AUDI — Always Understand Deutsche Ideen
Car Reviewed: AUDI A1 Sportback S-line 30 TFSI
OK, that’s not precisely Vorsprung durch Technik, but each time an Audi is due to come my way, I get a sense of anticipation. So, did the A1 Sportback deliver? Yes!
It’s a smart little car with a 1-litre, 3-cylinder engine that could growl a bit if you wanted some sporty driving or that pottered along quietly at relatively low revs…provided you changed gear (via a super 6-speed manual gearbox) to prevent that typically-3-cylinder reverberation; yes, the VAG group, like most manufacturers of 3-cylinder engines, has over the years improved that aspect, but it’s still apparent.
The car’s instrument panel includes guidance on when to change gear; this would be for economic efficiency reasons, but I preferred to change gear when it suited me and my overall indicated consumption, at 50.4 mpg, still exactly matched the S-line’s WLTP combined figure.
My drive was over a good mix of town, cross-country and motorway. The A1 has the usual stop/start system to aid the economy and emissions slightly; this is, of course, laudable; however, having chatted recently to a man whose business has long been to repair failed starter motors, I learnt that his business is suddenly booming with starter motors from much newer cars, because of their stop/start systems. So, in the end, are they a false economy?
The S-line is on fatter tyres than other A1 derivatives that achieve slightly better consumption figures. Still, with the 40-litre fuel tank, this could give a beneficial range of 550 miles. Driving was easy and enjoyable.
The engine produces 110PS at 5000rpm and can reach 62mph in around 10.5 seconds. That’s perfectly brisk enough for most conditions, but the mid-range torque for overtaking comes in at a handy 2000-3000 rpm.
The car has impeccable road manners: the braking, steering and handling are without fault. The ride is relatively supple, and Audi seems to have long passed the days when its suspension and seats’ main role appeared to be to remind the occupants of all of any road’s imperfections; now, thankfully, their cars, including the A1, provide very comfortable transport. And it’s very well put together. As a practical car for a couple, maybe with two young children, it’s a capable hatchback.
The boot is nicely carpeted. There’s a spare wheel well under the floor, but no spare wheel, so that provides a neat little extra space for any smaller items that might best be hidden from sight.
On a historical note, and to return to the theme at the top, Audi’s founder was Horch; Horch had not been allowed to keep his name on this second car he created because the name now legally belonged to the car builders who’d taken over after his first car. Horch’s son was studying Latin, and it was he who suggested to Horch that the new car should be Audi. Why? Because the surname Horch actually means ‘listen’ and ‘listen’ in Latin is ‘Audi’.
Oh, and the test car was in ‘Python Yellow’. One busy day I stopped to let a man cross the road in front of me; he was aged maybe about sixty and wearing a bright purple pullover, green trousers and yellow shoes. He stopped and touched the bonnet. “Wow!” he exclaimed, “That is just a fantastic colour…I LOVE it!!” …Each to his own!
For the A1 Sportback S-line, Audi asks £27,290.
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.