It’s small, but packs a hefty punch. The Audi A1 quattro is the fastest and most powerful version of the company’s small car yet, and it brings a previously unheard-of level of performance to the premium supermini class.
However, only 19 examples of this ultra-exclusive model are coming to the UK, and total production is limited to just 333 cars, all of them left-hand drive.
Video: Watch Owen driving the A1 quattro on a frozen lake in Sweden
Yet despite the tiny number reaching our shores, this A1 is still big news. Not only is it the first A1 with Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel-drive system, it’s also the first baby Audi powered by a large-capacity petrol engine.
This special car was developed by Audi itself, not quattro GmbH, the subsidiary in charge of the company’s S, RS and R8 models. It took just 17 months to move from crazy idea to reality.
It’s only available in Glacier White with a black roof and tail inserts. There’s also red detailing inside the headlights, a revised grille, a roof spoiler, twin exhaust pipes and sportier bumpers.
But the changes go deeper than a flashy bodykit: 600 new or modified parts have been used. Under the bonnet is the same 2.0-litre TFSI engine found in the TT S, tuned to 252bhp and mated to a quattro drivetrain, which lies at the heart of this exciting model’s appeal.
Accommodating four-wheel drive required a host of changes, such as fitting heavily modified TT S rear suspension. This meant changes to the body structure and a new fuel tank, although the 45-litre capacity remains.
The rear diff fills the spare wheel well, while at the front, larger uprights make room for 16-inch brakes. Our test car was fitted with narrow ice wheels, but customers’ cars will get 18-inch turbine-style alloys, inspired by those on eighties rally Audis.
Even the conventional car’s front suspension gets revised spring and damper settings, so the A1 feels very different from behind the wheel.
In normal conditions, power is sent to the front wheels, but if they lose traction, an advanced hydraulically activated multiplate clutch sends up to 100 per cent of engine power to the rear. This was very clearly demonstrated by our test drive on a frozen lake.
The A1 offers punchy power delivery and a great induction noise. It accelerates strongly and the six-speed manual box has a light and easy shift action.
The steering is conventionally weighted and the brakes deliver plenty of bite. As we were driving with studded tyres on ice, it’s hard to make a definitive judgement on the A1 quattro’s ability on tarmac, but body control was good and the ride was fairly firm.
Inside, there’s a gloss finish to the lower section of the centre console, black leather sports seats with red stitching, metal pedals and a smattering of quattro badges. The cabin feels special, not stripped-out.
The generous list of standard equipment is entirely appropriate for a limited-edition car offering the sort of performance, style and power that’s rarely, if ever, found in such a small package.