Audi A1 (2015) First Drive

02 Audi A1 72 Dpi

A new week, a new Audi... That was a reality not too long ago. Seemingly nothing could stop the German brand from pumping out new models and niche cars to suit all sorts of tastes. Thankfully perhaps, the somewhat frenetic pace has calmed down and Audi is currently focusing on a core group of models that is lead by the A1. We attended the launch of the facelifted A1 in Johannesburg to get the lowdown on the updated hatchback.

What’s new for the facelift?

It’s a minor exterior update that is mostly restricted to revised rectangular fog lights at the front and a new bumper. The rear has new light clusters and there are three new paint colours to choose from. The range now has a new lineup of engines. Even the carry over power units have been developed further to be more efficient and more powerful. The S-Tronic double-clutch gearbox is also now available on all models (except the S1) and there’s a three-cylinder one-litre model to start off the new range. With the A1 competing in the so-called boutique end of the market, it is also important to note that Audi claims there are up to 250 000 different combinations of trim and colours to choose from on your A1.

New Engine Range

This is the debut of the three-cylinder petrol engine from Audi and the A1 gets to be the guinea pig. At 1-Litre in capacity and boosted with a turbocharger, the engine pushes out 70 kW and 160 Nm. It feels strong and with the manual five-speed gearbox is quite fun to drive. In fact, it’s so good it puts the 1.4 in the shade. The 1.4 is up to 92 kW now with 200 Nm of torque.

We drove this with the S-Tronic ‘box which maybe took a bit away from the bottom end grunt that was more evident in the 1-Litre manual. The new 1.8 TFSI engine has been transplanted from the VW Polo GTI and dropped into the A1 with 141 kW and 250 Nm of torque. This engine really shows off the sportiness of the A1 and its taut chassis. Topping off the range is the S1’s engine that we drove back in December 2014 with its mad 170 kW and 370 Nm.

What’s it like to drive?

The A1 is firm and sporty. It particularly likes smooth roads, but deals with the odd bump reasonably well. There’s good grip and feel from the chassis, but the all-new electric steering makes it feel a bit disconnected from the wheels. The system adapts the weight of the steering wheel depending on the speed you’re travelling, so it gets heavier the faster you go. It saves a bit on fuel in the long run, but I do miss the old, pure mechanical systems. Still, wind the Audi A1 through some bends and it’s a good handler, with the firm ride and stiff suspension setup coming to the fore when it’s time to play.

Audi A1 Pricing

Audi has simultaneously released both the three-door and Sportback versions (five-door) in South Africa. When picking competitors you would definitely want to consider Mini and at the bottom end maybe even the new Opel Adam. Pricing for the 1-Litre A1 starts at R265 000 and climbs up to R390 000 for a 1.8T FSI Sportback with S-Tronic. The S1 is priced at R452 500 for the three-door and R460 000 for the S1 Sportback.

Audi A1 Price in South Africa

Audi A1 prices