The A1 is here...so who needs a MINI?

8 Feb, 2010 10:47am Sam Hardy

We get exclusive access to Audi’s new small car that’s set to take the fight to British baby

Meet the exciting new small Audi that’s on the road to compact car glory! This is the A1 – and Auto Express has been given exclusive access to it ahead of its world debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show.

The model marks a new entry point to Audi ownership, and there is no hiding its intentions – it’s going head-to-head with the MINI. In a cheeky side-swipe at its chief rival, the company even describes the A1 as “the first premium car in the small compact sector”.

Available to order in May with prices from £13,000, it will have BMW bosses worried – and buyers licking their lips. As well as a stylish shape, classy cabin and great scope for personalisation, the A1 offers ultra-efficient turbocharged engines and what Audi says will be the sportiest driving experience in the class. As you can see from our exclusive pictures, the car has lost none of the visual strength of the metroproject quattro – the concept that previewed it at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2007.

WATCH OFFICIAL FOOTAGE OF THE A1 IN ACTION HERE

It’s 3.95 metres long, 1.74 metres wide and 1.42 metres tall – that makes it bigger than the MINI, and similar in size to a three-door Ford Fiesta. Stand-out features include the coupé-like roofline, in contrasting colours. There’s also a bold single-frame grille and striking headlamps, which can be ordered as a full LED set-up, with xenons and daytime running strips.

Other highlights include sharp shoulder lines, a neat roof spoiler and lower diffuser. The result is a chunky and athletic shape that looks every inch the baby Audi, yet has a character all of its own. Inside, the dashboard is a masterpiece of design and quality, and has four bold air vents – in the shape of a jet turbine – plus the option of LED ambient lighting. Buyers can pick from a variety of colours for the vent nozzles, armrests and centre console.

Gadgets include a pop-up dial for the MMI system. This cabin control set-up not only incorporates 3D sat-nav, voice control, Bluetooth and music storage, it also has a 465-watt, 14-speaker Bose stereo.

Lower-spec models get a retractable display that allows Audi sat-navs to be retro-fitted, along with iPod connectivity.

The all-turbo engine line-up comprises two TFSI petrol units and two TDI diesels, all with stop-start and energy recovery. Kicking things off is an 85bhp 1.2-litre TFSI, which promises 0-62mph in 12.1 seconds and a 111mph top speed. It also returns 55.4mpg combined and emits 119g/km of CO2. It will be sold alongside a 120bhp 1.4 with figures of 9.2 seconds, 124mph and 52.3mpg. This has the option of the seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch gearbox.

The 89bhp 1.6-litre diesel does 0-62mph in 12.2 seconds, returns 74.3mpg and puts out only 99g/km. A 104bhp version posts a time of 10.8 seconds and offers 72.4mpg economy.

The front-wheel-drive platform features traditional MacPherson struts up front and a rear torsion beam. But engineers will offer a fun driving experience with direct electrohydraulic steering, an electronic differential and optional sports suspension.

Deliveries of the three-door A1 start in November, with a hot S1 and a five-door following later.
 

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is it me or is this car trying way to hard? the details of its big brothers dont shrink down very well do they? and what is it with the Q7 rump...it looks like a dog and i dont think MINI or FIAT have anything to worry about ... and isnt the lower half of the dashboard the same part as in the Ibiza?? I think Audi have tried way to hard and lost it with this car DULL! DULL! DULL!

Me thinks you've taken the Audi press-pack blurb a little too literally. Where's the 'coupe-like roofline'? And how can the shape be 'chunky AND athletic'? a contradiction in terms surely. This is an over-designed bread van with an Audi grill grafted onto the front. I could buy twice the car for the same money elsewhere, with twice the character. Audi is heading rapidly down the BMW road, anodyne corporate boxes designed to line the leafier streets of the home counties. Disappointing.

Red is almost definitely not the best colour for this car. From the photos, it looks like a robber's dog.
Small cars are exceedingly difficult to get right and this is a case in point. This devalues the larger and very attractive A8. I don't doubt it will be a good car underneath all that horrible skin.

This is gonna be the best supermini.

Well done Auto Express; it's German so lets just avoid the obvious styling problems and say how wonderful it looks. I agree with previous posts you just can't shrink a large Audi and make a good looking small one, it does not a have a coupe roofline, the engine bay looks like something Citroen was banging out ten years ago, nothing cool or new here. Mini and Fiat will probably breath a sigh of relief when they see the state of this. Sadly as it's a German box no doubt countless of 'style' conscious Brits will buy it like the did with the poorly spaced, dog looking 1 series!
Are you guys on a commission from the German auto industry?

I quite like the look of it, despite the cheap bling fairground type LED running lights.

However, at these prices it needs much better engines.
The deisels are reported to be rough gutless dogs, unlike some of the fine larger ones available in the new golf.
The underpowered 1.2 FSI should not be offered in a £13k starting price car. The 1.4 is fine as an entry point, but a warm hatch version with about 140bhp to bridge the gap between this engine and the promised hot hatch variant due later is urgently required, as is a deisel to match tthe excellent ones available for the BMW Mini.

I may be in the market for this car, but not until the engines are sorted, and until VAG is seen to have sorted it's reported breakdown problems with ABS and the DSG box.

Looks like a deformed pug dog.

I like the look of most Audi's, what went wrong. I'm on my 3rd MINI and this certainly won't interest me. The design isn't good, the interior looks plastic-fantastic and the performance figures are terrible - 9.2 seconds 0-60, LOL. Add to that the fact that it'll probably handle like, well, an Audi and that's the end of the discussion.

Prices from £13,000...

I thought VW had priced the Polo fairly steeply...This just sails past the justifiable mark!

Think I would take the Mito or Mini and have somewhat more of a fun time than this overpriced Polo derivative...Maybe could save yourself a fortune by buying the Ibiza 3dr in a sporty trim too if you must go VAG...At least that car looks kind of interesting!

What price the new Citroen C3...That will probably also outshine this car on looks alone, as will the CRZ which will compete against the 1.4 A1...This (Audi) cars going to struggle once you get past the badge methinks?

Dull, boring, overpriced.....and sure to sell like hot cakes. Audi and BMW have the home counties and Cheshire in the palm of their hands. The German marques used to have prestige, they're so common now that is no longer the case.

Skoda Fabia with big aspirations. Personally I prefer VAG groups other incarnation of this - the new VW Polo. Now that makes sense. It even looks more handsome than the Audi. I doubt BMW will be worried.

Sorry, but as a recent convert to the MINI brand (Cooper Clubman since you ask), having considered the Abarth 500, this wouldn't have even made the short list.
I know some design elements of both the Fiat and the MINI are a bit overwrought, but this is the automotive equivalent of scampi and chips: the blandest thing on the menu.
As for the "personalisation" potential, I imagine that Audi will follow its usual practice of requiring the sale of your first-born before even allowing you sight of the options list.
Expect a loaded example to be nudging the 20+ grand mark.
They will, however, sell shed-loads to people who can't afford a TT, but it doesn't stand out enough from the supermini crowd to justify a premium price tag.

Finally, an affordable car made for this exciting breed of people to "max out" to their up to minute cold play album , maybe hitting a tree in the process

People who enjoy driving and know their cars have got wise to these cynical marketing ploys - but unfortunately there's still enough other people out there to encourage more of this nonsense. Why pay silly money for a re-worked Polo? We all know from the technical facts that it won't drive particularly well, it will be slow, it will be expensive as well as everything being a costly optional extra. For all it's faults, at least the Mini is a more focused machine and fun to drive rather than a clone of a more mundane form of transport.
Although, I might consider one version of this car myself - the model called 'Skoda Fabia VRs' when it comes out in the summer - and buy my wife another car with the change!

I'm just loving those 70's Ford Escort / Cortina air vents with the chrome adjuster in the center. Great!

What a waste of a design studio. There must be people out there that could provide better looking vehicles for Audi. Technically its probably brilliant, but aesthetically its dull. I am fed up with the silly magazine writers' calling cars what they are not. Its bland and it will probably ride badly and the seats will be as uncomfortable as the A3 that I drive infrequently - thankfully.

Rather have a Mazda 2...

this car looks really well, and i will course others car firms in the same market to get really scared. this looks great and wil porberly drive just as weel. the people dont like its looks just stands out as having no taste, but that is not a surpirse since there is this people who buy french cars=no style

Call me crazy, but this is boring. My A3 2.0T might be bigger, but why would anyone buy this?? There are so many other more interesting "premium" cars out there - 1 series BMW excluded as the most hideous small car on the road. We don't get SEATs here in NZ but you can bet your boots that they are a better value car than this. Where has the flair gone from Audi?? I absolutely love my A3, but I'd never consider this, Audi has not moved the game on at all. And as for the "teasers" - why bother when it is this bland. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, regrettably Audi failed miserably with this. Perhaps I'll have to move up scale, rather than down. A4 wagon here we come, now that has class.

Call me crazy, but this is boring. My A3 2.0T might be bigger, but why would anyone buy this?? There are so many other more interesting "premium" cars out there - 1 series BMW excluded as the most hideous small car on the road. We don't get SEATs here in NZ but you can bet your boots that they are a better value car than this. Where has the flair gone from Audi?? I absolutely love my A3, but I'd never consider this, Audi has not moved the game on at all. And as for the "teasers" - why bother when it is this bland. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression, regrettably Audi failed miserably with this. Perhaps I'll have to move up scale, rather than down. A4 wagon here we come, now that has class.

More dull Audi design and remember it is essentially a Skoda Fabia - fools and their money are soon parted! It is bad enough that the Germans own Mini! At least BMW did a decent job of it - this is just garbage!

This is such a let down, no imagination, dull. Audi would have been bettter spending their money rejuvenating the A2 and marketing it; at least it looks like a "mini" car not a shrunk down version taken off their standard range.

Frankly, 13000 pounds is FAR too expensive as an entry point. It should be no more than the Mini First (entry point Mini) of circa 11300. ...the Mini First is a truly excellent car (my brother recently bought one) with all the Mini quality & safety features but lower power.....from first impressions, this Audi should be left on the shelf until Audi behave on pricing.

I preffer mini cooper or golf more than this one..

when are the vw ,seat. skoda,.porsche ,lamborgini ,man trucks buggatti zannussi hotpoint and neff versions due out. i hate this marketing bo****cks.

More german blandness by the looks! When are they gonna learn over in germany that the style of the car is just as important as to how it drives, its the reason i wont own a BMW, i know they drive well but everry time i look at a 3/5 series i just wanna fall asleep!

Stop churning bland, uninspiring cars out and get an actual stylist on board!!!

BMW will be laughing in there beers. What an ugly duckling. They will have to drop those yellow lights at the rear as in many counties you can only have red lights to the rear other than turn signals.

God forbid that this is what car buyers are going to be licking their lips about. Formless, reminiscent of a Trabant, only worse by having Audi's awful 'gaping gob' transplanted onto it. It would be interesting to know, did Audi hire a 'stylist' from the former Trabant operation to help out on this project? Don't worry, Mito, all is forgiven!

I quite like this new Audi. Have never liked the Mini or understood the hype surrounding it

I think it has a nice modern retro feel to the car and looks a lot nice than a BMW 1. That wouldn't be hard though, would it?

Prices FROM £13k for that. Words fail me. And what is is with Audi interior designers anyway. They start with a blank canvas and then fill it with (frankly) cheap looking grey plastic that looks just the same as any other grey grey grey Audi.

You'd only be driving a brand new one of these if a) you didn't have to pay for it, or b) you hadn't a clue what other priveleges £13k could get you on the 2nd hand market.

£13000 to start!!!. Utter madness for what is basically a small front wheel drive car. Even the technology is out dated. If I remember correctly Diahatsu where making the 100bhp F Sport with paddle shift for much less a long time ago. Yes it was not pretty but the drive was great and it went like stink . It was very practical and economical to. As already said with some more colourful language but equally apt, it is just marketing at it's most shameful worst sucking people in who do not know better. Take a good look where it counts, underneath and places you cannot easily seen and you find that quality "looking" interior less so. There are far better engineered , better looking and above all less expensive cars out there . Go elsewhere if you really want to enjoy your motoring and save shed loads into the bargain.

...and I have (Clubman Cooper-S)! I think maybe Audi are downgrading their brand with this in an effort to look a bit greener. It's just too small to be a proper Audi, however well it might be built and specced. I love my quirky Mini for what it is, but I couldn't love this. I'd rather have a Citroen DS (AND my Mini)!

"Hello there, my name is Jeffrey. I care more about badges and 'style' than I do about anything else but I've only got £13k. Do you have any overpriced used A3s that I could waste my money on?"
"On the contrary Sir, step this way, I've got just the thing for you."

I know that lots of people are down sizing and cool/quality small cars are the flavour of the month, which I think is a good thing. BUT there is nothing new here whi would make me want to but one, it looks just like a predictable shrunken A3. The A2 was an innovative and very clever car, too expensive to make and ahead of its time but have you seen the price of used ones now. Audi may have had their fingers burnt with the A2 but I wish they would try soemthing new.

"Hello there, my name is Jeffrey. I care more about badges and 'style' than I do about anything else but I've only got £13k. Do you have any overpriced used A3s that I could waste my money on?"
"On the contrary Sir, step this way, I've got just the thing for you."

BORING.

Another VW in a party frock.

'... I want a badge that says to everyone that I know about style and sophistication even though I am willing to pay upwards from £13k for a tarted up Polo....'

Shee-ite engineering content, zero originality in design ideas, but I'll let you personalise it to make you feel you are part of da designa crew.
Well done to Audi for exploiting the dumbness that is out there that wish to spend that amount of money for those few seconds where they feel they have caché by showing their keyfob with 4 rings at the bar or restaurant table.

Good luck seniors and seniorittas 'I like to bling-it-up and be taken for a mug by the manufacturing corporations'.

'... I want a badge that says to everyone that I know about style and sophistication even though I am willing to pay upwards from £13k for a tarted up Polo....'

Shee-ite engineering content, zero originality in design ideas, but I'll let you personalise it to make you feel you are part of da designa crew.
Well done to Audi for exploiting the dumbness that is out there that wish to spend that amount of money for those few seconds where they feel they have caché by showing their keyfob with 4 rings at the bar or restaurant table.

Good luck seniors and seniorittas 'I like to bling-it-up and be taken for a mug by the manufacturing corporations'.

not particularly nice looking and definately not in that vile red colour. Should sell like hot cakes to people who want a slice of Audi. The badge says it all.

nothing to be noticed about. Although a vag lover I hate to see lately the cloning of the species as it turns out with the full Audi and VW range. Its becoming pathetic not to be able to distinguish which model is which.
Mini (still!) and DS3 are clear winners in this field.

Was sorely disappointed, after ALL the hype, that this "greatest new thing" has last century technology with a [very] cheap [to make] beam axle on the back. Was introduced to beam axles when I bought a 6? yo Corsa, which I nicknamed Bob, as thats what it did driving down the road.....bobbed all over the place!! Just bloody uncomfortable to drive, all the time, as most cars spend at least 80% of their time in an urban environment.
Anyone know, are there small cars, like this, and maybe a bit bigger, that have a proper [independent] rear suspension?? Audi are spoofing this car as the best small premium car, so I guess if they [cheaply] default to a damn bar across the bum, everyone else does. SAD SAD SAD!

AEX 1,339
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