Peter Anderson takes on the new 2020 Audi A1 range which is now available here in Australia.
When I were a lad, many moons ago, you wouldn’t dream of a premium German manufacturer selling a small car. Just not on. Which is kind of silly, really, because that’s what they did in their home markets when they got going again after World War II.
In 2010 Audi released their first small hatchback. It was the undeniably pretty A1, made to go up against BMW’s Mini and Merc’s Smart ForFour which was a Mitsubishi Colt.
Almost a decade later, we have the second-generation A1. Bigger and heavier, it’s also got a fresh look inside and out. To tackle the Mini, though, it’s going to have to be good to drive. Whatever you think of the Mini’s looks (and very existence), it’s good fun.
2020 Audi A1 30 TFSI
Let’s start at the bottom, shall we? The 30 TFSI is the range-opener and packs a 1.0-litre turbo triple. It spins up a reasonable 85kW and better-than-expected 200Nm. All A1s are front-wheel drive and in the 30, you get a seven-speed twin-clutch.
You know what? It’s fun. While the car I drove in Tasmania was on the 17-inch wheel and tyre package, it rides the best of the lot of them and despite lacking grunt, is tremendous fun. You won’t stay with too many cars – although 9.4 seconds is a respectable 0-100km/h sprint – but the steering and suspension are just right.
There isn’t a great deal of feedback, but you can get the wee beastie up to speed and enjoy threading it through corners to see what it will do. It has bucketloads of grip meaning you can really carry a lot of speed through the twisty bits. I didn’t think Tasmania was the place to launch this car, but I was wrong.
In normal driving, there’s plenty of ride comfort and not much noise both in town and at speed. The engine is really quiet too and zings happily to the redline making a distant gravelly three-cylinder growl.
I was quite taken with it. The thing about the 30 is that it doesn’t feel like an entry-level machine. A few well-spent dollars – LED headlights, for instance – bring it
2020 Audi A1 35 TFSI
More power, bigger wheels and tyres, more stuff and more options. The 35 TFSI is the middle ground, adding more options to the mix along with a bit more pep. Well, it’s sort of the middle ground – at $35,290, it’s only $2940 more than the 30 TFSI for all the extra gear.
Read all about the pricing and specification here
It’s very much like the 30 – tons of grip, smooth and heaps of fun in the corners. The only problem is that the steering doesn’t work as well as on the 30. Chatting with my colleagues and we decided it was something to do with the tyre construction allied with not-so-chatty steering.
It’s still a heck of a lot of fun and extra power never ever goes astray (unless it’s a Bugatti Chiron, in which case it’s stupid) but it doesn’t have the feel of the 30.
2020 Audi 40 TFSI
Yep, this is the quick one. The old 170kW S1 quattro was a hoot, but this isn’t a direct replacement. With 147kW and a 320Nm whack of torque, you’ve heaps to go on with, though.
Part of the justification for the big price jump (apart from the wallop of extra gear) is adjustable damping. As ever, the dampers tighten up when you switch to the Sport mode in Audi Drive Select, and. then you’ve got something of a weapon on your hands.
Stickier tyres on the 18-inch wheels help but, unlike the 35TFSI, the steering works really well with the tyres. Sport adds some weight to the wheel – which would help in the 35 – swinging the dial back in the 40’s favour.
There is even more grip, too, breeding ever more confidence as you fire the 40 through the bends. It corners like a proper hot hatch and I reckon all it needs is a manual transmission to make it even more fun.
That engine is super smooth as it is in every other Audi. The power comes on with the revs and it will even pop-and-bang a bit, especially when you lift off in a lower gear. It could be a bit more raucous, but it’s still a “normal” Audi.
And in everyday driving, it feels as docile as the 30, with an easygoing comfort mode (skip Eco, it’s too soft) or you can dial up your own settings in Individual.
You’re paying big bucks for the 40, but every extra dollar over the 35 adds a ton of gear and a truckload of laughs.
So which one?
Well, the 40 is the best A1 you can buy, that’s easy. But if you can’t stretch to $46,450, it’s a bit harder. The 35 TFSI is very good but the 30 is more fun to drive. So if you spend a few bucks on the right options, you’ve got tons of fun and you’ve saved a few bucks.
I was hugely impressed with the A1 range. I like the old car but it was really old. With the latest MQB, a good range of engines and an excellent chassis no matter which one you pick, it’s a proper rebirth for Audi’s smallest car.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.