For a nation that prides itself on wide open spaces, we buy a hell of a lot of city cars.

Fact is, though we have inklings of words like "mateship'' and "self-reliance'' that were used by or grandparents to describe the "bronzed Aussie'', Australians have in the past 50 years become marginalised by outside forces.

We are predominantly city dwellers and in that regard, now familiar with the same city constraints that affect Europe and North America.

So we're following a lot of their trends and choosing small cars - like Audi's special A1 - is just one.


Dumb question Number One is "Why buy an Audi A1 Sport for $45,000 when I could buy a Volkswagen Polo GTI - on which the A1 is based - for $28,000?'' I know it's dumb because I kept asking myself it.

The answer is they're not the same car. The Audi A1 is a very different drive - and should be for the $17,000 difference - and better equipped and, most importantly, people with more money than I don't want a Volkswagen.

The A1 Sport is well equipped but typifying top-end carmakers, has an expensive option list that contains many items I'd consider mandatory - like the contrasting colour of the roof arches ($720 extra, please) which is precisely the reason the A1 looks like an A1.

Metallic paint is an over-the-top $990, too. The S-Line adds a tad more class and for $1650 extra, you may as well have it.  Value? You'd have to have the cash.


In profile it's like a pregnant TT, something you'd design by wheeling the TT against one of those wave-shaped fairground mirrors and aligning it until you get a new, fatter silhouette. It's subjectively a pretty shape with a clam-shell bonnet, S-Line add-ons such as the bodykit's fat bumpers and roof spoiler and its wide dimensions that hide its shortness.

Of course, it's small and that, to a degree, interrupts its cabin space which is better for two adults and a couple of children. What makes it work is the same principle of the Fiat 500 - it's distinctive and the jelly-mold shape is a contemporary take on the angular lines of traditional small-car design.


Okay. This is the last time I'll mention Volkswagen. The A1 Sport gets the Volkswagen Polo GTI's base platform and drivetrain and that's all good. It shares the Polo's 1.4-litre supercharged and turbocharged four-pot though thanks to an extra tweak, cranks out 4kW more at 136kW. Torque remains at 250Nm and is available from 2000rpm through to 4500rpm.

The supercharger starts pumping at idle and is joined at 1500rpm by the turbo. The supercharger turns of at 3500rpm and the turbo sings out to the red line. Subsequently, the A1 gets to 100km/h from rest in 6.9 seconds - same as the Polo and interestingly, same as the Golf GTI - yet averages 5.9 L/100km.

It comes only as a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. Handling is spot on though on paper doesn't inspire. There's MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear which is standard fare in the small-car class, yet the execution by Audi is exceptional.


This is a five-star crash-rated car that gets all Audi's electronic safety aids, including a hill-start assist which is important because the dual-clutch auto has a tendency to roll back on inclines. There's also six airbags and rear park sensors but only a space-saver spare tyre.


It's surprisingly quick and will shock some fellow traffic light motorists. The stats say the supercharger starts the little engine cranking and the turbo finishes it off at the top end but there's no sense of transition - it's just like a hot 2-litre engine. The power's on tap but the S-tronic (nee DSG) dual-clutch box has annoying lag off the mark and will stumble and hunt for a cog if you aren't a predictable or smooth driver.

However, no argument about the speed that it sends in the next ratio. The A1's handling is very predictable and shows its tight chassis - far more composed than the Polo GTI - has a lot of potential for more grunt. Even the electric steering has sufficient feel to warrant a tick.

The A1 is also quiet and comfortable - despite the S-Line's firmer suspension - and has a practical and expansive boot, potential for seating two (small-stature) adults in the back seat and the agility and small turning circle to fit ay city car park.


Yes, it's expensive and even a Toyota Yaris will do similar things in tight situations. But the A1 is a quality production made for people that expect lots more from lots less.

Audi AI Sport S-Line 

Price: $44,150
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited km, roadside assist
Resale: n/a Service Interval 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 5.9 l/100km; 139g/km CO2 
Equipment: six airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC.
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 136kW/250Nm 1.4-litre 4-cyl super/turbo-petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, front drive Body 3-door, 4 seats
Dimensions: 3954 (L); 1740mm (W); 1416mm (H); 2469mm (WB)
Weight: 1190kg Tyre size 215/40R17
Spare tyre: space-saver