Ingolstadt, Germany - Audi’s second-generation A1 Sportback, officially out this week after weeks of speculation and teasers, is longer at 4030mm and wider at 1740mm than its predecessor, but only 1410mm high, with chunky styling that echoes the Ur-quattro and Sport quattro, especially in profile, with a few details that hark back to the iconic 1984 Sport quattro rally car.
But this is now, and a wide, low single-frame grille, wing-shaped LED daytime running lights and wide, forward-sloping C pillars make the Sportback look like it’s raring to go even when it's standing still.
And go it should - with a choice of TFSI turbopetrol motorvation ranging from a 70kW 1.5-litre three-cylinder to 1.5 and two-litre fours, each with direct injection and a particle filter. You get to choose between six-speed manual or seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission - except on the flagship 40 TFSI derivative, where a six-speed S tronic cogset is standard.
Suspension is by front McPherson strut and rear torsion beam, with a choice of three configurations - standard, sport and sport with adjustable damping. Or you can opt for one of two dynamic packages: the standard package bundles sport suspension, red brake callipers and larger brake discs, while the ‘Performance’ package also includes adjustable damping, drive select and a sound actuator.
The drive select option gives you four modes - Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual - which reset the steering feel and engine response to suit your mood. If your A1 has S tronic transmission, adaptive cruise control or adjustable damping, these are also tied into the drive mode system.
Standard wheel sizes go from 15 to 17 inches depending on your engine choice, while alloys in four sizes from 15 to 18 inches are available as options.
‘The sportiest interior in the compact class,’ was the design brief, according to Audi, so the new A1 has a digital instrument cluster as standard, with the centre stack and optional MMI touchscreen tilted towards the driver at a 13 degree angle, while black trim panels tie the air vent strip on the passenger side, the centre console and the door panels visually together.
Standard or sports seats are available, each with optional seat heating; the sports seats have manual height adjustment, deep side bolsters and two-way lumbar support to hold you gently but firmly in place during what Audi likes to call ‘spirited’ driving.
Thanks to separately mounted springs and dampers on the rear torsion beam suspension, the space between the rear towers is exactly a metre, increasing luggage capacity by 65 litres to 335 litres with the rear seats up and 1090 litres with them folded.
Three trim options - Advanced, Design Selection and S Line - allow you to choose interior colours and materials; the same applies to the body trim, where the grille, side air inlets, the lower sections of the front and rear bumpers, the diffuser and the rear spoiler are available in various configurations.
The S Line, in particular, amps up the sporty side of things with bigger air inlets, extended sill trims, a larger rear wing and dual tailpipes. And, for the first time, what Audi is calling ‘modular lines structure’ allows you to combine exterior and interior lines any way you like.
The basic version has an all-digital instrument cluster with a high-resolution, 26cm display and a multifunction steering wheel, while the optional virtual cockpit displays everything from navigation arrows to an animated navigation map, infotainment (including online services) and even some of the driver assistance system graphics.
These include lane departure warning, using corrective steering interventions and warning vibrations, and pre sense front, which uses a radar sensor to recognise critical situations - other vehicles, crossing pedestrians or cyclists - ahead of the car, and warns you with a visual and acoustic warning, then a short jolt of the brakes and, if you still don’t react, brakes the car to a standstill.
Adaptive speed assist uses the same radar to maintain a preset distance to the vehicle ahead; on S tronic models it’ll brake right down to a stop in heavy traffic, and then follow when the car ahead starts moving again. A rear camera is standard, as are front and rear parking sensors, and park assist will find you a suitable parking spot and steer the A1 into (and out of) it.
Even the basic radio has Bluetooth connectivity, while the MMI radio plus has a 22cm touchscreen that also recognises fingertip handwriting, while the top configuration MMI navigation plus features a 25cm touchscreen. The optional Audi sound system has a six-channel amplifier pushing 180 watts through eight speakers, including a subwoofer; or you can go for the Bang & Olufsen premium sound system with 560 watts and 11 speakers. Four of them are actually in the top panel of the dashboard, using the windscreen to project their output towards you at head level for an extraordinary depth of sound.
The optional connectivity package uses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to connect your smartphone to MMI, and also has two USB ports - one standard USB-A, the other USB-C with increased charging current. Another option, a docking port, connects your phone to the car’s aerial for better reception while charging it wirelessly according to the Qi standard.
The new Audi A1 is under consideration to go on sale in South Africa in the second quarter of 2019.