Ace of Base, Euro Edition: 2019 Audi A1 Sportback
There’s plenty of tasty European machinery available to customers on that side of the pond that isn’t currently (or was not) available in these parts. VW Scirocco R, Audi RS6 Avant, Citroën DS3 Racing … if you’ll excuse me, I need to lie down.
Not all the forbidden fruit is worth plucking off the tree, though. Think you’d ever see a modern Audi in this day and age with a plastic block-off plate where the radio is supposed to be? Well, you have now.
Seriously. The same masking techniques deployed on the 1986 Ford Escort Pony is on full display in a brand new Audi you can buy today. Well, not you. But your third cousin twice removed who lives in Europe can.
At a base price of 21,150 euros (approximately $24,500 American bucks as of this writing), the Audi A1 Sportback does cut a decent looking figure. Endowed with styling choices that give this junior Audi more than a passing resemblance to its bigger brothers, the A1 Sportback and its four doors won’t look out of place next to other four-ringed machines.
Well, maybe not totally in line with other Audis. Yards of black plastic line the front fascia, although that in itself is not a dead giveaway given the gawping mouths of other cars from Ingolstadt. No, the dead giveaway here are the plastic hubcaps, playing cover to a set of steel wheels wearing 185/60/15 rubber.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, with the S Tronic ‘box costing an extra 1,700 euros. Both are lashed to a 116 horsepower engine, from which Audi estimates a 0-60 mph time of just under ten seconds. Europe’s notoriously generous fuel economy ratings peg the A1 Sportback at roughly 47 mpg. Economical, then.
But the most economical decision of all will smack you in the face like a bratwurst every time you climb into the car. Instead of an infotainment system, there is a plastic block-off plate that doubles as a newfound storage slot. It’s not quite the bleak and flat block-off plate in that ’86 Escort, but it’s still pretty dismal. It does seem that one can stream Bluetooth music through the dashboard interface, but it appears the door-mounted speakers have been binned in favor of small units in the A-pillars, generally a space where tweeters are found in other trims.
Every color is an extra-cost option. Yes, all of them, even the Arctic Frost Cortinaweiss shown here. It is 70 euros, which is appalling until one learns most other hues cost nearly eight times as much. However, in true German fashion, a basic tool kit is included. Your author also just learned that Wärmeschutzverglasung means double-glazed windows. You can bet I’m ringing the local glass installer tomorrow morning and asking for some Wärmeschutzverglasung action. I’ll keep you posted on his response.
The A1 Sportback not a barren wasteland, however, with the steering wheel adjusting for both reach and rake. It is peppered with multifunction buttons which control a neat-looking set of gauges housed in a 10.25-inch digital cluster. Virtual Cockpit it is not, but nor is it a ribbon speedometer from 1962. Fuel level and temp readouts bookend the display. Side mirrors are electrically controlled and, critically, air conditioning is standard equipment. Speaking of economies of scale, the base A1 Sportback does come with power windows and a rear wiper.
Ace of Base material then? Not when one can spend virtually the same amount of money elsewhere in the VW Group stable to get a much better equipped version of what is essentially the same car. Unless, of course, you’re hell bent on driving something with four rings on the nose. Just make sure to tune up your vocal cords.
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It would be ok in a retro way if it actually had "hubcaps" and steel wheels instead of these ugly Walmart-esque "wheel covers" (there's a difference between the two). I don't have a problem with a clean, plain, barebones, uncluttered interior, just not at $24K. Looking at this ugly lump it just goes to show how much Audi fools people into believing their cars are good looking when they bolt on large, flashy wheels and copious amounts of LED bling so that you don't notice the lame, dreary body designs of their cars.
Yes the Audi base-price is crazy and the equipment, comfort, space, and power are sparse, but you get to live in Europe where healthcare is free, university is free, daycare for children is free, state sponsored pension is free and retirement age is low, and you get 4+ weeks of paid vacation, so in theory all this "free" stuff should mean you have a lot more money available to buy a prestige brand car. Sadly, as with many theories, the reality is a bit different as all that "free" stuff is very expensive, especially since your nice new neighbor Mohammad also needs a "free" house, "free" food, "free" mobile phone, and "free" tickets back home to his "dangerous" and "persecuting" Muslim homeland to visit family (or join ISIS). Thus supplying all this "free" stuff means you will be paying 50+% income taxes (if you have a job - otherwise you get all the extra "free" stuff like Mohammad), and $10 per gallon for gasoline ($8 of it tax), 15 to 25% VAT (sales tax) on everything you buy, and if you manage to accumulate any wealth - an annual wealth tax, because Europeans also like to "spread that wealth around".