Updated: September 18, 2013
Are you familiar with the acronym DINK? It stands for Double Income No Kids, in USA. And in Europe, it's just the standard, usual lifestyle of young snazzy urbanites who are not really bothered with having extra doors on the side of their cars, because they do not need to load anyone onto the back bench. Welcome Audi A1 Hatchback, a three-door funporter for people without known offspring.
Anyhow, in this second ever review of a car on Dedoimedo, we will take a deep, long, lustful look at Audi A1, arguably the best premium small hatchback on the market, a car so delightfully sexy no one will begrudge you if you drop your pants and rub your nethers against the paintwork. Anyhow, without further ado, please join me for yet another funspin. Like software, only on wheels. Damn.
The model at hand
What we have here is an Audi A1 Hatchback, which means three doors, two massive wings at the side and one lid for your luggage. There's also a slightly larger five-door version, which facilitates entry to the rear bench, but not in the DINK version. In one-tone black, it's the classic Audi sleekness, with low-profile 215/45 R 16 tires and lovely ten-spoke alloys, colored lights in the back, in contrast to so many modern red-and-white monochrome setups, and thick double CO2 pipe protruding from the left rear end of a fat, beautiful rump. Up front, when glanced quickly approaching in your rear mirror, it is hard to distinguish from its bigger brothers, apart from the car's width.
The car comes with a basic package, and in local market Audi terms, especially compared to SEAT, this is virtually nothing. You still get a handsome set, including a leather-covered steering wheel and a gear lever, which is mated to a six-speed manual box, analog air conditioning, Audi Chorus multimedia system with just plain CD and radio, although it looks the part, electric windows and side mirrors, the aforementioned alloys, a spare wheel, which is not a given in all markets, plus two sets of floor mats, no less, one for the summer and one for the mud, so to speak. The winter set is black and coarse, and the dry set matches the car interior color.
Sounds like a lot when written in one paragraph, but it's not that much considering the fact the car costs about as much as SEAT Leon, which we have reviewed some time back, and it's supposed to be a whole one category less mighty than the Golf-based rival slash friend. Plus, in A1, you get a 1.4 turbo-flavored engine with 122 HP and 210 Nm torque, whereas the Spanish relative comes with more engine displacement, more cavalry and more physics. Audi does offer a three-year full unlimited warranty and premium 24/7 service, though.
There's Start/Stop, but no Hill Assist, no fancy road computer, no steering wheel control for your media, no USB connectivity, and so forth. If you want the posh MMI with the elegant little screen that comes up through a tiny slit in the dash, you will have to pay extra. The so-called Sport package that I had most briefly pondered, which gives you Xenons, fog lights, and the full media experience would cost an extra 3,500 Euros. Two-tone body color with different pillars, another 450 Euros. Sunroof, 1,600 Euros. And then, Audi gets positively more expensive than Leon by a whole of 4,500 of nifty currency. No thank you.
As for the actual retail, key-in-your-pocket price, well someone emailed me about SEAT, complaining I have not listed one. Well, I decided to oblige their most polite request. At my local market, the price of a brand new Audi A1, without any special discounts and such is 41,000 dollars or 30,600 Euros. No joke. Leon costs 42,400 dollars or 31,600 Euros, brand new. Enjoy. Americans, you may gloat now, because yonder, across the pond, the Space Shuttle costs less than that. And shall we complain about the fuel price?
What can I say, splendid. You really wanna hump this car. There's no angle it looks bad. It's sharp from ahead, it's sexy and sleek from the sides, it's aggressive from the rear. It's a masterpiece of lines and contours. The car is just beautiful and inviting and special. It sits well on the road and attracts glances all the time, so if you're into that kind of thing, you get it for free, after you pay the basic price, of course.
Once you open the doors, the same story all over again. Utter elegance. Everything is soft and smooth. Even the aircon vents are absolutely adorable. They are so fun to play with, and they feel like they have bearings dipped in virgin olive oil. The instrument panel and the central console are spot on in terms of aesthetics and ergonomics, and you can't fault anything. Maybe the three-stepped console might not be to everyone's taste, but it's still quite exquisite, and it grows on you, like everything else.
Practicality is a different matter, though. If you want to put things behind the front seats, or on the rear bench, you will have to exercise good shoulder dynamics. In the backyard, technically, you can seat people, provided they are less than 160 cm tall, or if they are willing to wear helmets and bend over. Honestly, even small adults will have their skulls jammed into the soft roof padding. Leg room is moderately adequate, although getting in and out is fairly easy, and the front seats fold and slide with ease. So yes, it is a DINK car, and the rear row is there only to keep the price down, because coupes are costlier.
The boot is fairly small, but good enough for small shopping, especially if you do not need 140 kg of diapers and similar condiments. When you pop the boot hatch open, Audi A1 looks like Nissan Micra, because it has two safety lights planted onto the rear wheel arches. The spare wheel, if you have one, and the car battery go both under the floor cover, the latter for a better weight distribution. Latter for better, a rhyme. Not.
The standard seats could be more supportive while driving, and the foot rest for the driver ought to be positioned maybe 3-4 centimeters forward, because taller adults conscious about their proper driving position and the right distances from the wheel and the clutch pedal, will have to bend their ankle ever so slightly to keep the foot there. You can go backwards a notch or two, but then you will ruin your fighter pilot stance. Other than that, you can get quite comfortable and tune the driving controls and peripherals to your liking. Just that left leg is going to be twitchy now and then. Maybe, go for flat-sole shoes, the kind of stylish DINK people wear.
Car doors are huge and heavy, and the seat belts are located far back, so you might want to latch them onto the seat easy-access handles for the next time you get in. And you should be mindful on not banging those gigantic doors against other cars, lamp posts or casual pedestrians. All in all, if you ignore the human transporter part of Audi A1, it's an awesome couple's car, with an elegant interior that invites you to sit and play with. You do not miss the gadgets, and they are really not necessary for the overall impression.
Audi A1 is a very fun car to drive. It is small and light and you have no trouble directing it anywhere you want it to go. You might assume the smaller engine would make it feel less agile than, say Leon, but it is not so. You can barely notice the difference in 0-100 performance, because less than a second separates the two vehicles. Officially, it's one whole second apart, but my testing shows 8.5 seconds without much trouble. Then, the little Audi comes with a decent, stiff suspension and precise steering, so it takes turns as if it runs on rails. Really composed.
In-gear flexibility is less than Leon, and the punch is less severe when you throttle hard, but it still has a proper sporty feel. Being almost 200 kg lighter, it compensates for brute power with snappiness, which is just as good as muscle. The clutch pedal is soft, the gear level slick. The engine makes a burbly noise at lower rpm, then it starts growling as you produce more emissions. All the while, you are perfectly comfy in your little DINK bullet. The grip is just phenomenal.
The ride is smooth, despite the low profile tires and stiff suspension, with the only drawback being the seats, which could offer more rib love. Overall, the 1.4-liter 122HP turbo engine is more than sufficient for massive fun all around. The bonus is, your fuel consumption will be rather low. With about 20,000 km in eight months since its registration, the car spends most of its time on a highway, cruising at about 130 km/h. With a bit of congestion now and then, plus some use of aircon, the average toll is 5.7-5.8 liters/100 km, which is quite decent. You can go as low as 5.0 liters, despite punchy accelerations and a relatively high driving speed. I am convinced that if you drive it textbook like, at 88 km/h and some mild suffocation, you can meet the official figures without any problems. Running costs and services are identical to Leon.
The one big annoyance is the Start/Stop system, which you can disengage with a press of a single button, every time you start your car. The thing is, as a physicist myself, I am not convinced this thing does anything useful apart from convincing various people that the car is green and all that nonsense. I would assume that running the engine at a steady temperature is more thermodynamically efficient and beneficial to the metal parts than switching the engine off every few minutes. Moreover, will it ruin the car's battery in the long run?
Anyhow, when Start/Stop comes online, it will probably surprise you - because the engine is too quiet, and with Adam Ant blasting in your speakers, you can't really hear it - as well as muffle your aircon, so that you suffer on all levels. Since the car has no hill hold assist installed, you will really have to practice your parking brake and clutch expertise when the engine suddenly decides to shut off at a traffic light, on a steep road.
Having only two big windows in your side doors means you cannot vent the car very efficiently when it's hot. In cars with four doors, or more, opening the rear windows will help circulate the air and bleed the heat from the cabin. Not so in Audi A1. Then, the analog aircon is not really that great. It usually needs a few seconds getting convinced to blow the cool air in, and even then, it feels as if it's doing you a favor rather than obeying the temperature you dialed in.
The boot space opens by pressing a rather cheap button below the lid of the third door, and this is less impressive than the funky badge latch used on some Volkswagen and SEAT models. Moreover, when you want to close the boot, you will have to smudge your fingers, because there's no nice strap to pull it shut, and you can't use the badge as you would a door handle. Finally, low-profile tires mean you have to be very careful when parallel-parking lest you curb them.
Since birth, there have been no defects and illnesses, and the car purrs smoothly. All internal parts and plastics fit like a rock, and the cabin is free of any ambient el-cheapo sound effects. Nothing creaks or moans, and there is no plick-plicking when it gets hot and stuff expands.
Audi A1 is a really beautiful, exciting and fun little hatch, with two symbolic rear seats that can probably house children, a paradox really. The car is exceptionally well styled, and it has an aura of aristocratic suave about it, no matter which angle you look at it, no matter the lighting conditions, or mud on your paint.
It is a bit expensive, and you don't get too much for your stash of coins, at least not in terms of accessories. You do get an excellent powertrain, superb handling, and a composed ride, which should satisfy the most. Plus the great looks, right. Now, most people like to compare this car to a Mini and such, but I have no experience with the latter, so I will not make any. Regardless of the competition, Audi A1 1.4 TFSI is an awesome funbox that should help you decide whether you want offspring or not. And most likely, you will not. Grade: 9/10, but Audi guys are cheap with their default specs. There you go.