FIRST DRIVE | The new 2019 Audi A1 Sportback scores again

Brenwin Naidu takes a spin in Audi's latest premium compact hatchback

11 September 2019 - 15:19 By Brenwin Naidu
The 2019 Audi A1 Sportback
The 2019 Audi A1 Sportback
Image: Supplied

In 2007 Audi launched its Metroproject concept, with the view to competing in the premium compact hatchback segment. It became the A1 in production form and was launched to the world in 2010. As its popularity on local roads will attest, the model became quite a hit. Last week the second-generation car arrived in SA.

Right from the get-go you can tell that it is an all-new model. These days we cannot really accuse Audi of being overly conservative when it comes to product evolutions — this is not merely a 2010 version after a wash and polish.

It is marginally bigger than the outgoing car, being longer, with an increase in wheelbase. Certainly, a whole lot sharper in appearance, with a far edgier slant and a more aggressive aura overall.

Also, bye-bye three-door variant. You can only have the A1 in Sportback flavour now. Appropriately, the cabin mirrors the newfound angularity of the exterior. The customary Multi-Media Infotainment (MMI) screen is driver-centric in its position. This is the latest guise of the setup, as featured in the flagship Q8 and recently launched Q3.

We can award it top marks for its intuitive nature and easy operation.

Buyers can also specify the Virtual Cockpit system for that extra level of digitisation befitting the sensibilities of this connected era we live in.

Even the base A1 Sportback comes standard with a fully digital instrument cluster with a high-resolution 8.8-inch display
Even the base A1 Sportback comes standard with a fully digital instrument cluster with a high-resolution 8.8-inch display
Image: Supplied

As for quality? Well, things are screwed together tightly, as you would expect. But unexpected is the presence of low-rent plastics, particularly on the door panels, showing far too much kinship with its cousin, the Volkswagen Polo.

Anyway, let us talk about engine derivatives. And pay attention because this obviously involves a citation of the confusing new naming convention adopted by Audi, where horsepower, rather than displacement, is signified.

But the first thing to note is that all are paired with S-Tronic, dual-clutch automatics — no rowing your own.

The entry-level version is powered by a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged unit. In 30 TFSI guise, you get 85kW and 200Nm.

Moving onto the new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged powerplant — denoted by the 35 TFSI suffix. That delivers 110kW and 250Nm.

Then, at the top of the hierarchy (until an S1 arrives) is the 40 TFSI with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged mill producing 147kW and 320Nm.

Chances are you have already driven the new A1. Because it is fastened onto the modular architecture template that is in widespread use across the Volkswagen Group portfolio.

The virtues of MQB-underpinned vehicles are well-documented and there is undoubtedly a tangible measure of consistency in this regard.

The latest A1 treks with more confidence than one would expect from something so dainty. It dispatches directional changes sure footedly - no chances of tipping over in an abrupt, emergency lane change here.

When the first-generation A1 launched in SA in 2011, the basic 1.2 TFSI manual cost R219,000. And the most expensive 1.4 TFSI S-Tronic went for R270,500. Inflation is a frightening thing. The new A1 ranges between R359,900 and R488,000 in price.