We drive Audi's new funky A1 Sportback luxo-hatch

Image: Quickpic
Image: Quickpic

The new Audi A1 has finally arrived in South Africa as the third all-new car for the luxury German brand in 2019. 

Delayed due to homologation issues for the local market, Audi SA breathed a huge sigh of relief as the new hatch made its local debut to media this week.

The first generation of Audi's smallest model first came out in 2011 and eight years on the second generation offers a bigger car, with more tech and cool options including contrasting roof colours among other items. 

What's in the range?

There are three models available from launch: a 30 TFSI powered by a 1.0-litre engine producing 85kW and 200Nm, a 35 TFSI powered by a 1.5-litre  engine producing 110kW and 250Nm, and the range-topping 40 TFSI powered by a 2.0-litre engine producing 147kW and 320Nm. All engines are turbocharged they use a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox. 

The three-door version of the car has been discontinued.

Audi is keen to position its luxo-hatch to Millenials and the second generation is available in three trim lines: standard, advanced (+R14 000) and S-Line (+R29 000). 


Image: Quickpic

Each level offers LED headlights as standard as well as a digital cockpit display. Buyers can order Audi’s virtual cockpit and satellite navigation as separate in the new A1. 

The 40 TSFI is only offered in S-Line trim, and includes chrome bits in the grille, bigger air intakes in the front and 17-inch wheels. 

The fit and finish is of the highest quality, and it has that definitive premium feel to the interior.

So what’s new on the A1 compared to its predecessor?

Well, firstly it’s longer, lower and roomier than before. The old car was severely cramped and this new model has grown up substantially. 

The new car measures in at just over four metres long, while the width remains at just over 1.7 metres. The boot capacity is quoted at 335 litres, an increase of 65 litres. Fold down the rear seats and the space increases to 1090 litres. The new car pokes out at 1.4 metres high.

The designer took inspiration from car video games like Need For Speed and Gran Turismo, I'll allow you to take in what you think of the exterior. I find it funky, youthful and those primary colour options give it a massive presence for a small car.

The python yellow car in the photographs, the Launch Edition model, is based on the S line trim with 18-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels and black contrasting roof, and exterior mirror housings. The LED headlights and LED rear lights are dark-tinted and all the badging is in black. 

Click here for a comprehensive look at all the trim levels and features. 

What's the newcomer like to drive? 

I hopped into the most powerful model (45 TFSI, powered by a 2.0-litre engine) first up and enjoyed its rorty exhaust note and boy racer-type feel. The engine deals with some lag initially and then zooms off into the distance with little fuss. 

It has all the characteristics of little, cheeky turbo four-pot. It pops and bangs when the most dynamic mode is selected and I was impressed by the speedy dual-clutch gearbox's changes. 

Ride comfort was good, even over Joburg's roads that are sporadically peppered with potholes and uneven surfaces. The suspension performed admirably, and while it's not a supermini contender Audi claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.5 seconds. 

The steering is a tad overly assisted, but offers a good firm feel of the road when taking on some long winding passes. It's not exciting to drive as say a Mini Cooper S, but it does a good enough job of telling you what the front wheels are doing. 

The second model I sampled on the brief test drive was the 30 TFSI, powered by a 1.5-litre turbocarged engine with 110kW and 250Nm. Audi says it'll scoot to 100km/h from standstill in 7.7 seconds (so not fast) and run out of puff at 222km/h. 

The engine in this car felt really good with a less noticeable lag than the 2.0-litre, sure it lacks the urgency of the bigger engine. But in this context, I'd opt for the middle engine option in the range. 

Here's a breakdown of all the entire range with pricing: 

30 TFSI S tronic R359 900

30 TFSI Advanced S tronic R 373 900

30 TFSI S line S tronic R388 900

35 TFSI S tronic R429 900

35 TFSI Advanced S tronic R443 900

35 TFSI S line S tronic R458 900

40 TFSI S line S tronic R488 000


Image: Quickpic

Where to from here? 

Audi has several new new models and product improvements arriving locally in the next 18 months, including the face-lifted A4 and Q8.

The first ever Q3 Sportback arrives in the first quarter of 2020, along with a spruced-up version of the firm's R8 supercar. 

Audi will launch a performance version of its flagship SUV, the SQ8 along with the new A6 and a facelifted TT RS. 

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