By Kap Maceda Aguila


Audi A1 1.4 TSI

Posted on July 13, 2016

“BIG CAR TECHNOLOGY, just without the big car,” is how Audi describes the A1 hatchback. One could argue that, with its “Vorsprung Durch Technik” (Advancement Through Technology) slogan, the German car maker might simply be aspiring for a consistent marketing message across its rarefied stable of vehicles.

For as the smallest among the cars of the Four Rings, the A1 also is the most affordable glimpse into how Audi executes its cars. But even as it is priced below a psychic barrier of P2 million, one could opt for much bigger vehicles that actually dwarf this little pocket rocket. But as consumers have come to know, across a range of things, big does not automatically mean better. That out of the way, it is but understandable to expect Audi to pony up performance and execution commensurate with the pricing.

If one gives credence to the notion that first impressions last, then the A1 should not disappoint. The fascia immediately evokes its lineage -- helped along, of course, by the distinctive silver badge of hoops on its considerable maw. In fact, if you look at it head on, you’d think you were looking at a larger luxury sedan. Meanwhile, blackened pillars imbue a sense of spaciousness by visually breaking up the body-colored roof from the lower chassis. A classy gray-tinted strip comes standard on the windscreen.

Even when viewed from the rear, the A1 distinguishes itself from pedestrian hatches with its moderately aggressive styling. It doesn’t try too hard to get noticed; but it turns heads anyway. Twin exhaust pipes on the lower left complete the sportiness, along with an almost inconspicuous aerofoil above the rear window. For treads, the hatch is equipped with 215/45 R16 soles wrapped around a 10-spoke, cast-aluminum set of alloy wheels.

As one steps inside the car, it becomes immediately obvious that the Ingolstadt brain trust wanted to keep things simple but still unmistakably premium. The Audi MMI system, highlighted by the familiar -- though manually operated -- pop-up screen makes essential functions and controls easier to access and control. Sports seats with Herzklopfen cloth keep front occupants both cool and well-supported. The aircraft-inspired air-conditioning vents also lend an elegance to the cabin worthy of its Audi nomenclature. The driver also gets the benefit of getting his or her hands on a substantial, leather-covered multi-function sports steering wheel.

+ Don’t be deceived by the 1.4-liter engine displacement. Consider, rather, that it is turbocharged -- giving the oomph to make the A1 punch above its weight class. A generous torque rating of 200Nm is accessed attainably from 1,500-4,000rpm, helped along by Audi’s vaunted S tronic dual-clutch transmission for smooth and quick changes. Switch to Sport mode for even more vigorous performance. We definitely do not doubt the 203kph top figure that Audi quotes.

- Just as in other hatches, one needs to manage expectations in the A1. The second-row seats can prove to be a cramped proposition for taller passengers. We also pine for the silver knobs and excellent functions of Audi’s auto-climate control, which was swapped (for the sake of tag price, we surmise) in favor of manual rotary dials in the base A1.

= Agile, nimble, and quick, the A1 belies sprightly performance by maintaining a stiff upper lip and a buttoned shirt. It should appeal to anyone ready for an upgrade to German hardware and accoutrements, if bereft of a pressing need for oodles of space.

Bluffer’s Box

Audi A1 1.4 TSI

Price: P1.990 million

Engine: 1.4-liter inline-four, gasoline with turbocharged fuel stratified injection; 120hp @ 5,000rpm, 200Nm @ 1,500-4,000rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch

Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive

Key features: Audi MMI System, LED daytime running lights, front side and head airbags, twin exhaust pipes, driving mode selection