The countdown to Audi’s supermini A1 starts here
The Audi Metro Project concept – unveiled in the metal for the first time at the 2007 Tokyo show today – may have been billed as a ‘design study’, but the German marque’s going to make it with little changed, and soon. The official line at Audi’s press conference from chairman Rupert Stadler went as follows: 'In two years’ time I imagine that we will find many aspects of this car in the new Audi A1.' Head of Audi Group design Wolfgang Egger was more forthcoming. He told CAR Online the sporty three-door four-seat prestige supermini concept was '80 percent production ready'. The version you’ll be able to buy is expected at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
What stays, what goes?
The exterior proportions look pretty close to production already. In terms of details, design boss Egger said the striking wide metal strip defining the coupe-shaped roofline running from the A- to the C-pillar will be one key design element staying, but it won’t be milled from a single piece of aluminium like on the concept. Instead a 0.8mm alu-plate coating will be used, or alternatively you could option the same feature in carbonfibre. Key to Audi’s brand values, Egger stressed real materials would be used throughout – nothing fake will masquerade as something else. And those distinctive front headlamps’ LED lower lid ‘eyeliner’ detail will also make the cut – lighting technology already pioneered on the R8 and brand-new A4.
Inside ‘outed’, mobile maybe
The interior is clearly close to production too. Much of the uncluttered driver dials and dashboard configuration - plus that squared-off steering wheel - will stay and Egger says the Metroproject’s Audi portable mobile phone that also acts as an entry key, sat-nav, MP3 and video info pad will slot into future Audis above the gearstick. Will it be ready in time for the A1's production debut in 2009? Egger says the final decision has not been made but 'he’s pushing for it to give a cleaner and lighter new dimension for interiors.' Yes please.
Should Mini be worried?
Probably. Egger says the A1 will be 'a progressive sports car design, with no retro touches within a great-driving 2+2 compact GT package'. Sounds like it's aimed squarely at the Mini, then. Matching Mini for driving fun will be no easy task and the A1 may only offer similar rear seat and luggage space to its BMW rival, but with its shrunken Audi good looks and quality, a sales hit looks on the cards. One thing we won't see on the production cars - at least not at first - is the hybrid system that drives the rear wheels only. The 40bhp electric motor under the boot floor helps contribute to the concept's worthy 57mpg economy and 112g/km cleanliness.