As promised we’ve got our hands on a different Audi A1 model, the most basic car I could find on the launch: a 1.2 manual. This being a press launch of course, it still had sat-nav and 16s rather than the standard 15in alloys plus various other options, but this is almost the £13,145 bottom rung on the Audi ladder.
Very few cars will leave the showroom for so little though – even paint is effectively optional unless you go for black or white, and the contrasting roofline costs £345.
See the new 2018 Audi A1 here
Will everyone know I’m a tightwad if I go for a boggo Audi A1?
Obviously it doesn’t look quite as butch as the Sport-spec 1.4, but at least you don’t suffer the ignominy of the basic Mini’s hubcaps that make sure everyone knows you’re a miser. The basic A1 still looks expensive and chic. And of course it feels just as expensive inside as the 1.4 S-Line we drove earlier.
One thing that is noticeably different is the ride quality. It’s still firm and nowhere near as compliant as a Polo, but much less harsh than the S-Line on 17s. And to be honest, you’re not losing an awful lot dynamically. There’s a little less grip, a little more roll but not much in it and the fact that it’s not trying as hard to convince you that it’s really a sports car only works in its favour.
So how much cheaper than the other A1s is this entry-level version?
You can have the 1.2 in Sport trim for an extra £1800 or the 1.4 Sport for a further £400 on top of that. But you can’t get the 1.4 with SE trim, or a dual-clutch gearbox, only the 1.6 diesel (that unfortunately we didn’t have time to try), or the 1.2 petrol.
The 1.2 is a four-pot with a turbo strapped to the exhaust manifold that delivers a modest 85bhp but a more promising 118lb ft of torque between 1500 and 3500rpm.
It’s green (118g/km and 55.4mpg) but performance is leisurely. Zero to 62mph takes 11.7sec, which isn’t bad and it’s not out of its depth on the motorway where the turbo is blowing.
Where you notice its lack of go most is in exactly the environment it’s most likely to end up: town. You’re trickling along in a queue of traffic in second gear, a gap opens up, you stomp on the right pedal and…nothing, not until the turbo has woken up.
Grabbing first gear on the hoof becomes second nature. This off-boost lethargy is something we’ll have to learn to live with (as diesel drivers already have) as more and more engines get the downsizing treatment.
In some ways the basic A1 is the most charming. It concentrates on quality and refinement, rather than pretending to be more fun to drive than a Mini – something neither A1 we tried managed to achieve. But if you can stretch to the £15,3445 1.4 Sport, you’ll appreciate its better kit count and performance.
See the A1 for what it is, a premium supermini with a great badge and you’ll enjoy owning it. It’s a competent little car, but certainly no A2-style rulebook ripper. That’s sad, but not as sad as knowing that it’ll be far more successful as a result.