Audi A1 1.8T FSI (2015) Review

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The Audi A1 received a mild facelift not so long ago and first impressions were generally good. The new Audi A1 arrived at our offices and while we were hoping to sample the new 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor, quietly we were smiling when the performance-biased 1.8T FSI arrived. How did it do?

Premium Offering

The A1 is Audi's entry-level product and on paper at least, promises premium and luxury bundled into a compact product. Based on the Volkswagen Polo and sharing some of its underpinnings, comparisons are inevitable, but we can tell you straight away that the premium you pay over an A1 is justifiable when you look at the build quality and premium touches. That's not to say the Polo is poorly built, when it's actually a quality offering, but the Audi is just that little bit more premium.

Our Audi A1 1.8T came in Mythos Black and had some subtle matte black decals on the A-, B- and C-pillars, as well as on the rear bumper. This model is distinguished by the prominent red splitter at the front, which gives it a bit of a boy racer edge.

Powering this Audi A1 1.8T FSI is a tried-and-tested 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor pushing out 141kW and 250Nm. Performance fans will notice the similarities between this and the Volkswagen Polo GTI in terms of outputs and essentially it's the same engine. Power reaches the front wheels through a 7-speed twin-clutch S Tronic transmission.

Strangely there's a lack of shift paddles located behind the steering wheel, which would contribute greatly to the sporty nature of this vehicle. It's claimed to be an economical engine, with Audi reporting figures of 5.6L/100km. During its week-long tenure, we saw figures of around 8L/100km and the tank capacity is rated at 45L.

On The Road

On the road, the Audi A1 1.8T has generally good manners although testers noted the ride was firm and jarring on certain sections of tarmac. Granted, tarmac in the vicinity of the office is being resurfaced and parts of it are in poor condition. We suspect the smart-looking 17-inch alloys are also not helping its case. On smooth roads at the urban speed limit, the Audi A1 1.8T is sporty and firm, which is appropriate for a car of this nature. Throw some corners into the mix and the fun side of the Audi A1 1.8T comes out, and it offers a spirited driving experience. Audi claims this enjoyment comes from the new electro mechanical steering system.

The car is lacking launch control which means getting it off the line is a little tricky, but its the in-gear acceleration which is the real strength of the S Tronic transmission. Gearshifts are effortlessly quick and without hesitation. Kickdowns are quick too, with the car being able to get to 3rd gear from 6th without any obvious momentum changes. If only all twin-clutch gearboxes were this good.

Mash the accelerator to the floor and Audi says you'll reach 100kph in 6.8 seconds. Our testing revealed this figure was about right, with the timing equipment proudly displaying a 7.1. If the car had launch control, we're confident of getting about mid-6s, but that would be a little too close to the flagship Audi S1, wouldn't it? Top speed is rated at an optimistic 250kph...

Specification and Optional Extras

In true Audi fashion our test unit was generously fitted with optional extras and these included MMI navigation (R24 700), panoramic glass roof (R11 220), roofline decals (R4 470), cruise control (R3 250), black styling package (R2 040) and a decal set for the rear (R1 800). Strangely leather seats are an option and we're disappointed that a vehicle with this price tag lacks quality seats. This brings the optional extras total to R47 750 and you can make your own mind up on whether its absolutely necessary to fork out for these things. Audi is going down the MINI/Fiat 500 route and making a number of personalisation options available, so you can go wild with your choices.

Verdict

The Audi A1 1.8T Sportback is a good car, there's no doubting that. However questions about value for money will be asked when you're paying almost R400 000 for a small city car, regardless of how premium and luxurious it feels. That said, it's remarkably premium and the build quality is exceptional and if you're wanting something a bit more mature than a Volkswagen Polo GTI, but can't quite stretch to one of the bonkers Audi S1 flagship models, then this will do nicely. Or, be sensible and buy an Audi A3 which is bigger and more practical, and about the same price too.

Audi A1 1.8T FSI Price in South Africa

The Audi A1 range starts from R265 000 for the base-spec three-door 1.0T S, while the 1.8T Sportback goes for R390 000. This exact vehicle with its extras came to R437 750. Included in the price is a 1-year unlimited warranty and a 5 year/100 000km Freeway plan.

Test Team's Comments

"Luxury comes at a price but you can be assured that the Audi A1 1.8T FSI is a hoot to drive and the interior is superbly built with class." - Gero Lilleike

We Like: Refinement, Engine, Build quality

We don’t Like: Price, Interior is small, No S Tronic paddles

Also consider: Volkswagen Polo GTI, MINI Cooper S

Compare the Audi A1 to its rivals here.

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Audi A1 1.8T TFSI - Quick Specs

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