Howling winds and torrential rain wouldn’t stop us from attending the NZ launch of the second generation Audi A1 Sportback. Afterall, this ‘creator’ of the premium compact car segment has (thanks to the pending arrival of the new model) been on a bit of a hiatus of late.
With Auckland winter well and truly announcing its arrival, Audi NZ took us to a (thankfully) warm and toasty cafe in Takapuna to unveil their all-new (well, sort of) A1 Sportback. What followed was a recap of how well this valuable model had performed thus far. How, aside from being all-new, Audi had channelled their inner ‘80s rally history in some of the design elements and of course, our all important and much anticipated ‘first drive’.
The A1 itself burst on to the motoring scene around 2010 and boldly showed us that even in small, compact cars there was still room for refinement and prestige. Evidently, the market agreed wholeheartedly and the A1 ‘first generation’s’ popularity (and lifecycle) has been very impressive. No pressure for the second generation then.
No pressure at all it would seem, for while many automotive marques may have taken the easy road and simply tweaked or just fettled with the current model then called it ‘new’, Audi quite literally took their already proven formula, added a dash of nostalgia and went back to the drawing board to create something all-new.
The width and height have remained almost the same, but the new A1 has grown in wheelbase and added 56mm in total length (just over the size of a golf tee). This, in turn, has created greater interior room and comfort for those that ride within. It’s not just the people that have more space either, somehow this compact Audi has managed to gain 65 litres more luggage capacity too, giving you 1,090 litres to play with (with the rear seats folded down).
Its exterior design is much sportier too, with an iconic ’80s rally-inspired three flat-slit bonnet and ‘quattro blister’ wheel arches. Up front is a wide, low-placed single-frame grille and ‘implied’ side air inlets with Audi’s next-generation LED lighting (model dependent) front and rear.
The interior has a sporty ‘rally-inspired’ design too. The all-new A1 offers a full width ‘high-gloss’ dashboard with integrated MMI infotainment touchscreen (8.8-inch up to 10.1-inch) that’s all very driver orientated. The instrument cluster is digital with a virtual cockpit option and the centre console surrounds can be colour coded and personalised to suit. There are three A1 models to choose from, a 30 TFSI with a 1.0TFSI 85kW engine with 16-inch alloys, a 30 TFSI ‘Advanced’ with a 1.0TFSI 85kW with 17-inch alloys and a 35 TFSI ‘S Line’ with 1.5TFSI 110 kW engine with 18-inch alloys.
With the information and breakfast still digesting, we were obviously eager to take the new A1 for a ride. Audi had set out a long loop that headed north towards Albany, crossed over to Kumeu via Coatesville and then back to the city for a late and extended lunch. It was a route that offered a taste of town and country and thanks to the weather, showed us that the new A1’s front-wheel drive traction was ready for anything.
We tasted both the Advanced and the S-Line and although the extra power is always of interest, I personally preferred the sound and sprightliness of the three-cylinder, 1.0TFSI engine. Off the mark, there is a lick of turbo lag but when moving both powertrains offer likeable and, in many ways, impressive uptakes. The A1’s drive itself is as surefooted as I’d expect. Wet and sodden roads offered little issue for the front-wheel-drive compact and the steering is confidently precise and well weighted. Whether it’s on the tight bends that make up greater Auckland or the side streets that crisscross downtown CBD, the A1 handles with Audi agile aplomb.
Pioneers and adventurers come with a natural desire to push boundaries and challenge themselves, in many ways the new A1 is the same. Having already firmly established its position in the segment, Audi has audaciously given their premium compact car a greater road stance and a more sportier appeal. They’ve added comfort, increased its technological prowess and further refined the cabin, reaffirming the A1’s role as an ultra-modern, urban-chic Sportback.