Audi e-tron prototype: preview of the first purely electrically powered model from the brand

Audi’s Bubbly New Baby

The original A1 Sportback that Audi claims started the premium compact hatch sector back in 2010 is now into its second generation, available already, and it’s smarter in every way you can imagine.

The original A1 Sportback that Audi claims started the premium compact hatch sector back in 2010 is now into its second generation, available already, and it’s smarter in every way you can imagine. The looks are honed so that it almost resembles a low riding Q2, its overhangs are nipped and tucked, wheel arches exaggerated.

It’s a bit longer too than it was previously, which frees up some much needed interior space, and comes with some trick Audi Connect apps, given as how it is permanently connected to the Internet. This will be increasingly useful as self driving technology develops, facilitating car-to-car communication.

The new line-up features two engines, neither of which is a diesel. Both are direct injection turbos, one a 1.0L three-pot (powering the 30 models), the other a 1.5L four cylinder variant for the S-Line range topper (a 35 model, under Audi’s new power by numbers nomenclature). No manual transmissions, just a seven-speed twin clutcher, and no three-door variants either, just five door models.

The A1 rides on the Group’s MQB-A0 architecture and drives the front wheels only, though you might well expect a quattro S1 at some point, powered by a 2.0L turbo engine. Audi is keeping mum about that currently.

As to details, the A1 Sportback, Audi’s compact city car, grows in stature, now out to 4092mm, up 76mm with a wheelbase stretch of 43mm. That’s gone largely into rear seat legroom along with a significant (65L) increase in luggage capacity, out to 335L. Simple split folding creates a level loadspace, though the front section is elevated slightly.

The two engines mentioned are good for 85kW/200Nm and 110kW/250Nm, the latter’s torque maxed out from 1500-3500rpm. Though it has a touch of initial lag off the mark, it’s the three-pot that’s the more characterful of the pair, and it provides the motive power for the entry level A1 30 TFSI ($39,400) and also for the A1 30 TFSI Advanced (a spec upgrade) costing $42,900. Audi quotes a sprint time of 9.5sec for the models with the wee triple and 7.7sec for the 35.

Styling is a definite win for the second-gen A1 Sportback. It’s more purposeful, the reduced overhangs giving it a modern appearance, and the trio of vents up front at the leading edge of the bonnet is a nice throwback to sporty Audis of last century. Inside is also more vibrant, with digital instruments (Virtual Cockpit in the top model) and a new touchscreen in the centre console, aimed a little towards the driver. There are some cost cutting measures, like hard plastics here and there, and an old-school handbrake whereas most now opt for an electronic device.

Base models you enter by key and start the engine the same way. Spec for the entry-level 30 variant includes 16-inch alloys, parking aids and a rear view camera, halogen headlights and cloth upholstery. Both lots of smartphones will connect with the head unit, meaning navigation is possible. The Advanced model adds LED headlights, 17-inch alloys, a black highlights package including a black roof, and a multifunction steering wheel.

The S line adds 18-inch black and silver alloys, sports suspension and seats, black headlining, adaptive cruise control, a comfort key and a body kit. Plus the bigger engine of course, and it costs $47,900. Customisation options, as before, are numerous.

The drive programme was pretty much sopping so we can’t tell you much about dynamics, although the 30 rode with suitable aplomb, features the handy S enlivening mode at the shift lever, and feels nippy enough for town and around use. A quick town blat in the S Line showed it to be more premium inside, but not hugely quicker.

Competitors include other premium compacts like Mini hatch and Countryman, along with small SUVs like Q2. The new A1 makes the A-Class seem expensive by comparison but Mazda’s new 3 should also be seen now as a competitor in this highbrow sector, given its newfound levels of build quality and refinement.