Since the Audi A1 was launched, its direct rival, the MINI, has grown and now compete in the same segment. In addition, we must not lose sight of the DS 3 (formerly Citroën DS3) and Alfa Romeo MiTo, also derived from generalist platform, but with premium aspirations. These cars get customers for the brands that otherwise would not have, or would have more late. And is it worth paying the difference?
Well, that's a matter of taste. For what it costs an A1 with a good engine or equipment, we can take a compact generalist well swollen equipment, and even interesting versions of sedans or compact SUVs. Audi has not sought to make a car too economical, and the differences are noticeable. The crux of the matter is how much money we value these differences, mainly in quality of finishes and image.
The aesthetic update is quite discreet, the untrained eye can surely confuse the previous model with the one we are analyzing. The front grille "Single Frame" is wider and with more marked edges, the bumpers have also changed slightly. In the optical groups disappears the LED signature in the form of wave, and loses the teardrop of the headlights. In the fog lights, we went from circular to square, and the associated chrome disappears.
Like an Audi A3, but smaller, more "cuqui".
As for colors, it is a car that allows a lot of customization, although the test unit is simply white. For the body we can choose 12 shades, of which four are new. The roof arch (3-door) or the roof dome (Sportback) can be painted in a contrasting color of four possible.
Not only that, when it comes to alloy wheels there is a lot of variety, between 15 and 18 inches in diameter. You can choose 17 designs, twice as many as on the previous model, some combinations are two-tone. This kind of things are what help to justify the price, being able to choose and individualize. The tested unit has 215/45 R16 tyres, an effective compromise between aesthetics, dynamic effectiveness and replacement cost of the "shoes". The rear brakes look a bit ridiculous with bigger rims.
Look at the headlights, they are xenon with LED daytime running lights, they can also be conventional halogen. If the high beam sensor is fitted, we can drive at night with greater safety, as it switches from high beam to low beam depending on the traffic. The rear light clusters are also LED.
The range of the Audi A1 is divided into equipment lines. These levels determine the standard equipment, the basic "Attraction" is supplemented by the three equipment lines "Attracted", "Adrenalin", "Adrenalin²" and "Design". It is not only the equipment that is determined, but also the aesthetic aspects. For those with deeper pockets, the "S Line" package, which costs around 2,000 euros, is available. The downside of so much customization is that if we look for a used one with everything we want, it will cost us a while to find it.
Our test unit, being one of the first manufactured, is configured independently. It is what internally is called "Variantenbaum", so there is no direct equivalence with the lines defined a posteriori. This unit is more easily overlooked, but anyone who wants to show off will be able to do so. Since there is so much freedom of choice, you can even make an A1 to the male or female taste.
If we start rummaging through the official A1 configurator, we can get lost in the amount of options and possibilities it offers. As if that wasn't enough, there are options that are incompatible with each other, which can make us go nuts. It is impressive how much the price can go up, if we get lost putting options and wheels we can reach 30,000 euros, and without exaggeration, with a fairly normal engine. That's what it takes to be Premium.
In the interior it is even more difficult to distinguish a current A1 from the previous one, because there are only a few changes in trims and upholstery.
The most striking feature is the new Audi MMI Plus infotainment system. Before that, I'll tell you what the different radios are like. The most basic is the Chorus, with radio and CD player, integrated monochrome screen. Above it has the Concert, which already incorporates the top color screen with 6.5 inches. It adds the auxiliary connector, two SD card readers and a total of eight speakers.
Bluetooth connectivity, both phone and Audio Streaming, is optional, within the Connectivity package, 320 euros. The basic navigation function is also optional, it raises the price by 1,010 euros, but at least it includes Bluetooth. Our photos show the MMI Navigation Plus, 2,810 euros, which adds all of the above, a 20 GB hard drive, DVD player, voice recognition... But it's still very expensive. With the latest model you can access the Internet and share the connection via WiFi with passengers.
The central screen brings together various functions, as we can see in the pictures: phone, car (Audi Drive Select), information, navigation, audio settings, sound sources or radio. This screen is not tactile, and if it were it would be uncomfortable to handle because of its position. Instead of the typical MMI control near the gearbox, it's operated with the button panel next to the radio-CD. In its most luxurious specification can have up to 14 speakers signed by BOSE.
Otherwise, the Audi A1 maintains its previous features. In the front seats we will sit at our ease, although it is a small car, because there is good space and the adjustment possibilities are satisfactory. The problem comes when we look at the rear seats. They are still just as uncomfortable, because the exterior design puts form before function.
The rear bench seat can be chosen with two or three seats. My recommendation is to choose a two-seater, because it's more comfortable, the middle seat is practically only suitable for children. If we look at the pictures, we can see that the seat is very inclined, raising the knees, and with the backrest a little straight. It's a trick to make the car look wider than it is, but as a passenger I'm not convinced. And in the three-door the headroom is lower, and there's not much headroom in the Sportback. A person of generous stature will have to ride in the front or he/she won't want to get any higher in the car.
Various storage solutions are available, a few of which are optional. You even have to pay 40 euros for the cable that connects your iPhone, USB or mobile phone via Micro-USB. It's 40 euros for each cable, they plug into the glove box. Did it cost that much for one or two USBs in the centre console, like everyone else does? At least the car stands out in other areas, such as better soundproofing or better quality materials. Most B-segment cars have rock-hard plastics, but in the Audi A1 that aspect has been taken care of a lot more.
With respect to the previous generation of MINI, the Audi A1 had a clear advantage in trunk capacity, but that's over. The MINI 5-door, comparable model Audi A1 Sportback, improves the capacity by a few liters although the exterior dimensions of both are virtually the same. The MINI is a little better used, as the exterior design does not limit you in the same way.
When we lift the boot lid, the light clusters go with them, so for safety reasons LED auxiliary groups are kept so that the car is visible in any case, either with the position lights or with the flashing lights. At first glance, the trunk is going to seem pretty tight. The capacity is 270 litres, and if we fold down the rear seats, we can go up to 920 litres without having a completely flat floor. The capacity does not change in the three-door model.
The trunk has two possible heights, if we choose the high will be almost flush with the loading mouth, as in the central image, the minimum height is illustrated in the image immediately above. It never has a spare wheel, it is always a puncture kit. Those who are considering buying a petrol version and converting it to LPG, will have it very complicated, almost all A1s have the 12 volt battery there. In the case of choosing the sound system Audi Sound System or BOSE, both with bass box, you can not use the lower position of the trunk. It has lighting, 12-volt socket and some optional charging solutions.
With the restyling, Audi has taken the opportunity to completely renew the range of engines to offer tighter consumption and comply with Euro 6 pollutant emissions. Although not the subject of this test, we cite as a major novelty the two new three-cylinder engines, the 1.0 TFSI (95 hp) and 1.4 TDI (90 hp). The 1.6 TDI engine has gained 11 bhp of power while reducing its thirst a little. The previous 105 hp model did 0-100 km/h in 10.5 seconds and reached 190 km/h, but the engine under review manages to reduce acceleration to 9.4 seconds, and raise the top speed to 200 km/h. The maximum torque remains the same, 250 Nm, only now it is available at a higher rev range. With a manual gearbox, it reports 3.5 l/100 km, slightly less than the 3.9 l/100 km it promised before.
The 1.6 TDI improves its performance significantly in the new model.
In the specific case in question, the S tronic gearbox has seven speeds and two clutches, the homologation is 3.7 l/100 km, with the same performance. The main novelty is that, if we combine it with the Audi Drive Select, we can choose the most efficient mode, in which the box automatically inserts the neutral point when we do not ask for acceleration. It is an efficient driving technique that is not recommended to anyone with manual transmission because it reduces active safety, but as it is fully automated, it is not the least inconvenient. The Audi A1 uses the PQ25 platform of the VAG Group, which premiered the fourth-generation SEAT Ibiza in 2008, so for dynamic purposes is very similar to its Spanish cousin, the Volkswagen Polo (which is also manufactured in Spain) and the Skoda Fabia. Yes, the Audi A1 is the only one of them that can have all-wheel drive, but only in the most powerful versions.
Is the Audi A1 is therefore more premium than Ibiza, Fabia or Polo? If we ignore the more powerful versions, we will speak mainly of better insulation. In the Audi can choose different suspension settings, but mechanically is the same, front axle with McPherson struts and rear torsion beam with springs. MINI still offers as a differentiating factor independent suspension to all four wheels. To date, there is advanced equipment, such as automatic braking, which can be chosen in its generalist cousins, but not in the A1, things that only they understand in the VAG Group. Hopefully this technology will soon be available on the A1, it doesn't make sense that the premium of the quartet doesn't even have it as an option.
Like the model it replaced, the Audi A1 has four suspension systems. The standard one will satisfy most drivers in the segment who are looking for more comfort. In a second place is the sports suspension, which lowers the height by 10 mm, and has a firmer tarado. This would be the choice of those who want a slightly sportier feel, but do not want a very dry car damping. Then there is the S Line suspension, lowered by 15 mm compared to the standard, focused on the most dynamic drivers.
If this car is to travel usually accompanied, the first two suspensions are recommended, as loading the car further reduces the spring and damper stroke, and the loss of comfort will be sharper. Something similar would happen in the case of the MINI, it has several settings to choose from. By the way, except in the most powerful gasoline versions, these settings can not be varied on the fly, although it incorporates the Audi Drive Select, which is new in the 2015 model.
Yes we can choose the response of the steering, accelerator pedal or automatic transmission.
In front of the gear lever has a button that allows us to choose between three modes: "efficiency", "auto" and "dynamic". In the first mode, fuel economy is prioritized with a more sluggish throttle and a gearbox that uses the longest possible ratio. If we lift the accelerator pedal, the automatic gearbox will select neutral to make the most of the inertia. As soon as you touch the accelerator or brake, the function is deactivated - there's nothing new to learn. By the way, all versions of the A1 can have automatic gearbox, it is a point in its favor compared to many competitors.
The "auto" mode will serve for most situations, and the "dynamic" is for cornering, as it stretches the development of the gears to have better acceleration at all times, obviously in exchange for consuming more. If we do not equip the paddles behind the steering wheel (optional), you can use the sequential mode with the lever itself, pushing it to the left aisle. Unlike the Alfa Romeo MiTo, stability control always works the same way, the Italian does alter that operation with its DNA button. Apart from Audi Drive Select, ESP can be activated, relaxed and deactivated.
The automatic gearbox S tronic, called DSG in the other brands of the Group, is ideal for abandoning the manual transmission. Compared to the first versions the operation is smoother at low speed maneuvering, and the seven speeds make good use of the diesel engine analyzed. The less pleasant areas of the engine are avoided, so we will have a better feeling of rolling quality. With respect to an average driver, the S tronic can save diesel because it is much more aware of what is the correct ratio at all times.
Trying to keep fuel consumption as low as possible, it was not difficult to get under 4 l/100 km, as in lower-powered versions with higher gears. Those who want maximum economy should consider the new 1.4 TDI 90 hp in the A1 ultra version, a good lighter. The 115 hp 1.6 TDI engine has a good balance between fuel consumption and performance. Throughout the test it consumed 4.7-4.8 l/100 km, a little above what the computer said. With 45 liters, that allows us to do 900 km to reach zero range, and there are still a few extra liters that should not be rushed.
I found the engine very pleasant in general, it doesn't have as much "petrol" feel as the previous generation 1.9 TDI, which the A1 has never had. I think it has the ideal displacement for a car of this type, neither too much nor too little. On the move what we will hear most are the wheels, the engine ends up going unnoticed, especially with the seven-speed S tronic. Shifts are instantaneous and without loss of power. The Stop&Start is standard, as in any A1, it only lacks some smoothness to the engine after stopping.
What else is different from the previous A1? Only the steering feel, because the hydraulic steering has been replaced by an electromechanical one, which only consumes energy when the steering wheel is turned. If you're used to the first type of steering you might notice too much assistance now, even if you choose the "dynamic" mode. In my opinion, the majority of its target audience will like it as it is.
As for the handling, it goes as it should. Entering the corners a bit overdriven, it will tend to understeer. There is a notable difference with respect to its generalist cousins, in most versions the 12-volt battery is housed under the floor of the trunk, inside the spare wheel well, which neither has nor can have. It's a common measure when you want to reduce weight differences between axles, so the rear has a little extra support in extreme situations. Is it easy to notice that difference? For most people, no.
Very few things have changed to be talking about an Audi, and that the platform on which it is based must be more than amortized after so many units sold Ibiza, Polo and Fabia. The difference with respect to the MINI has been cut, but it has been more for the rival's moves, than for those of the brand of the rings. At the price they sell the A1, I would find it hard to think that it would not be a profitable product. There is still time for the second generation to come, based on the MQB platform, so it is to be expected that this model will receive more updates even if they are not aesthetic.
If we do not take into account the changes in the engines, it is an update that would almost go unnoticed.
You can clearly notice the difference between the 1.6 TDI 105 and 116 hp, the performance figures have improved and consumption has not increased, so the engine is better used. I drove the A1 with the 105 hp engine back in the day, and I'd be lying if I said I noticed any difference other than performance. More change is noticeable in the entry-level engines, 1.0 TFSI 95 hp in the case of petrol, 1.4 TDI 90 hp for diesel. Both engines are three-cylinder and replace the 1.2 TFSI and 1.6 TDI of similar power.
In addition to the difference in performance or consumption that may be, there is the question of how well Audi has isolated the engines so you do not notice that mechanically are naturally unbalanced. As I have not checked what result these two engines give, I can not make a fair judgment. In some cases, a well-insulated three-cylinder can make us forget what's under the hood. If, on the other hand, it's not well insulated, it's very noticeable. The 1.6 TDI, in that sense, is a nice balanced engine for a diesel, and I doubt the 1.4 TDI will achieve similar refinement, but maybe I'm wrong.