► Rugged Citycarver joins new A1 range
► Bespoke styling and more ground clearance
► Expect to see it at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show
Tempted by the new Audi A1, but fancy something with more of an off-road edge? Well, you’re in luck – as Audi's new A1 Citycarver has just made its debut at the Frankfurt motor show 2019.
In order to give the Citycarver what’s dubbed a more ‘urban-ready’ look, Audi has increased the car’s ride height slightly, fitted bigger wheels and tweaked some of the exterior styling. That’s where the differences between it and the standard hatch begin, and promptly end.
A bit niche? Perhaps, but alternatives such as the Ford Fiesta Active have to be countered with something. One thing’s for sure: it’ll be better than a Cityrover.
What has Audi changed on the A1 Citycarver?
Audi has given the Citycarver an extra four centimetres of ground clearance; most of that is down to higher suspension, and the rest comes from larger 17-inch wheels. Styling-wise, you’ll find a larger octagonal – not hexagonal – grille, which makes this A1 look more like a off-road Q-model.
The Citycarver also makes do with a couple of slots above the grille rather than the usual three. At the rear, the bumper gets beefier styling as well.
Despite being a more off-road focused model, Audi is offering the A1 Citycarver with a Dynamic package, which includes sports brake discs, a dynamic handling system, and adjustable suspension. Audi Drive Select will be offered separately, and you can also get 18-inch alloys if you opt for the Dynamic package.
There is an Edition One version with blacked-out chrome bits and matt bits of exterior, with S-line options inside, too.
New Audi A1: what you need to know
Let's rewind to the regular A1 hatchback range. On first inspection it looks like Audi's smallest car has taken a big leap forwards, stylistically and mechanically. It will be a five-door hatchback only, with no three-door planned - and there's no hint of diesel engines at launch, either.
This is the Mk2 A1 Sportback; the original was launched way back in 2010, believe it or not. CAR lived with one for a year and you can read our long-term test here. The intervening eight years might have taken their toll on its wardrobe, but it still remains a strong seller with around 24,000 registered in the UK last year. Audi has sold a solid 830,000 worldwide since launch.
Audi hopes to grow that number with this, the chiselled Mk2 Audi A1.
What's new on the 2019 Audi A1?
Everything. This is an all-new model, spun from the Volkswagen group's ubiquitous MQB platform. That's engineering shorthand for the oily bits that underpin small and medium sized cars from across Wolfsburg's empire, from Golf to Octavia, Polo to Arona. It'll be made in Spain at Seat's Martorell factory, rather than in Audi's Brussels facility.
More specifically, this is the MQB AO architecture and the crisp styling wrapped around it makes the new 2018 A1's dimensions longer (+56mm to 4029mm), wider (+35mm to 1740mm) and lower (-13mm to 1409mm) than before. It's aero efficient for a small hatchback, with a drag rating of 0.31, according to Audi.
‘The current car is a bit roundish; this one is more powerful,’ exterior designer Juergen Loeffler told CAR magazine. He is a trusted lieutenant of Ingolstadt design - and was responsible for the Mk1 A1, as well as the third-generation TT.
‘We are using less chrome. I think chrome is more for luxury cars like the A8. You can order an aluminium single-frame grille on the new A1, but the black frame looks more sporty.’
The design story
Shorter overhangs and increased passenger compartment space are enabled by the longer wheelbase, which stretches a whopping 94mm over the outgoing model. The new A1 has a more sporting, less curvaceous look as a result.
Think less soft bar of soap, more baby Quattro. Helped in no small part by those strong haunches, and multiple side creases, designed to inject a little more sporting athleticism and to visually lower the car. Steffen Tarashti, product marketing chief of A1, puts it this way: ‘It’s no longer round, it’s not cute. It’s very masculine - it shows off its muscles.’
There's not a little menace about it, thanks to those three slots (above) on the leading edge of the bonnet, nabbed from the earlier 1984 Audi Sport Quattro. The 31mm stretched track helps here, too, as do the new 'Star Wars headlamps that look futuristic - like an arrowhead,' according to Loeffler.
Standard models get two slots; three slots mean you're looking at an S Line trim. Note also the elongated rear spoiler on S Line spec. Those slots are entirely cosmetic, by the way, with zero functional benefit.
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Audi will offer a host of personalisation on the new A1. One of the key changes many buyers are expected to make is to pick a coloured roof, contrasting with the 11 exterior paint choices. ‘The roof graphic makes it look lower and sportier,’ admits Loeffler, an 18-year veteran of the Audi design department.
Why all this masculine talk? The last A1 had the highest female reach of any Audi, apparently, as well as the youngest buyer profile. Three-quarters of buyers were new to the brand. While they don't want to lose that, they want to make sure it doesn't alienate male buyers as much.
The growth spurt means that accommodation is better than before, too:
- Boot space (seats up) 335 litres (+65)
- Boot space (seats down) 1190 litres (+170)
Wheel sizes stretch from 15 to 18 inches in diameter, with a choice of silver, white, black or copper alloys. There seems to be a lot of copper knocking around the VW Group at present (cf the alloys on new Cupra Ateca models).
Inside the new Audi A1's cabin
The A1 Sportback interior is bang-up-to-date with the latest Ingolstadt trends: you get 10.3-inch digital dials and Virtual Cockpit so you can turn your instruments into a full-width map or watch your speed; MMI Touch controls most minor functions from a central touchscreen that fades to black when not in use; and you can personalise all manner of different cabin colours and trims (see the sandy-yellow interior below for inspiration).
Continuing the driver-focused, sporty theme is the centre console, angled at 13deg towards the driver just like BMW cockpits of yore.
Crucially, it's roomier than before and flies the standard for Audi quality. It's well built, yet sportier than the outgoing A1's cabin. Considering this is fundamentally a Polo in disguise, it does well to feel premium and sporty. We know, because we've already sat in it.
Natural voice operation is said to control many functions through normal speech; we have yet to try this, however. We will report back when we review the new Audi A1 later this summer.
Niceties such as B&O stereo, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available too, although it is likely these may be cost options on lower specs. Note also the 30-colour interior LED lighting option for those who like to rock a kids disco while on the school run.
Audi A1 Sportback: UK prices and specs
No official confirmation yet on the UK prices and costs of the new A1, but it seems likely that the range will be nudged up a little from today's starting point of £17,280. Order books here opened in July 2018, ahead of first deliveries in November 2018. We tip prices from around £18,000.
Choose from the following Audi A1 engines:
- Audi A1 25 TFSI 1.0 3cyl, 94bhp, 136lb ft
- Audi A1 30 TFSI 1.0 3cyl, 114bhp, 148lb ft
- Audi A1 35 TFSI 1.5 4cyl, 148bhp, 184lb ft
- Audi A1 40 TFSI 2.0 4cyl, 197bhp, 236lb ft
The latter has S Tronic dual-clutch transmission as standard; lowlier models come with a choice of manual or S Tronic auto. Most Audi A1s will be front-wheel drive, but more powerful models can be specced with a Haldex-cluch operated Quattro drivetrain. Tellingly, no diesel engines are confirmed.
Although based on the hardware from a VW Polo, the engineers vow it'll drive differently, with a lower ride height, more direct steering and a different suspension tune. Although Drive Select is available, it will only vary throttle response, gearshift speed and steering weight rather than offer adaptive dampers. It'll pipe in different engine noise to make it feel sportier, too.
What about an S1 or Allroad?
When we snapped this disguised version pictured above testing at the Nurburgring we though Audi was planning an Allroad variant. It did of course turn out to be a prototype of the Citycarver.
We’d have expected to see an S1 version of the new hatchback first, but it seems the SUV-alike market takes priority in the planning these days - presumably because Audi will sell more of them.
But are still anticipating a S1 hot hatch to make an appearance in the not too distant future, and we'll update this page once we have more.
See our Audi reviews here