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August 2, 2012

First Drive: 2012 Audi A1

Photos courtesy of Audi Press
Blame it on the economy, but more and more people are thinking of downsizing their next car purchase. The other shoe, which still has largely yet to drop, is for automakers in the Philippines to convince consumers of the merits of a luxury subcompact, paying a price premium for a longer list of creature comforts, options, and badge appeal.

In Europe, however, there is already a well-defined tradition of premium small cars on which buyers happily lavish extra cash, and there’s no model quite as indulgent as the new Audi A1. With an overall length of 3,954 mm and a wheelbase of 2,469 mm, there are only a handful of cars that take up less parking space. Yet, visually this small car packs a big punch. For starters, there’s no mistaking the A1 for anything but an Audi. The large mesh grille and beautifully sculpted headlamps enveloped by the trademark LED daytime running lights dominate the front. At the sides, the A1 features a straightforward and taut character line that emphasizes strength and solidity. And at the back, the A1 finishes things off with squared off LED brake lamps housed in sleek trapezoidal clusters. Overall, the Audi A1 looks and feels complete and mature. That said, you can order the A1 with a contrasting roof arch color, for added flavor.

This feeling of completeness and maturity is continued inside, where the A1 features adequate seating for four. Though the available space isn’t exactly abundant, it’s still quite comfortable. At the same time, the A1 brings levels of comfort and interior quality to a level better than what is customary even in bigger, more expensive luxury cars. Indeed, the interior is dotted only with soft-touch plastics, leather, and brushed aluminum. Ergonomics are downright perfect with nicely legible instrumentation, large functional knobs and toggle switches, and a driver’s seat that moves almost every possible way. Indeed, the execution of the cabin is more sensible than stylish, but there are more than enough details to keep things interesting.

As sensible as the cabin is, Audi delivers a cutting edge experience when it comes to cabin technology. The A1 boasts of unparalleled connectivity with Audi’s music interface, Bluetooth connectivity, and voice command feature all coming as standard. In turn, all of this is controlled by the MMI or Multimedia Interface which is shared with the flagship A8. And serving as icing on the cake, everything is displayed on a large, full-colored screen that folds out of the center console.

Given the A1’s small footprint, there may be concerns about how easy it might be to get in and out of the rear doors. The short answer is that it’s all good. Granted, you cannot put five adults in the cabin all day and hope to come away fresh as a daisy, two adults or three kids at the back will do just fine. Plus, the cargo space can flex between a small 270 liters to an enormous 920 liters with the rear seats down.

Normally, small cars don’t provide driving fun, especially when it’s got a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine under the hood. But the Audi A1 begs to differ. The secret is found in turbocharging and direct-injection, bringing the output to 122 horsepower and 200 Nm of torque. Starting the engine to life and slotting the S-tronic dual-clutch transmission into drive, the A1 feels sprightly and light on its feet. There’s no lag in power thanks to a flat torque curve between 1,500 to 4,000 rpm.

It’s great entertainment too, despite having to be extra careful as not to upset the other motorists going around the high-scale Bonifacio Global City area. The A1 exhibits surprisingly neutral handling making it ultimately indiscernible as a front-wheel drive car. Indeed, the A1’s infinite balance makes this car a joy. Given more seat time and the right roads, this car will eat up the miles with ear-to-ear smiles.

The S-tronic gearbox also deserves special mention as this is one of the best two-pedal setup ever to grace a car. Upshifts and downshifts are timed just right whether at slow speeds, or while piling into a corner. There’s even an automated S program on the center console, but most enthusiast drivers will probably appreciate the manual paddle shifts even more. Left in Drive though, Audi reckons the A1 will return an impeccable 18.86 km/l.

Currently, PGA Cars, the exclusive distributor of Audi in the Philippines, is offering the A1 with the S-Line trim as a no-cost option. This trim bedecks the A1 with cosmetic goodies such as larger 17-inch rims with 215/40 tires (the standard rims are 16’s), an added sport suspension (though suspension height remains the same) and a beefy three-spoke steering wheel. But even without the S-Line package, the sub P 2-million price tag easily makes the A1 an excellent value considering all the standard equipment that comes with one. And add PGA Cars’s 5-year free maintenance program, it makes this car not just easy to buy, but easy to own.

Other car makers have offered their own versions of upscale small cars, but none have offered a car as genuinely stylish and sensible as the Audi A1. By adhering to Audi’s impeccable design and engineering ethos, the A1 blends style, substance, and practicality into one compact package. Indeed, its Audi’s winning formula concentrated into a desirable small car, making it a winner in anyone’s book.


  1. Hello Mr. Ang,

    I just test drove an A1 and liked it very much. although, when I asked about the 5 year free maintenance program you mentioned above, the agent said there was no such program for the A1. I was a little bit confused by the two contradicting statements...Hop you could enlighten me on this. Thanks.

    And by the way..I do enjoy reading your write-ups. They don't come accros as a dealership brochure like some car magazines I've picked-up in the past.


    Cocoy G

    1. Hi Cocoy. Thanks for dropping a note. I have to apologize for the misunderstanding with regards to PGA Car's 5-year free maintenance program. What they've advertised is "5-year worry-free ownership"--I immediately thought of it as a free maintenance program. In reality, they're pointing towards a 5-year warranty that covers all Audi products sold from May 2012 onwards.

    2. Got it. Thanks for the response. Now 118d ultra or A1 sportback?

    3. A1! theyre getting more too fast and led lights audi are awesome .

  2. Interesting! Need to go to Audi but are the P1.85 and P1.95 price tags current?


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