There's a stack of prestige in owning a car with four rings emblazoned on the front of it. So, it's little surprise Audi wanted to put a lot more effort into its all-new A1 small car than it did with the old one.
It's proven that getting buyers into your brand at a younger age sets them up to move through your range as their family size expands and eventually contracts.
Despite sharing a platform with the new Volkswagen Polo (that platform being called the MQB-A0), Audi has gone to great lengths to ensure the all-new 2019 Audi A1 provides sufficient differentiation between the two.
Kicking off from $32,350 (plus on-road costs) for the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol A1 30 TFSI, the range then moves to the A1 35 TFSI pictured here, which is priced from $35,290 (plus on-road costs), and tops out with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol A1 40 TFSI that's priced from $46,450 (plus on-road costs).
Nestled under the bonnet of the A1 35 TFSI is an engine new to Audi, it's a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit that sends torque through the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The engine produces 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, which is pretty healthy for a car that weighs just 1260kg. That combination allows it to consume just 5.8 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle.
The exterior of the A1 has been softened, but still presents with a sharp edge to it with hints of sporty intention. The $2990 Style Package fitted to our test car further rounds out the package with LED headlights at the front and rear, interior variable LED lighting and bigger 18-inch alloy wheels.
Speaking of options, Audi has been clever by only offering a small options list and bundling major options into groups, such as the Style Package ($2990) and the Technik Package ($3200). Outside of that, buyers can option an offset colour roof and different coloured interior trims.
While the seats are finished in cloth trim, they are nicely presented and don't feel cheap. The same can't be said for some of the materials Audi has chosen to use around the cabin. You sit in an Audi expecting everything to feel premium – especially if the platform is shared with a much cheaper city runabout.
But Audi has missed the mark on some of the door materials and touch points you often come across. It's only a small gripe, but it's enough to dampen the mood inside the cabin.
Thankfully that's where the negatives end inside the cabin. The 35 TFSI comes standard with Audi's Virtual Cockpit system, which is a 10.25-inch digital display ahead of the driver, in lieu of analogue gauges. It's supplemented by an 8.8-inch infotainment system that Audi calls MMI. MMI comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is fairly easy to use.
The only downside to the coexistence of both systems is the lack of map overlays on the Virtual Cockpit screen. These features are included in the Technik Package, which brings with it a 10.1-inch infotainment screen, wireless smartphone mirroring, a better stereo, and the more advanced Virtual Cockpit system that packs more processing grunt.
There's plenty of room at the front row and cargo capacity has increased by 65L to a useful 335L. While the vehicle's overall length has increased by 56mm and the wheelbase has been stretched by 94mm, it's still very cramped in the second row for adults.
Granted, you'll only be ferrying friends and family around in the second row for short journeys. It's still hard to squeeze in there, especially if the front seat passenger or driver is a taller person.
Infotainment is supported by both USB and USB-C ports for future-proofing, while wireless phone charging is standard gear.
Parking is taken care of with front and rear parking sensors, along with a high quality reverse-view camera.
What's the new A1 like to drive? We hit the road to sample it across a mix of city, country and highway driving. Despite sharing a platform with the Polo, the A1 feels more wholesome and better planted on the road.
It's slightly firmer than the softer Polo, but that means it feels a little more engaging. There's sufficient feel through the steering wheel, and it's light enough to make getting around the city and tight car parks easy. On that front, visibility is also excellent thanks to the large glasshouse and open visibility through the rear window envelope.
If you jump on the throttle from a standing start, the A1 will sprint from 0–100km/h in 7.7 seconds, which is decent enough for the intended purposes of the A1.
In-gear acceleration is brisk, and there's a raspy note from the engine as you push through the rev band. There's rarely a time you feel like there's not enough power to be confident in the car getting out of the way of things or overtaking on a country road.
Unfortunately, the whole package is let down by a fairly fussy dual-clutch gearbox. It's quite lazy and can be slow to respond to inputs. It has a slight dead spot as it moves off the line, and it hates being pitted head-to-head with a hill in forwards or reverse.
Dual-clutch gearboxes are an easy way for manufacturers to game the fuel economy system with their inherent ~10 per cent fuel-use advantage over a torque converter. Most people associate them with sports cars, but in city runabouts like the A1, they don't really aid with performance in any meaningful way.
In and around the city, the A1 feels at home. It'll dart in and out of traffic, along with being easy to park and move around. The stop/start system kicks in while the car is rolling and feels fairly refined.
As you hit the open road, there is some tyre noise that creeps into the cabin, but it's not going to do your head in or become an issue if you plan on doing extended highway drives.
In terms of ownership costs, the 35 TFSI lives on a diet of 95RON premium unleaded fuel. While there's added cost to that equation, Audi has sharpened its pencil on servicing costs.
Pre-paid servicing comes in at $1480 for three years or $1990 for five years, which nets you three or five services respectively at 12 monthly or 15,000km intervals.
You're stuck with a pretty poor three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, but that's a crime currently being committed by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, the top three luxury brands in Australia.
The all-new Audi A1 is a bit of a mixed bag. The car presents nicely, is loaded with features, and is well priced at the mid-spec level. However, it's let down by a fussy gearbox and some subpar interior materials.