- Sep 2015

Baby firecracker – Audi A1 1.8 TFSI S-Line

Feature Friday: We drive the Audi A1 1.8 TFSI S-Line

It’s funny what perception does to the human brain and driving the Audi A1 1.8 TFSI made me realise that. This car is essentially a Volkswagen Polo GTI with a different body on it. Same engine producing 141KW and 250Nm, same 7-speed DSG gearbox and even the same noise that comes out of the exhaust pipes. That being said, since the packaging is different, the A1 commands a different level of respect. Why? The Audi is a premium brand, that’s why.

Does premium really matter?

A premium brand automatically carry’s more street credibility, especially amongst the target market that these small hot hatches appeal to. One can liken it to fashion. An Edgars suit can be made from the exact same fabric that a Woolworths suit is made from, but because Woolworths is Woolworths, one would generally gravitate toward that brand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the suit from Edgars but when someone says “nice suit, where did you get it from?” it rolls off the tongue nicer to say “Country Road from Woolworths” doesn’t it?

All these analogies may seem quite trivial but as previously mentioned, for the clients buying these cars, it matters. That is why in the world of branding, packaging counts and the S-Line package is a very nice package indeed. Just looking at the car gives you the impression that it means business, the rear spoiler, the beefy bumpers and that red centre piece on the bottom of the front bumper make this little A1 look like a baby RS Audi. The silhouette of the Sportback A1 is longer due to two the added rear doors, that further enhances the look of the car making it more imposing in stature.

Is it practical?

The added two doors aren’t just for looks though, they add greatly to the practicality of the car. As cool as you look driving in the A1 S-Line, coming out of the rear when it’s a two door is never charming. The space in the rear is also much better in Sportback guise, making it definitely the one to go for. Although the car is geared for performance, comfort is not compromised. Even at speed the car sits firmly on the road giving you a feeling confidence behind the wheel but without braking your back, something it’s rival the Mini Cooper S is guilty of unfortunately. Technology wise like all other Audi’s, the sound system is superb, packing enough of a punch to annoy your neighbours as you drive in to your home if you live in a complex or an estate. Bluetooth and USB are available and the pop up infotainment screen can be closed into the dashboard for a flush look to the cabin.

Does it go fast?

As previously mentioned the car looks ready to fight, but does it deliver on its looks though? In short, yes. The long of it is this – the A1 1.8 TFSI gives you three options in terms of vehicle characteristic settings. You have a choice of an Eco, Comfort and Dynamic mode. After spending a few days with the vehicle I learned how to get the most out of it. The Dynamic setting was the best but the gearbox was better in Manual mode with me up-shifting and down-shifting myself as opposed to Sport mode which decides for you which gear is best. The only flaw I can fault Audi on with this car is the fact that you don’t have paddles at the back of the steering wheel to change gears as you would have had in it’s sibling the Polo GTI. The fact is that as much as this car shares many similarities with the Polo GTI, the Polo is not its direct rival. The BMW 118i Sport and the aforementioned Mini Cooper S are, as they play in the more premium segment too.

It’s only when you make that realisation do you see why the A1 is priced at R390 000. the options in the one I drove retailed the car at R440 000 due to navigation, S-Line kit and Sunroof and Bi-Xenon headlamps as added options. The A1’s rivals depending on specification are priced very similarly too, so if you’re looking to purchase a small hot hatch be prepared to pay.

It is worth it?

That is a tough question, as there are many factors to look at. I feel that it depends on the client, most people I know who drive cars like the new Mini Cooper S are clients who drive bigger cars but seek a small fast run around. So for a client like that an extra R50 000 isn’t a big deal. The truth is, if you’re looking for value for money there are other options in the R400 000 price bracket that could convince you to either buy the A1 or not. That being said, the A1 1.8 TFSI makes for a very good little fast car, it’s a great all rounder and an exciting little car to pilot everyday. If you do buy one and are annoyed that you paid a lot for it, all you have to do is look at it and you may feel better. Happy Feature Friday Motorists.

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