Audi A1: What We Did Instead Of Rebadging A Polo

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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  • Sinistermisterman Sinistermisterman on Feb 10, 2010

    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.

    • Th009 Th009 on Feb 10, 2010

      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.

  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on Feb 10, 2010

    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.

  • Angela von Arlington Angela von Arlington on Feb 10, 2010

    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.

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    • BuzzDog BuzzDog on Feb 11, 2010

      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.

  • P00ch P00ch on Feb 10, 2010

    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.