Some may want a sportier exhaust note, too, but for the benefit of cruising refinement I would say the exhaust noise level is well judged.

The hot A1 comes standard with S-line package. It includes a stiffer and 15mm lower suspension setting, larger 17-inch or even (optional) 18-inch RS wheels shod with wider and lower aspect rubbers. The giant wheels contribute considerably to the visual effect, but ride quality is on the hard side as a result. That said, compare with the aging Mini Cooper S the Audi is still easily a more refined choice. What it can't match the Mini is handling. We are not talking about absolute grip, body control or braking, which are traditional strengths of Audi, but the ability to entertain the driver. It lacks the Mini's sharp turn-in and go-kart like maneuverability. There is little communication from the steering and throttle. Back off throttle in corner does not correct the angle of attack. Such lack of driver interaction distances it from the greatest hot hatches.

Verdict:
 Published on 31 Mar 2014
All rights reserved. 
Audi S1


The S1 is supposed to be an inevitable version of the A1 range, but strangely, it wasn't in the product plan from the outset. It took Audi as many as 4 years to finally realize the car. To accommodate the Quattro 4WD system, Audi has to remove the standard torsion-beam rear axle, transplant the multi-link suspensions, rear subframe and Haldex multi-plate clutch from Audi S3 (with some heavy modifications to fit in the smaller body, of course). Meanwhile, it also gets a version of the EA888 2.0-liter turbo engine from its bigger brother (or Golf GTI). In this case it produces 231 horsepower and 273 pound-foot of torque, enough to propel the little hot hatch from 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and flat out at 155 mph. This is easily the fastest car in the B-segment. The problem is, it costs as much as a Golf GTI and even more than a Renault Megane RS, which sounds a lot for a car so small. Is it good enough to justify the premium price?

To demonstrate its ability, Audi recently invited motoring journalists to test drive the car in Sweden. Unfortunately, it is difficult to assess a car's handling on melting snow and when the car is fitted with winter tires. Perhaps it deliberately did so. I remember Volkswagen group did the same in the launch of the limited edition A1 Quattro as well as the recent Golf R. Apart from demonstrating the superior traction of 4WD, testing on such slippery surfaces may hide the understeer traditionally associated with 4-wheel-drive Audis, as it is easier to swing the tail out.



On icy surfaces, the S1 did show a more entertaining handling than expected. Its stiffer, 25 mm lower suspension accompanied with adaptive dampers limit body roll admirably. The Quattro system offers strong traction and outstanding grip. Understeer is not an issue. It feels small and nimble to drive. However, find a stretch of dry road would reveal some flaws. The suspension in sport mode might be too firm for a B-road hot hatch. The electrical power steering, while accurate and well weighted, lacks feel. It also displays mild torque steer in occasions. Moreover, the car lacks the throttle adjustability of a good hot hatch like Ford Fiesta ST. Audi said the Quattro system delivers 40 percent of torque to the rear wheels in normal driving, but I strongly doubt that. Considering the system employs a Haldex multi-plate clutch rather than a center differential, a 60:40 torque split would generate enormous heat at the slipping clutch. It would be okay for short moments but not permanently. Anyway, the S1 plays neither lift-off oversteer nor power oversteer. It just tries to stick to neutral. When it runs into understeer, its electronic differential lock brakes the inside rear wheel to counter the understeer. Unfortunately, the intervention could be harsh and overreacted. Not Ferrari Side Slip Control.



What we have no doubt is its good powertrain. The engine is flexible, punchy and sounds pretty delicious through the quad tail pipes. The 6-speed manual gearbox has a short and precise gearshift, while the clutch is light and smooth. There is not much regret for the lack of S tronic option. And then the high quality interior, the Audi Drive Select control and adaptive dampers make up for a premium package that not many hot hatches can match. On the flip side, the exterior design lacks emotion. I have never been in love with the regular A1, so after adding a rear spoiler and other minor cosmetic tweaks the S1 is still far from stylish, no matter in 3 or 5-door forms. Overall, it is not a bad car, but a Golf GTI is more practical, Renault Megane RS more focused and Ford Fiesta ST much cheaper yet more fun to drive.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
A1 1.4TFSI 122
2010
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3954 / 1740 / 1416 mm
2469 mm
Inline-4
1390 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Turbo
DI
122 hp
147 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
215/45VR16
1125 kg
126 mph (c)
8.4 (c) / 8.4*
22.4*
A1 1.4TFSI 185 S-line
2011
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3954 / 1740 / 1416 mm
2469 mm
Inline-4
1390 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Supercharger + Turbo
DI
185 hp / 6200 rpm
184 lbft / 2000-4500 rpm
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
225/35R18
1190 kg
141 mph (c)
6.6 (c)
-
S1
2014
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3975 / 1746 / 1423 mm
2469 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
231 hp / 6000 rpm
273 lbft / 1600-3000 rpm
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
215/40WR17
1315 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.5 (c)
-




Performance tested by: *Autocar





AutoZine Rating

A1

A1 1.4TFSI 185 S-line

S1


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