Compact is the new big

2011-02-05 09:52

Audi has finally launched a model that we can all tell apart from the multitude of cars in their stable. The two-door A1, ironically dubbed their next big thing, is the smallest vehicle the stable has produced to date. Now the German carmaker has entered the premium compact segment, taking on the Mini fraternity as well as the Citroën DS3 and Alfa Romeo Mito models.

Audi’s first attempt at a small two-door car was back in 1974 with the Audi 50 GL. It didn’t last long as another German giant VW already had the Beetle in production and the Golf Mk1 was the worldwide toast of small cars.

The South African line-up of the A1 includes six models with a diesel and two petrol engines. The pricing of the entry level 1.2 litre engine is rather steep though. At R219 000, it’s more expensive than its competitors with bigger engines. At least four of the six models falls under the 120g/km carbon emissions threshold thus making them carbon-tax free.

The front-end carries the large single-frame grille and expressive LED daytime headlights, a sweeping coupe-like profile and a very distinctive roof arch.

The interior looks a bit cramped, but once inside it’s spacious and has all the bells and whistles that come standard with premium ranges such as dual aircon, steering controls and an MP3 player. Options include a multimedia package as well as different navigation options which will set you back an extra R30 000.

But the most impressive feature of the A1 is its handling. Professional drivers showed this by performing gymkhana (a form of stunt racing where drivers compete on specially laid-out courses, looking to complete complex combinations) in Johannesburg’s Melrose Arch basement; reminiscent of British actor Jason Statham in the Transporter movies. All models include an electronic stability programme with electronic limited-slip differential making sure the A1 drives like a rally car.

Other compact cars we can look forward to:
» Aston Martin Cygnet, to be built later this year.

Picture a Smart car with a gigantic grille and an Aston Martin badge. The Cygnet was first revealed as a concept car in 2009.

The production model will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, which takes place from March 3 to 13.

The car is primarily based on Toyota’s IQ small car, hence the Cygnet is the result of the collaboration between the two manufacturers. It will be the smallest Aston Martin ever built at just three metres long.

Under the bonnet there will be a 1.3 VVTI petrol engine squirting out 70kW of power with a six-speed manual gearbox. Its low CO2 emissions of 116g/km might score green points, but its price will raise eyebrows with a tag of R372 000.

» Ferrari FF, to be built next year.
While most might argue that the prancing horse badge shouldn’t be a family car, the Italian carmaker is claiming that its first ever four-seater will be the most powerful in the market. It’s also the stable’s first four-wheel drive, which will be known as the FF – Ferrari Four.

The 6.0 litre V12 engine will unleash 480kW of power and 683Nm of torque. As it’s a Ferrari, it won’t be any friendlier to the environment with 360g/km of carbon emissions.

The FF concept will make its official debut at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. It will come with a host of options and accessories which include six paint colours and interior trim, incorporating specially selected leathers.

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