By on February 10, 2010

Like it or not, extending the concept of luxury into ever smaller classes of cars is the next big challenge for high-end auto brands. According to the latest print edition of Auto Motor und Sport, BMW is already working on their own subcompact FWD three-cylinder hatchback based on the next-generation MINI platform. Though none of these new micro-luxe vehicles are aimed at, let alone approved for the US market, it seems that a strict traditionalist perspective on luxury brand purity is going to be a lot more difficult to maintain as emissions standards continue to rise.

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25 Comments on “Audi A1: What We Did Instead Of Rebadging A Polo...”


  • avatar

    BMW is too scared of cannabilizing their own sales to succeed with small cars here – the 1 series? Overengined, overpriced and poorly packaged just to avoid cutting into Mini sales – although I admit a 135i convertible is a far more compelling car than a Z4. A FWD BMW would basically continue the brand destruction they seem to be flirting with nowadays anyway.

  • avatar
    westhighgoalie

    what do they call this color? … CRAYOLA BURT ORANGE sounds like a winning name.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Small cars from European automakers isn’t new in any way shape or form. The previous Audi A2, the Mercedes A and B class have already been there and done that.

    Brand perceptions of BMW, Mercedes and Audi here in the US, however, are a little different than Europe so the question is if they will attempt to market them here? I say no for BMW as they have Mini already, maybe for Mercedes and probably for Audi which may find an upscale & hip city car a marketable item.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    WTF? BMW+WWD? HERESY!!!!!!

    Yeah yeah, the MINI is that, but is a Mini instead you know, a BMW.

  • avatar

    History repeats itself. The first Polo was a rebadged Audi 50 …

  • avatar
    mjz

    The Saturn Ion called, it wants its contrasting color roof rail back.

    • 0 avatar
      iheartcars

      mjz – that’s exactly what I thought when I saw the roof rails. I think you can even get them in different colors. I think it’s too gimmicky and even tacky on a car like this. It wasn’t a great idea on the Ion so it certainly doesn’t work for me on a premium compact. It just seems like Audi needed something to customize that wasn’t the roof so it wouldn’t look like it was copying MINI. Kind of like what they did with the LED strip on their new batch headlight designs to create something akin to the BMW halo without copying it exactly. I think both the roof fails and LED strip make things look overly fussy and give off a “trying too hard” appearance.

    • 0 avatar

      The Saturn Ion called, it wants its contrasting color roof rail back.

      You mean the ones it borrowed from the Citroën C3 Pluriel?

      ;)

      Seriously though isn’t the resemblance between this and the little lift-top C3 is pretty striking? Odd that a premium brand like Audi is cribbing their old designs while Citroën are aping MINI in an attempt to move upmarket…

  • avatar
    JJ

    What We Did Instead Of Rebadging A Polo…

    …Is rebadge a SEAT Ibiza.

    • 0 avatar
      Vega

      Completely wrong.
      You won’t find a single bit of bodywork sheetmetal that the A1 shares with the Ibiza. Same goes for the interior. And the material quality. It’s the same platform, but different cars. Just like an Audi A3 and a Seat Leon, for example

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      It has the same chassis and uses the same engines…Sounds like a rebagde to me.

      You say all the sheetmetal is different which could be true, but either way it looks earily much like an Ibiza to me…even the way they hinged the doormirrors is the same.

      I guess it depends on what you want to call a rebadge. This is not a rebadge in the literal GM sense of let’s slap on some other badges on the exact same car (like the SEAT Exeo and previous gen A4 btw), but if you consider an A3 a badge engineered Golf (which to me it is), then this is definitely a rebadged Ibiza/Polo.

  • avatar
    mehow

    IMHO… the new polo looks fantastic as is. I don’t see why Audi even bothers with this. Rebadging is a bit insulting.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    Well, for those who want a small commuter that gets 78mpg, I want VW to re-intro their Lupo and bring it to the U.S. Sure, it’s not a Tahoe, but for many this car would be ideal:

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/consumer/autos/mareview/mauto497.htm

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    So what would an even smaller BMW be called? The 0 series? -1 series?

    • 0 avatar
      iheartcars

      Multiple car sites have reported this as rumor. Maybe from the same source. I’m not sure. But can’t you imagine Car and Driver saying, “BMW’s Zero a Hero”? Painful.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    The only people who buy these dwarven Audi’s and Merc’s are wannabe’s who can’t afford the bigger and more expensive models. They just want to look good in front of their *ahem* ‘friends’. If you seriously needed a well built small car (which I’m sure would cost half the Audi’s price) you’d buy a Skoda Fabia – which to all intents and purposes is THE SAME CAR.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Nothing against the Fabia (which is indeed a well-built small car, though the styling is not to my taste) but it is actually on the older PQ24 platform. Cars built on the newer PQ25 include the VW Polo, the SEAT Ibiza and (soon) the Audi A1.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    The Polo is a bit boring inside and out. I’ve driven it and I understand its merits — it’s as big as a Mk 2 Golf, it’s quiet, it’s well-made, it’s a nice drive — but there is no surprise and little joy in it, if you asked me. You’d have to suspend your critical thinking to be able to justify the Audi premium, but what the hell, style is worth plenty of dough to some folks.

    Yeah, style — style? Well, I like the A1’s clampshell elements, it’s nicely revocative of the NSU Prinz/1200/TT. I don’t agree with the idea of a wraparound rear hatch, it looks like something that looks good until you spend 2k after a minor parking incident. As usual, the interior is first-class; I’ll take a closer look in Geneva in early March and post some pix, if anybody is interested.

    You non-German-speakers can be glad, by the way: the designer guy’s language is ridiculous. Obviously somebody in Wolfsburg/Ingolstadt in 2003 decided that the “emotional design” cliché needs to be in every second relevant statement, and of course every employee is obeying orders. Funny to hear that Audi HQ has ordained that the hip crease has to be called “Tornado line” 18 months after that became VW nomenclature. I’m looking forward to seeing whether they flat-out refuse to speak with journalists who don’t follow their jargon guidelines.

  • avatar

    I just checked the price differential between an A3 and a Jetta Sportswagon. You can get a totally tricked out Jetta from $4-$6k less then the A3 and therein lies the problem with an Audi luxury rebadge of the Polo. The only thing you get for the extra money is the Audi name and maybe a little more upscale interior.

    There will never be much of an American market for an upscale small car. If you have the money you will buy a bigger vehicle and if you are price savvy you will buy the VW product.

    • 0 avatar

      I do note that A1 is not just a rebadged Polo but it does sit in the Polo’s niche. Same arguments hold.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      The same argument will hold true for larger luxury cars, though — why buy a Lexus RX when you can get a larger Toyota SUV for the same price?

      As a matter of fact, it holds true for just about all types of luxury goods: you can always get more for your money if you choose the non-luxury version. And yet many people covet and purchase the luxury goods over their more cost-effective alternatives.

    • 0 avatar

      In the US market size matters. A dinky little car will not be considered a luxury vehicle and dinky starts at the Jetta/A3/Golf size. People who want a luxury car will step up for a full size car but won’t for a glorified Jetta Sportswagon. Subcompact luxury car is an oxymoron in the US market

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Sometimes the decision to purchase an all-but-similar version of a vehicle with a luxury nameplate comes down to the buyer’s desire for status, but other times it’s driven (or sweetened) by a better warranty, availability of dealer loaner cars or an overall dealer experience that is better.

      Not sure if the same holds true in Europe, but the added intangibles are the norm in the U.S.

  • avatar
    p00ch

    This Audi could make it to N. America someday. As long as Polos are not being built here, their low price prevents them from being imported. With production costs being similar to that of the Polo, the Audi’s higher price tag could cover the cost to import. Brand suicide aside, I think there are a lot of Americans and Canadians who can’t quite afford the base A3 but would pay good money for the badge.

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