2019 Audi A1 Sportback Breaks Cover and Needs to Immigrate ASAP
Yesterday, we discussed the merits of Suzuki’s Jimny and how North America could benefit from adding the brand back into its automotive market by any means necessary. I am going to do the same thing today with a model that has never traversed the purple mountain majesties or amber waves of grain — let alone graced the True North strong and free.
The Audi A1 enters its second generation for the 2019 model year, and it should be here. With Ford’s Fiesta about to take a dirt nap, the suggestion may sound counterintuitive, but bear with me.
The supermini and city car segments have dwindled over the last few years, especially the models that were fun to drive. After the Fiesta leaves us, we’ll be left with the Fiat 500 and its improved base engine, the fun-loving Abarth variant, Mini’s Cooper, and a bunch of economy vehicles that don’t prioritize fun on any trim level.
Built on the MQB platform, which also underpins Volkswagen’s pint-sized Polo, the Audi A1 offers something different than everything else in the segment. It’s bigger and more serious than what Mini and Fiat offer and it’s also got an upscale vibe that might resonate with well-heeled urbanites who seem to fetishize German brands. Add in the fact that both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have come out in favor of adding smaller vehicles to their U.S. lineup, and the A1 starts to make a little more sense.
In Europe, the A1 launches with an multitude of engines. The smallest of the bunch is a 1.0-liter three-banger available with either 94 or 114 brake horsepower. Moving up the line is a 1.5-liter boasting 148 bhp and a 2.0-liter unit offering a healthy 197 bph. While none of these specs will contribute to the embarrassment of American muscle, it’s enough to make a lightweight front-drive car very fun to drive.
Audi is aware of this fact, dubbing the model the “the sportiest car in its class” and saying it offers exceptional handling and superior driving dynamics. Some of that is achieved through variable driving modes; uncommon on such a small car. Audi also allowed a lot of the driving aids to trickle down from its more expensive models — forward collision warning and lane departure warning being the big ones.
That’s great, as high-tech features aren’t something you typically associate with entry-level cars, even within the luxury segment. Audi’s interiors are always very good and the A1 appears to be giving its all in this department. The layout is fun without feeling gimmicky and includes the brand’s MMI infotainment system and 10.25 inches of digital instrumentation. We assume lower-trimmed models abandon the funky color options and take on a more reserved appearance, likely losing some of the tech along the way.
The exterior styling is aggressive without being overbearing and even implements some debatably retro touches. However, I wouldn’t have noticed the latter aspect had Audi not specified that the face of the A1 is an homage to the 1984 Sport Quattro (note the three tiny inlets above the grille). It looks decidedly modern, overall, and not bad on the eyes in my estimation. But the Quattro reference is lost on me, as the pair have nothing meaningful in common. The A1 is not the spiritual successor to the Sport Quattro and doesn’t even host AWD — not yet, anyway.
However, it would be nice to see them coming to America. Luxury manufacturers seem to be in a hurry chasing both ends of the market. While the majority of their cheaper introductions have come via the addition of small crossovers, there’s no reason to think Audi couldn’t have limited success with a vehicle servicing a small but largely ignored demographic.
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- ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
- ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
- Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
- Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
- ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂
After visiting Europe, I was so happy to get back to the US and our large vehicles that we have here. Generally, Europeans are forced to have to get around in complete sh*tbox cars. I view this car as one of the many sh*tbox cars that I was either subject to riding in or saw driving all over. They can keep 'em over there as far as I am concerned.
I like it. Yes, it's small, but that can be a virtue in the right circumstances. I could see this stealing a quantity of sales from the MINI Cooper, and perhaps poaching some from the next segment up. I wonder if VW might be holding back on the Polo because of the remaining taint from dieselgate. That doesn't seem to have left quite as much soot on Audi despite being corporate siblings.