By on June 19, 2018

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]

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21 Comments on “2019 Audi A1 Sportback Breaks Cover and Needs to Immigrate ASAP...”


  • avatar
    Verbal

    It doesn’t have the obligatory black cladding around the wheel wells. I don’t get it.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I vote for “hell yes.”

    (Looks a lot like the VW T-Roc, another car I think would sell here.)

  • avatar
    tylanner

    These are all over Spain. Less impressive in person. It turns out that one of Audi’s most redeeming qualities is largeness.

    The Scirocco on the other hand…..

  • avatar
    blackEldo

    The Audi that really needs to cross the Atlantic is the Q2–that thing would print money here.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I think I’ll wait for the A9.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Needs more cheap black plastic panelling on the bumpers……..

  • avatar
    gasser

    Looks great, but the combo of size and price will decide if I will vote with my wallet or not.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Out of MY price range, but easy on the eyes. Audi does not ugly up the landscape like many other automakers.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    With a 25% tariff proposed, I don’t see a lot of success for this other than from very rich buyers.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Was there some employment arrangement for Hyundai to share Peter Schreyer with Audi?

    Because that looks like it was designed by the same team that did the Kia Stonic / Elantra GT / Kona.

  • avatar
    BoogerROTN

    Meh.

    Buy a GTI, look like the “smart guy, sporto-enthusiast” who is good with his money.

    Buy an A1, look like the poor guy who is desperate to be in any German luxury car.

    To quote Borat, “I get iPod, he only get iPod Mini. Everybody know it for girls!”

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Isn’t this just a VW Polo with delusions of grandeur? I really don’t get why you would spend the extra over the same platform VW for the Audi version. The VW is already more than nice enough, and they generally drive nearly the same.

    Once you get into “real” Audis, aka the A4 and up, I would rather have a BMW or a Mercedes. I don’t like how Audis drive particularly, even now that they no longer have the engine hanging out in front of the front wheels some where. Nice looking though.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      This looks MUCH nicer and contemporary than a Polo. If it drives the same, then it drives great. I still remember the first gen Polo my friend had in college. It boasted 16 valves! BTW, I am travelling to the UK a lot for work this summer, and seen the new Polo. A tad rounder, otherwise the same (outside). I dig this Audi, whether I’d pay for one or not.

      I’d rather have a 3 series to an A4, but I’d rather have an A6 to a 5 series as far as the last 15 years are considered. Audis are very nice places to be, but you are right in that they don’t drive like BMWs. They aren’t stodgy Benzes though. For a lot of people, that’s just what the doctor ordered.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Just forget that awful gray color. Cars of this size need loud colors, red and yellow at least. Or what about white but with the red-gray-black Audi Racing stripes?

  • avatar
    darex

    This is not a suitable/worthy Audi for North America. Give us the sibling Polo instead!! That, is where VW is stupid. Furthermore, do give us the Q2!

  • avatar
    BrentinWA

    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.

  • avatar
    richthofen

    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.


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