An Audi for $120k? A downsized 1.0-litre engine makes this possible
SINGAPORE — Audi’s runt of the litter, the tiny A1 hatchback, has always been a unique offering.
Based on the Volkswagen Polo (or to toe the PR line, using group synergies to generate a wide range of offerings across brands), it’s smaller than rivals like the BMW 1 Series or Mercedes-Benz A-Class, while being in the same price bracket as ‘semi-premium’ hatchbacks a size up, such as the Volkswagen Golf and Volvo V40.
First debuting in 2011, the A1 was sold with the familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged engine here with 122bhp ‘normal’ and even the gutsy 185bhp ‘almost-but-not-quite-officially-an-S1’, and now it gets a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine to match its name.
The VW Group was one of the first to go big with small-capacity turbocharged engines, as we know, with blown in-line fours such as the 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and 2.0-litre found throughout the brand, and group’s, various products.
However it’s quite curious to see that VW’s been later than other carmakers in introducing teeny, tiny turbos. Kei cars aside, the smallest turbocharged engines for modern cars would be those with the capacity of a milk carton.
A 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo has been announced by Honda as part of its new engine line-up, and Ford’s already brought one to market with the Fiesta hatch, while we get the 1.6 diesel, Renault sells its Clio 1.0 turbo petrol overseas.
While a turbocharged 1.0 has been found in VW’s up! city car (in a non-turbo state) for some time now, as well as in the face-lifted Polo (albeit overseas – we get the 1.2), it’s now found under the hood of the lightly face-lifted A1 you see here.
While it’s down 27bhp on the previous 1.4-litre model, and subsequently takes 11.1 seconds to reach 100km/h , rather than 8.9 seconds previously, it’s not as huge a loss as it sounds on paper.
Being a compact hatch, a car like the A1 spends most of its time on part throttle zipping around town. The turbo engine’s sufficient 160Nm of torque, flexible powerband and the snappy dual-clutch gearbox means it loses very little competence in its main course of work. Ironically, the three-cylinder engine, like all triples, has a lovely off-beat burble that sounds a bit more exciting than the drone of a straight-four.
Where it more than makes up for the loss of pace is frugality: Even amongst small cars, the revised A1 is conspicuously frugal. Fuel consumption drops from 5.3L/100km to just 4.4L/100km, which means you’ll regularly achieve sub-6.0L/100km in mixed daily driving.
Lesser cost from a smaller engine also means the A1 packs more equipment now such as xenon lights, parking sensors, Bluetooth telephony/streaming and sport seats.
It’s still not a huge car though, as five adults is still something of a squeeze, and the luggage space is just 270-litres. While the cabin is still decently presented with Audi’s ‘surfacing’, the car’s refinement isn’t top-notch and the Polo platform’s noise and jiggles sometimes still show through.
At this price level though, it’s difficult to find something premium and German for the same amount of money, and that, plus the frugal drivetrain, is likely to be the prime motivator for those interested in this one.
NEED TO KNOW Audi A1 Sportback 1.0
Engine 999cc, 16V, inline 3, turbocharged
Power 95bhp at 5000-5500rpm
Torque 160Nm at 1500-3500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 186km/h
0-100km/h 11.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.4L/100km
Price $122,000 with COE
Also Consider: Mini One, Volvo V40