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Car reviews - Audi - A1 - Sport 3-dr hatch

Launch Story

3 Jun 2011

THE Audi A1’s inexorable march up the power ladder starts today with the release of the ‘S’ (for Sport) version.

Priced from $39,500, even non-rocket scientists will realise the $40,700 Mini Cooper S Hardtop is set firmly in the Ingolstadt three-door four-seater hatchback’s crosshairs, delivering slightly more power than its iconic British-built nemesis.

The Sport joins a growing number of B-segment based European hot hatches available in Australia, such as the $34,990 Alfa Romeo Mito QV, $35,990 Citroen DS3 DSport, and $36,490 Renault Clio RS 200 Cup.

Like the $27,790 Volkswagen Polo GTI that shares fundamental chassis and drivetrain components, the A1 S employs the 1.4-litre turbo-charged and supercharged twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine known as the ‘Twincharger’ in VW-speak.

Similarly, the front wheels are driven via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox only – so no manual option is available – delivering 136kW of power at 6200rpm and 250Nm of torque from 1500-4000rpm.

With the supercharger set from about 1500rpm to 2500rpm in most cases for a low-rev boost, and then the turbo-charger blowing in from 3500rpm, the swiftest A1 to date scoots to 100km/h from standstill in 6.9 seconds, for a top speed of 227km/h.

On the combined average fuel consumption and carbon dioxide pollution front, the 1190kg Audi manages just 5.9L/100km and 139 grams per kilometre of CO2.

Just for fun the 1kg lighter, 132kW/250Nm Polo GTI matches the 0-100km/h time and is 2km/h faster overall, but then drinks 0.2L/100km of the 98 RON ultra premium unleaded stuff and spews out 3g/km more of the bad stuff.

In contrast the 1140kg, 228km/h, 1.6L turbo Cooper S with a six-speed manual gearbox offers 135kW, 240Nm (260Nm in brief overboost mode), 7.0s, 5.8L, and 136g – though the latter figures change to 7.2s/6.4L/149g if the 1215kg, 223km/h, $43,050 six-speed automatic version is applied.

Briefly, the naturally aspirated 1221kg Clio RS’s 147kW/215Nm 2.0L’s outcomes are 6.9s, 8.2L/100km and 195g, 1145kg 125kW/250Nm 1.4L turbo Mito manages a 7.5s time, 6.0L and 139g, while the 1165kg DSport’s 115kW/240Nm 1.6L turbo does it in 7.3s, 6.7L and 155g.

Focussing back on the A1 Sport, the Polo-shared MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension system features the $32,650 90kW/200Nm Ambition 1.4TSI’s tauter spring and damper set-up.

For a sportier dynamic flavour, Audi offers the S-Line package that adds another degree of firmness and body control, as well as different 17-inch alloys and some minor trim changes inside. That kicks off from $1650 or $2900 if 18-inch alloys are your thing.

As with all A1s (as well as Polo GTI), the Sport boasts an electronic axle differential lock, which initiates braking of the inside front wheel via the ESC stability control system, after sensors detect traction losses through fast cornering.

Similarly the steering is via an electro-hydraulically controlled rack and pinion set up with an electric motor that decreases input as speeds rise. The steering ratio remains the same at 14.8.1.

Audi hasn’t boosted the brakes either (288mm vented front discs and 230mm solid rear discs) but an emergency stop does trigger blinking brake lights to warn other traffic, while a Hill Start Assist function applies brakes for two seconds to halt unintentional movement as the DSG gets itself into motion.

On the safety side, ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist are standard, along with six airbags (dual front, side and curtain) and pre-tensioner seat belts for all four occupants.

The standard Sport includes the company’s S-Line body kit that brings Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, different bumpers with lower air intakes up front and a diffuser incorporated out back, new 17-inch alloys wearing 215/40 R17 rubber, a larger rear spoiler and reverse parking sensors, as well as black headlining, sports seats, a multi-function steering wheel and Bluetooth connectivity with voice control inside.

Key options include Milano leather ($2300), MMI satellite navigation ($3600), a BOSE audio upgrade ($1450) and sunroof (2090), while special clamshell-style sports seats are available for $1300.

Other items normally reserved for bigger models include keyless entry and start, folding side mirrors, climate control air-con, heated front seats and paddle shifters.

Like in all A1s, more than 800 exterior configurations are possible, and include adhesive films for the roof arch.

With at least 2000 overall A1 sales forecast for 2010, the Sport is likely to snare about 25 per cent while the 1.6L TDI turbo-diesel version due after July is set for around 20 per cent penetration, leaving 55 per cent to the established 90TSI Attraction and Ambition.

Audi is especially pleased with the reception its smallest ever model has received in Australia since being launched last December, with the 90TSI single-handedly almost catching up to the multi-faceted Mini Hardtop/Cabrio/Clubman/Countryman ranges this year, registering April 706 units versus the BMW-owned combine’s 790.

“This shows that the A1 is finding its customers – and so far with only one engine choice,” Audi boss Uwe Hagen said.

The light car hot hatch war is sizzling up with the Skoda Fabia RS likely to hit early next year, while Ford is close to revealing its long-delayed replacement for the Fiesta XR4 with 1.6L EcoBoost turbo power.

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