2019 Audi A1 Review
Paul Horrell’s 2019 Audi A1 Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Practicality, Infotainment, Safety, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL Perfectly acceptable supermini you can spec with lots of tech. But it leans too heavily on Audi’s image than on any intrinsic distinction.
2019 Audi A1 Specifications (European spec)
Price N/A Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engine 1.0L petrol turbo Power 85kW at 5000-5500rpm Torque 200Nm at 2000-3500rpm Transmission 6-speed manual, 7-speed DCT auto Drive front-wheel drive Body 4029mm (l); 1740mm (w exc mirrors); 1940mm (w inc mirrors); 1409mm (h) Turning circle 10.5m Towing NAkg (braked), NAkg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1105kg (manual) Seats 5 Fuel tank 40 litres Spare Space saver Thirst 4.9 l/100km combined cycle
You’ve read about 2018’s Volkswagen Polo. Well here it is again, in a fancy Audi frock. We don’t have Oz prices yet, but history says Audi always asks more than Volkswagen, itself hardly a bargain-bucket brand.
What is the 2019 Audi A1?
It’s a solidly made light car, and like the Polo it’s somewhat larger than the norm. That brings a bigger back seat and boot that you might have expected.
Like any Audi, it stands out from other small cars by its advanced infotainment and connectivity features, and also by its LED exterior lighting.
It launches with a little 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, but later on there will be a 1.5-litre and the 2.0 out of the VW Polo GTI. That’s just the regular front-drive A1; for a full-house quattro S1 you’ll have to wait longer.
Talking of S models, Audi says the A1’s design channels the heroic mid-1980s Sport Quattro S1 rally car. That’s why it has three openings above the grille, and creased arch bulges, and a rhombus-shape C-pillar. But it’s a 1.0-litre hatchback; it’s unworthy to invoke this www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqREtbLe4sY
What’s the interior like?
For a small car it’s roomy alright. OK you don’t get the stretch room of the tall Honda Jazz, but compared with regular low-slung hatches you won’t get more space or a bigger boot.
The front seats are superbly supportive and the steering wheel adjusts in both directions. But the seat cushion doesn’t tilt; it just changes angle as you adjust height.
The design is tidy and looks good in photos, with a binnacle for the driver encompassing a pair of air vents, surrounded by a frame that sorta mimics the radiator grille surround out in front of the car.
But Audi usually scores by its delightful perceived quality. I expected to find spring-loaded cupholders, and door bins lined in carpet, and highly engineered air vents, and soft-touch skins to the insides of the doors. I didn’t. Every one of those things in the A1 is just simple scratchy hard plastic. The perceived quality is no higher than the decade-old outgoing car.
The climate controls are very nicely executed though, with neat illuminated displays and satisfying click actions to the knobs and buttons. Same with the steering wheel buttons. But really, the A1 leans far too hard on the infotainment to serve up any sophistication or punch.
Many versions also come with Audi’s ‘Virtual Cockpit’, the screen for the driver’s instruments. It will switch to a big map, which is useful if passengers want to use the central screen for entertainment. But if you display that big map in the instrument cluster the speedo shrinks to a tiny size, so it’s too easy to lose speed awareness. In fact all of the possible instrument layouts are busy, distracting and harder to read than the wonderful big hardware dials Audi used to have.
In the back there’s head and leg space for two grownups and a third can wedge between. But apart from space, people in the back will feel pretty unloved. In standard European trim you’ll find no adjustable vents, no cup-holders, no centre armrest, no seat-back pockets and no power points.
In front, the centre armrest has a storage box beneath it. It’s an old-style lever handbrake not an electric one, so that takes up a fair bit of space between the driver and passenger. There are cupholders and a tray under the climate controls, which sports 12V and USB-A and USB-C sockets.
The boot’s a thumping great (for a small car) 335 litres, with space underneath for a spare wheel. Upper-spec A1s get a double-height boot floor, but my tester just had a single volume.
What’s the infotainment like?
Here’s where the A1 claws back its ground. The cost-optional system is called MMI Touch. It’s an online-enabled system with excellent navigation that can display satellite images, with excellent resolution and smooth pinch-to-zoom.
It has a nicely flexible search function for destinations. Just input a word and it’ll root around online directories of street names, businesses and more. The voice recognition, using cloud computing, has a good ear. You can also input destinations by writing on the touchscreen. It helps to be left-handed I guess, but I’m not and I can still do it.
You have to do it all by the screen. Audi has abandoned its (excellent) system of physical control wheel and hardware menu buttons.
The stereo isn’t bad, but altering the tone is a bit of a faff, buried too deep in the touchscreen menus, rather than being directly accessible from a radio or media screen. As an extra-cost option you can upgrade the speakers and amp.
Instead of the MMI Touch, the standard infotainment still includes a decent central screen. It includes navigation and a smartphone interface.
That said, the CarPlay integration isn’t all that clever; it takes a couple of button-jabs to switch between the native system (which you might be using for radio) and the CarPlay display. There’s no shortcut. Also, you can’t get a split-screen that shows the CarPlay music track alongside a window to the inbuilt navigation – like you can on any Kia or Hyundai.
What’s the performance like?
At the European sales launch, we have only the 1.0-litre three-cylinder, although by the time it comes to Oz we can expect 1.5 four-pot and 2.0 engines to have joined the range.
Anyway, the 1.0 suits the car really well. It’s very quiet, reasonably lively if the car isn’t loaded down, and cruises peacefully at European speeds of 140km/h.
When it’s started from cold, or you’re accelerating hard, the characteristic three-cylinder chatter is audible, but it’s actually quite endearing rather than harsh. It makes 0-100km/h in 9.5 seconds.
The muscle, such as it is, is distributed well down in the rev range, and the gear ratios are long. Result is you tend to drive it at around 1500-2500rpm most of the time, and this gives excellent fuel economy as well as quiet running. In rural driving it was giving me similar figures to what I’d usually get from a small diesel. Excellent.
I was in the six-speed manual. Its shift is a typical Audi solid movement. There’s also a 7-speed DCT auto option. It’s not the nicest of the type, as it doesn’t work any too smoothly in stop-start city traffic.
What’s it like on the road?
Check out our VW Polo review. The A1 is that, only a little more firmly sprung.
Most of the time it feels like a bigger car; it’s stable on highway straights, and feels well-planted in town. By the same token it’s a bit inert in corners. The body rolls little, which is good, and there’s no baby-car nervousness. But neither is there a fraction of the zest you find in a Mazda2.
The ride can be a little lumpy at speed, as if the damping isn’t all that sophisticated. But on the plus side the suspension is quiet.
Steering is progressive but very light. Brakes too are light and the pedal force doesn’t build up as your foot sinks, so until you’re used to them it’s too easy to slam them on too hard.
None of these drawbacks are dealbreakers in themselves, but overall the sense is of a lack of final polish. Given that this thing is priced against a five-door Mini that’s not good enough.
What about safety features?
It’s launching in Europe ahead of an NCAP rating, but we’d be very surprised if it didn’t do well. The closely related VW Polo scored excellently. www.ancap.com.au/safety-ratings/volkswagen/polo/4ca471
In active safety, the A1 does better than the Polo because it has a standard lane-keeping support system. This is simply activated by a button on the end of the indicator stalk. When you drift to the edge of the lane it will nudge the steering so you move towards the centre again. Auto emergency braking is standard, as with the Polo.
Bright LED headlights are great if you drive out of town at night. Other safety features are stuck on the options list, at least in Europe. They include blind-spot assist and a reversing camera.