This is what promises to be one of the biggest debuts at the 2010 Geneva motor show: the new Audi A1 supermini. Aimed squarely at BMW's Mini, the new 2010 A1 is everything you'd expect of a small car from Ingolstadt – and it's remarkably close to 2007's A1 Metroproject concept car.
The Audi A1 epitomises the downsizing trend in microcosm. Carbon dioxide is evil, motoring taxes high and social mores are making large cars less acceptable, so the thinking goes. Against this backdrop, there's little to argue against the new Audi A1's exquisite timing. It will be unveiled at the Palexpo in Geneva on 2 March and roll into Audi dealerships from October 2010, priced from around £13,000.
It's sure to send Audi sales back over the magic million barrier... especially once the five-door A1 Sportback has arrived (2011), Q1 soft-roader (2012) and A1 cabriolet (2013). Audi's deadly serious about small cars – and there's space for an A2 between A1 and A3.
Audi A1 (2010): the lowdown
Based loosely on the architecture of the latest VW Polo – the wheelbases are identical – but spruced up with more advanced modules such as a brisker steering rack, the new Audi A1 is supermini small at 3950mm in length. There are some big car features, however, including an electronic front diff lock to stop spinning wheels in hard cornering and a seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch 'box.
Four engines are available in the A1 at launch, all direct-injection four-cylinder turbos with stop-start:
• 1.2 TFSI petrol with 85bhp/118lb ft
• 1.4 TFSI petrol with 120bhp/148lb ft
• 1.6 TDI diesel with 89bhp/170lb ft or 104bhp/184lb ft
Emissions on the diesel fall as low as 99g/km on the cleanest version. Performance, emissions and handling are all boosted by the A1's light weight, which tips the scales from 1045kg. Want a performance Audi A1? Wait for the S1 coming in spring 2011 and powered by a 180bhp 1.4 turbo. Faster versions still are possible, and Audi is developing an electrified version with an e-back axle. Presumably called the A1 quattro e-tron.
Inside the new Audi A1
The A1 has a typically modern Audi cabin, judging by these photos, scored with LED lights and brightly trimmed seats. MMI multi-control functions are available, as is a 465-watt Bose stereo with a 20GB memory capacity. Boot space stands at 267 litres (contrast that to the Mini's paltry 160), rising to 920 with the split rear bench folded.
Customisation is the name of the game with the A1, says Ingolstadt. Audi's eyed Mini's success with lucrative extras and options, so you'll be able to spec your new 2010 Audi A1 every which way. That charismatic sweeping pillar from windscreen to rump can be had in silver (pictured) or three other colours (black, white, grey). You can even change them retrospectively to match London's Fashion Week's latest colour fad.
Audi will build the A1 in its Belgian plant; initial capacity stands at 90,000 a year, but double that is expected once production is fully ramped up. That's a figure spookily close to Plant Oxford's Mini production.
>> For the full 10-page lowdown on the new Audi A1, buy the new March 2010 issue of CAR Magazine, out on 17 February