2019 Audi A1 Sportback Breaks Cover and Needs to Immigrate ASAP

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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.

[Images: Audi]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 21 comments
  • BrentinWA BrentinWA on Jun 20, 2018

    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.

  • Richthofen Richthofen on Jun 20, 2018

    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.

  • Tassos Most people here who think it is a good idea have NO idea how much such a conversion costs. Hint: MORE than buying an entire new car.
  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hmmm get rid of the garbage engine in my chevy, and the garbage under class action lawsuit transmission? sounds good to me
  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):