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by Tim Beissmann

Audi A1 Attraction vs Volkswagen Polo GTI

Model Overview

  • Audi A1 Attraction three-door six-speed manual – $29,900
  • Volkswagen Polo GTI five-door seven-speed DSG – $28,990

Most people with their hearts set on purchasing the newest and smallest Audi to hit our shores – the Audi A1 – have probably given little consideration to the standard Volkswagen Polo range. Although the vehicles share the same PQ25 Volkswagen Group platform, internal workings and general appearance, the equivalent base model three-door Polo comes in at $16,690 – a massive $13,210 discount to the entry-level A1. Even the most expensive model in the standard range – the 66TDI Comfortline seven-speed DSG is more than $5000 less expensive than the Audi A1 Attraction six-speed manual.

With the introduction of the Volkswagen Polo GTI in November 2010, the top of the range five-door Polo is now just $910 less expensive than the entry-level A1. As such, the GTI has become a proposition that potential A1 customers simply cannot ignore.

Here we analyse both vehicles and aim to help potential A1 customers answer the question that must be burning in their minds: ‘Can I really go past the Polo GTI?’

 

Engine and performance

Audi A1 Attraction Volkswagen Polo GTI
Engine 1.4-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 1.4-litre direct-injection twincharged four-cylinder petrol
Maximum power 90kW @ 5000rpm 132kW @ 6200rpm
Maximum torque 200Nm @ 1500rpm 250Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual with start-stop system Seven-speed dual-clutch DSG
Drive Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive
Acceleration 0-100km/h 8.9 seconds 6.9 seconds

Read CarAdvice’s full drive review of the Audi A1.

Read CarAdvice’s full drive review of the Volkswagen Polo GTI.

If it’s performance you’re after, the answer’s a simple one: The GTI is the car for you. Its supercharged and turbocharged engine is borrowed from the Golf 118TSI, yet produces an extra 14kW of power and 10Nm of torque, compared with the Golf engine’s state of tune.

Comparing it with the A1 is almost unfair. The Polo GTI has almost one and a half times the power of the A1 and 25 percent more torque. It sprints from 0-100km/h a whole two seconds faster and flat out the Polo will be travelling 26km/h faster than the Audi (top speed 229km/h vs 203km/h). Astonishingly, thanks to its lighter weight, the Polo GTI matches its bigger brother, the Golf GTI, in the 0-100km/h sprint, while blitzing it for fuel consumption.

The biggest disappointment for driving enthusiasts is that Volkswagen isn’t building the Polo GTI with a manual transmission. Buyers determined to be the masters of their own rev range are forced to make do with the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission and its steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

The entry-level A1 comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, which features built-in stop-start technology. Optioning the Audi with a seven-speed DSG adds $3350 to the price, which means the most inexpensive automatic A1 is a relatively pricey $32,250. Those whose priority is a good value small car with a seven-speed DSG will find it hard to go past the 77TSI Polo ($22,350) or even the 118TSI Golf ($31,990).

Those after an A1 to match the GTI’s performance should look at the A1 1.4 TFSI S line model due to be launched in June. Simply speaking, it’s Audi’s reskinned version of the Polo GTI. It too will be offered in DSG-only guise but will carry a starting price in excess of $35,000.

 

Fuel consumption and emissions

Audi A1 Attraction Volkswagen Polo GTI
Fuel tank capacity 45 litres 45 litres
Fuel type Premium unleaded Premium unleaded
Theoretical range (based on combined cycle fuel consumption) 849km 738km
Combined cycle fuel consumption 5.3 litres/100km 6.1 litres/100km
Urban fuel consumption 6.8 litres/100km 7.7 litres/100km
Extra urban fuel consumption 4.4 litres/100km 5.3 litres/100km
Carbon dioxide emissions 124g/km 142g/km

One good reason for Audi fans to stick with the A1 is its economy. At 5.3 litres/100km in the combined cycle, you will have to settle for a considerably less powerful Suzuki Alto or Fiat 500 to do better from a non-hybrid petrol in Australia. The Audi is 13 percent more fuel efficient than the Polo GTI, and even when compared with the most fuel efficient petrol model in the Polo range – the 77TSI Comfortline, at 5.5 litres/100km – the A1 still takes the environmental points.

The A1’s CO2 emissions are also lower than the Polo GTI, placing it in the same league as some of the cleaner diesels on the market, including the Volkswagen Golf, Peugeot 308 and BMW 1 Series. The GTI is by no means an eco destroyer either, emitting the same level of CO2 as the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

The Audi’s savings are thanks to what the brand calls its ‘modular efficiency platform’. In simple terms, the A1 uses brake energy generation and start-stop engine technology to help reduce unnecessary energy wastage when the vehicle brakes and idles. The systems are applied to all A1 models, regardless of transmission.

Those truly looking to save the polar bears may want to wait until mid-year when Audi introduces the A1 1.6 TDI to Australia. The diesel engine borrowed from the Polo produces the same 66kW/230Nm power figures but – with the help of the modular efficiency platform – will use just 3.8 litres/100km combined and emit 99g/km CO2. Audi is yet to announce pricing for the A1 1.6 TDI, but, like the 1.4 TFSI, don’t expect too much change from $35,000 for an entry-level model with the seven-speed DSG.

 

Exterior and dimensions

Audi A1 Attraction Volkswagen Polo GTI
Length 3954mm 4064mm
Width 1740mm 1682mm
Height 1416mm 1500mm
Weight 1100kg 1189kg
Luggage capacity 270 litres 204 litres
Luggage capacity (expanded) 920 litres 882 litres

The biggest difference between the two vehicles from the outside is that the A1 is available only as a three-door hatch while the Polo GTI comes with the option of five doors or three ($27,790).

The Polo is the best dressed of the two, with 17-inch alloy wheels, red brake calipers, front and rear fog lights, daytime driving lights, chrome exhaust pipes, a roof spoiler and tinted glass.

The Audi gets just 15-inch alloys (17s are a $2870 option), but does include light sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers (the latter is only available in the Polo when equipped with the $500 Comfort pack). Both feature LED mirror indicators and a space saver spare wheel.

As expected, the Audi’s options list is longer and more expensive than the Volkswagen. Metallic/pearl effect paint costs $500 on the Polo and $990 on the A1. The Audi’s roof arches can also be ordered in a contrasting colour for $720. The Polo’s Bi-Xenon headlight package with LED daytime driving lights is a $1600 option, and $1850 on the A1. Unlike the Polo, the A1 can be optioned with a panoramic glass sunroof for $2090.

With both vehicles fully optioned on the outside, the A1 includes a few more features and offers more individual styling than the Polo, although it comes with a $38,420 price tag, compared with the Polo at $31,590.

 

Interior and equipment

As expected, the Audi has a more upmarket interior than the Volkswagen. A deal-breaker for some potential A1 customers could be its lack of a centre rear passenger seat, with the Audi providing room for just two in the back. The Polo GTI has the standard five seats, all trimmed in the familiar ‘Jacky’ tartan trim.

The A1 and the Polo GTI both come with cruise control, electric windows, floor mats, single CD player and AUX input, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth seats and a 60/40 split-fold rear bench.

Both also have manual air-conditioning, with automatic climate control a $720 extra on the A1 and part of the $500 Comfort pack in the Polo (which also adds an auto-dimming rear-view mirror). Auto-dimming mirror in the A1 is another $490. Leather upholstery is a $1900 option in the Polo and $2300 in the A1.

The Polo also adds a standard removable luggage cover, front armrest with storage ($250 in the Audi), flat-bottom steering wheel with audio controls and gearshift paddles, aluminium pedals and doorsill inlays, chrome insert highlights and a chilled glovebox. Bluetooth phone connectivity, satellite navigation and parking sensors are available as dealer-fitted accessories.

The Audi’s standard audio system has eight speakers (two more than the Polo) and includes a cool retractable 6.5-inch colour display and an SD card reader. (The $770 optional Audio package in the Volkswagen adds a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen display and an SD card reader, as well as a six-disc in-dash CD changer and iPod/USB connectors.) The Audi’s $1800 Media package includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, multi-function steering wheel controls and music interface integration. Both the Audi and Volkswagen optional audio packages require cables purchased from the dealer, although the A1 is capable of wireless streaming with the Media package and a dealer-purchased connection.

The Audi can be personalised well beyond the Volkswagen and is available with heated front seats ($600), coloured air vent surrounds ($305-$620), front and rear parking sensors ($1200), keyless entry and start ($600), a full 14-speaker Bose sound system ($1450), and the complete MMI Navigation Plus pack with satellite navigation, 20 GB music storage and two SD card readers ($6500) – the latter of which is approximately 30 times the cost of a decent aftermarket nav system if all you want is the sat-nav.

Safety

Both vehicles have been awarded a five-star safety rating under Euro NCAP’s new, more stringent ratings scheme. Both are equipped with electronic stability program with an electronic limited slip differential, traction control, six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), seatbelt tensioners and force limiters, front seatbelt reminders and a rear-impact whiplash-limiting headrest system.

On top of the A1, the Polo GTI gets engine drag torque control (MSR), Hill Start Assist (standard on the A1 with DSG transmission), and a low tyre pressure indicator.

According to Euro NCAP, the Polo rates better for child passenger protection, while the Audi offers superior pedestrian protection. Adult driver and passenger protection is an impressive 90 percent for both vehicles.

 

Warranty, servicing and availability

Audi A1 Attraction Volkswagen Polo GTI
Vehicle warranty Three-year/Unlimited km Three-year/Unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months/15,000km 12 months/15,000km
Waiting time Four to five months Six to seven months

Now for the bad news. If you’re after either one of these cars, you’re going to have to wait a while. Neither manufacturer could supply us with accurate waiting times for the vehicles, however our own investigation revealed patience will be required.

David Lye, director at independent car brokering service Private Fleet, said if you ordered an Audi A1 today it would not be delivered until the last week of May. The news is even worse for Volkswagen fans, with waiting times for the Polo GTI blowing out to July/August.

 

Conclusion

The 2011 Audi 1.4 Attraction is the car for you if:

  • You want a premium light car rather than a tweaked performance hatch
  • You’re in love with the four rings
  • You want superior fuel economy and emissions
  • You have no desire to transport more than four people at a time
  • You have money to personalise it with options to make yours a truly bespoke vehicle
  • You can’t wait until August to get behind the wheel of a Polo GTI

The 2011 Volkswagen Polo GTI is the car for you if:

  • You want a tiny hot hatch that is quick enough to take on vehicles in the next segment, and more
  • You want the vehicle that is the best-equipped of the two, both inside and out, in standard trim
  • You like the flexibility of the Polo’s five-door/five-seat configuration
  • You simply can’t justify paying almost $1000 more for an entry-level Audi
  • You can live with waiting until August to get behind the wheel



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