Ford Fiesta VS Audi A1
- Zesty performance
- Great handling
- Sounds terrific
- Manual only
- Can't hide cheap finishes
- Some shortfalls in practicality
- Looks super cool
- All variants fun to drive
- High-tech and practical
- RIP S1
- 40 TFSI expensive
- Road noise
For the new-generation Ford Fiesta 2019 range, only one version will be offered - the all-new Ford Fiesta ST.
It has big shoes to fill, following on from what was widely acclaimed as the benchmark when it came to budget pocket rocket performance and outright driver enjoyment.
And, like the previous model, the new 2019 Ford Fiesta ST follows the fun-for-your-money formula to a tee: front-drive, manual, turbocharged... but this time around, things are very different - inside, outside, and under the skin.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
After the last one hung around for a little too long, the A1 is back, bringing new life to an unloved market segment.
Seriously, when was the last time you spared a thought for the premium end of the small hatch segment? When the Mini Cooper was last updated? Maybe when the last generation of A1 launched nine years ago?
But if this new A1 doesn’t have you paying attention nothing will. What’s more, Audi is launching into this nice space with a fully-fledged range of variants and a slew of visual options to appeal to the widest range of buyers it can.
So, should you consider one? Has Audi smashed it out of the park on price for its three-engine range? And, what’s up with that triple barrelled snout?
We went to the launch of the 2020 A1 range to find the answers to these questions and more.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded|
The new-generation Ford Fiesta ST is instantly more appealing than its predecessor - it is smarter inside, more efficient and more powerful, more enjoyable and better to look at. There is no denying it will appeal to more people, even if it does miss out on the crucial automatic transmission that so many buyers want.
I just really hope Ford helps it along by making the five-door model available to local buyers, because it would be the best move - for the brand, and its potential customers.
Do you think the Fiesta ST should be offered in three-door, five-door, or both? Let us know in the comments section below.
The A1 is fun to look at, fun to drive, and genuinely full of cutting-edge tech. While it launches into a city-car segment with few competitors in Australia, it still has an impressive specification list which no other small car can match.
What’s more is each variant is carefully crafted to a specific buyer in terms of its price, performance, and equipment. Just be aware each trim level has a distinct options list that can make a stark difference to the end product available to you.
To that end, our pick of the range is the 35 TFSI. It’s able to perform well in a wider range of road conditions while still keeping the cost well below the almost-$50k 40 TFSI. It also opens up a much longer list of optional equipment than is available on the 30 TFSI.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
It's less nosey than before - there's no doubt about that. The new Fiesta looks much better proportioned than its precursor, with an upright grille, sweeping lines through the body, and a "perfect" proportion between the metal and glass… according to the chief designer of the car. For what it's worth, I tend to agree - both in three- and five-door guise, this thing is a looker.
At the rear the tail-lights are now horizontal, rather than vertical, and that helps broaden the car visually, hunkering it down to the road. And in actual fact, the new-generation Fiesta ST is bigger in all the important directions than its predecessor: it is now 4068mm long (+93mm), 1735mm wide (+26mm) and the wheelbase is longer, too, now at 2493mm (+4mm). It's lower to the ground, as well: now 1469mm (-26mm).
Those dimensions are identical between three- and five-door models, and you can make your own mind up about which you prefer. But to me, there's a clear distinction between them: the three-door could be considered a bit of a selfish option - a car that's designed for the driver primarily, and that's undoubtedly a worthy attribute for a pint-size hot hatch; the five-door version is a more sensible option - it doesn't suffer enormous doors, and the packaging and practicality is pretty good for a little hatchback.
No matter the number of doors, the Fiesta ST gets clever door-ding protecting flip out barriers, the same as you see on a Skoda Kodiaq. It's a very nice piece of thoughtful design, especially for the three-door, because the doors themselves are massive for the size of the car.
The ST rolls on either 17- or 18-inch wheels, and it's unclear what we'll get (our money is on 18s). And it's still unclear if we'll get the three-door, the five-door, or maybe both. One would think that if Ford Australia was clever, it would try and maximise the options for buyers, because it's already excluding 90 per cent of the market by not offering an automatic transmission.
Don’t you think the A1 is a good looker? I do, and in the flesh, it manages to look even better.
Even the base car is quaint, with its stout dimensions and subtle lines. It’s clear the brand is making a solid effort to deviate from the phrase “all Audis look the same” which is definitely one you’ve heard before.
New design elements include the strong, more squared-off wheelarches, thick and angular C-pillar, and new more complicated front.
The LED light clusters round off the A1’s distinctive face, but somehow bring the whole thing together for a distinctive Audi look.
Fresh, but not wild. We like it.
Inside is full of nice touches and surfaces. It comes off as a bit of a polygonal assault, but the strong design theme and driver-centric design are a fresh futuristic breath.
Either the 8.8-inch or 10.1-inch multimedia screens are stunning in their resolution, fidelity, and graphics, really cementing the media system as the heart of the dash.
That’s saying a lot, too, because there are plenty of other wow moments, like the slick digital dash elements, vented passenger dash insert and the way the design spills into the door cards. You can add ambient lighting onto it further up the range.
A few weak points are easily noted, however. Having a turnkey on the base spec 30 TFSI is decidedly not 'premium' and the complete lack of an electric handbrake makes the centre console area a little clumsy. The plastics around the lower third of the dash are Polo quality, which is good for a car this size, while not quite oozing luxury.
The seats themselves are comfortable, no matter which grade you pick, but the only way to get leather is to opt for the S-Line interior package, only available on the top-grade 40 TFSI ($1100).
If there was a criticism that could be levelled at the old ST, it was that the interior felt like it hadn't moved on from its 2013 roots. The new one? Well, it's definitely up to date, even if it is also clearly based on an affordable hatchback and therefore has a few of less than luscious plastics.
There's the now typical tablet style media screen front and centre on the dashboard, an 8.0-inch touch-capacitive unit with the latest Ford Sync 3 interface, in-built sat nav, a crisp reversing camera display with active steering guidelines, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology. It works well, and looks a helluva lot better than the existing car's 4.2-inch TFT with Sync 1.1.
The seats in the test vehicles were Recaro buckets, which may be a little tight at the base for broader-hipped individuals (yours truly included), but they offer terrific support and bracing in corners thanks to the huge body-hugging bolsters.
The seats also feature plenty of adjustment, including manual height adjust for the base, and tilt adjust as well.
Of course there are the usual storage bits and bobs up front - a pair of cupholders between the front seats (with illumination), a smallish centre console bin, and a pair of slim door pockets.
The back seat of the three-door and five-door models is suitable for getting you and your friends or children from one place to another, but it wouldn't be an enjoyable long-distance road trip car. And if you happen to go through some corners, you'll struggle to find anything to hang on to in the back (in a three-door, in particular) as there are no roof grab handles at all (three- or five-door).
The back seat does have ISOFIX and child-seat anchor points, but it misses out on some basic inclusions: there is no fold-down centre armrest, no rear cupholders, and only a couple of small storage areas - whether the model you're in has five doors or three. There are no rear air vents, either, but it's a pretty small car.
The boot is a good size for this class, too, with 311 litres of cargo capacity - easily enough for a couple of weekend bags. There's a space-saver spare wheel under the floor - unless you get a car with the Bang & Olufsen stereo system, which uses that area for a subwoofer and instead includes a "tyre management kit".
The new A1’s wheelbase has been stretched out by 94mm which doesn’t sound like much, but makes a world of difference when it comes to this car’s floorplan.
There’s way more space than you’d expect just by looking at the outside, which becomes evident the moment you put yourself in the driver’s seat.
My 182cm tall frame had leagues of headroom, legroom, and arm-flailing space, and I was struck by how adjustable the seating position was, featuring a low seat and a broad-reaching telescopic adjust for the steering column.
Storage is abundant too, with a massive bin under the climate controls, and three variably-sized cupholders in the centre console. It’s a bit annoying you’ll have to spec up to the 35 TFSI to get a tiny centre console box, the main use of which is as an elbow rest for the driver and front passenger.
Full marks for large bottle holders in the doors (for a car this size), too, and the addition of USB C outlets will keep tech-heads very happy. Wireless charging on the 35 TFSI and wireless CarPlay on the 40 TFSI are impressive inclusions (all without a subscription...) and the screens are bright and easy to reach thanks to the new driver-centric dash.
The back seat offers a genuinely surprising amount of room, with an inch or two of airspace for my knees behind my own driving position and enough headroom for me, but perhaps nobody taller.
All the seats sit really low to the floor. While this leads to a sporty driving position, it also brings up questions about the fitting of child seats or clambering in and out.
As if all of those dimensions weren’t improved enough, the boot is even better again. It has 335-litres (VDA) of space which is a whopping 65 litres more than the outgoing car. That’s more boot space than a Toyota Corolla or a Mazda CX-3 - for a bit of context.
There’s a catch though. The A1 has no spare wheel, with all variants shipping with an inflator kit, and the brand says there will be no all-wheel drive versions, preferring instead to make the most of the deep boot.
Price and features
We don't know what it will cost just yet, but strong indications from Ford Australia suggest a price tag of less than $30,000. It'll need to be there, given it is manual only.
Ford Australia has indicated it knows where the competitors sit - the new-generation Volkswagen Polo GTI is the main one, and that car will be automatic only (dual-clutch), and come in five-door guise, priced at $30,990.
Like its German rival, the Ford hot hatch will come comprehensively equipped for the money. There's an array of safety gear (see below) fitted as standard, plus a bunch of nice interior and exterior highlights.
Things like push-button start, keyless entry, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, Recaro sports seats with sporty cloth trim, auto headlights and wipers, cruise control, single-zone climate control and possibly heating seats and a heated steering wheel.
It's expected there will be 18-inch wheels fitted as standard (take that, 17-inch clad Polo GTI!), but it appears unlikely Aussie buyers will get the option of a dual-pane glass roof that is being offered in some markets.
The real determinant for a lot of buyers could be whether the company decides to offer three- and five-door models, though. As a one-time fancier of the existing Fiesta ST who ruled it out as a potential purchase out because it was a three-door, I know I speak for a lot of would-be Ford customers in saying that a five-door would be very, very enticing.
The A1 comes in three variants, distinguished by their engines. We’ve found it also slots them neatly into potential buyer classes, and we’ll explain as we go along.
Kicking off the range wearing an MSRP of $32,350 is the 30 TFSI. Now the cheapest Audi you can buy, it comes packed with an eco-conscious 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch auto, 16-inch alloys, an 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.25-inch digital dash (no A1 comes with analog dials), DAB+ digital radio, front and rear parking sensors, cloth seat trim, and a turn-key ignition.
This is great spec, especially for a premium car, and surprising for Audi’s most affordable model. Another way of looking at it, is that you can get a lot of the same spec from a mid-grade VW Polo ($24,990), but it doesn’t look near as good as the A1, and Audi says it expects this car to draw a lot of buyers out of non-premium options.
Importantly, it should be drawing buyers from the not-quite as well equipped entry-level Mini Cooper ($34,000).
Next rung in the A1 range is the mid-grade 35 TFSI ($35,290). Offering a balance of spec and price, on the face of it, the 35 only offers buyers a few extra tidbits for a little extra cash.
You get 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and push-start, ambient interior lighting, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, armrest centre console, and a wireless phone charging bay. On top of that, the 35 TFSI is able to be specified with a more comprehensive list of option packages.
The 40 TFSI is the top-grade A1, and takes a significant jump from the rest of the range in terms of price at $46,450. The 40 TFSI has a more powerful 2.0-litre engine, and increases the specification to include 18-inch alloy wheels, S-Line pack which significantly ups the visual ante, dual-zone climate control, adaptive suspension, heated and auto-folding rear vision mirrors, Audi’s fully-fledged 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dash, built-in sat-nav and internet connectivity, as well as wireless CarPlay via a larger 10.1-inch screen.
It’s true the 40 TFSI is expensive, easily beyond $50k once you add a few options, but it stands in place of the discontinued S1 hot hatch.
Engine & trans
The 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine matches the power output of the existing model (well, the old model on overboost, anyway), with 147kW at 6000rpm. That's pretty amazing horsepower from a triple.
The torque figure needn't be sneezed at, either with 290Nm from 1600-4000rpm. That's 50Nm more than the old car (or 20Nm more if you're talking the overboost numbers), across a slightly narrower rev range. But the tractability of the engine is superb. Read the driving section below for more on that.
Oh, and you might want to know the 0-100km/h time, too? It's 6.5 seconds, which is 0.4sec quicker than the claimed 0-100 time of the existing car, and that's despite the fact it's quite a bit heavier than the existing model: three-door for three-door, the weight is up 90kg (now 1262kg), and the five-door is 21kg. Top speed is claimed at 232km/h.
Each of the three A1 trim levels is defined by its engine.
The base engine in the 30 TFSI is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol. It produces a city-car appropriate 85kW/200Nm.
Next up is the 35 TFSI which offers a bit more power, good for buyers who will use the freeway a bit more often. It’s the most recent engine here, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo which produces 110kW/250Nm. It’s worth noting this engine is fitted with an emissions-reducing petrol particulate filter (PPF) in Europe, but this component had to be removed for the Australian version as our lax fuel standards could have caused problems.
This engine does get ‘cylinder-on-demand’ technology, which can shut down two of the four cylinders when cruising to save fuel.
The top engine available in the 40 TFSI is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 147kW/320Nm. It’s a far punchier unit, offering a clear driver’s choice in the A1 line-up, especially now it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a proper hot-hatch S1.
The 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre engines are both mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, while the top-spec 2.0-litre has a six-speed dual-clutch instead. A five- or six-speed manual version, available in Europe, will not make it to Australia.
The new Fiesta ST is claimed to use 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which is high for a three-cylinder engine… well, if it were an economy-tuned three-cylinder. But it's still pretty good for a hot hatch.
And the 1.5-litre is the first three-cylinder from Ford to offer a cylinder deactivation system, which can make the engine run on two cylinders only under low loads. You can hear it and feel it when that happens, but it's apparently good to help you save about 6 per cent on fuel consumption when it does.
Over a very - shall we say - spirited drive in the mountains behind Nice in France, I saw just over 10 litres per hundred indicated on the dashboard.
How much of that 95 RON fuel you’ll consume will obviously depend on which engine you choose. We didn’t have time to give you a fair indication of real-world figures on our drive program, so we’ll be working with official, combined cycle numbers.
The 1.0-litre 30 TFSI has a claimed, combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.4L/100km. It’s surprising to see it come in as higher than the five-door automatic three-cylinder Mini Cooper, which is rated at 5.0L/100km despite producing more power.
Stepping up to the 1.5-litre four-cylinder 35 TFSI puts the official combined consumption number up to 5.8L/100km, and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder 40 TFSI will consume an official combined 6.4L/100km.
The best estimate I can give you on real-world consumption for now is the 7.0L/100km I scored on the three-cylinder Polo which the 30 TFSI shares its engine with.
I love the character and sound of three-cylinder cars - I own two of them, a Mini Cooper and a Volkswagen up! - and anyone who may have thought that the charm of the Fiesta ST could be damaged by the swap from four to three cylinders, you needn't fear. It's more loveable than ever.
The way the engine sears with power and punches its torque out is phenomenal, a true testament to Ford's engineers that have made something thoroughly entertaining with the 2019 Fiesta ST.
Of course it still has a six-speed manual - it's a Euro hot hatch, after all - but still no automatic, dual-clutch or otherwise. It's a good little gearbox, with decent shift feel and a light but usable clutch. The throw is a little long, and first gear is pretty short, but it's easy enough to pedal through the gears.
There is a launch control system that'll hold revs for you, allowing you to dump the clutch and take off very speedily. And if you're worried about just how quick you're going, there's a digital speedometer in the middle of the manual gauge cluster. It's a shame the new Fiesta doesn't get the same 12.0-inch digital driver display that the Mustang has - it would have lifted the interior ambience even more.
It also lacks a rev matching system - aaaaaand you get that sporty tech in the a new-generation base model manual Corolla.
The traction on offer is immense - as you may expect, the vehicle we tested with the Quaife limited-slip differential clambered out of tight corners tremendously, where the car with the open diff was more of a handful in the twisty stuff.
There's also a torque vectoring (by braking) system, which will grab the brake of the inside front wheel to enhance the turn response, and if you want to, you can provoke the back end to step around on itself to a degree - if you opt for the Sport ESC setting and Sport drive mode and find a series of hairpins, the Fiesta ST will cock its back leg more than an eager dog on a morning walk.
We didn't sample Race Mode, because we weren't at a race track. Safety first… and as it was, we had to dodge public holiday cyclists by the hundred, and speeding Renault Kangoo drivers that seemed to have forgotten what side of the road they were supposed to be on.
There is no Individual or Custom mode, so you can't pick and choose settings you might want to.
There is some torque-steer to contend with, but rather than being annoying, it's actually pretty endearing - and the ultra-quick steering (a 12:1 ratio electric steering set-up, the quickest ever from Ford) makes you feel more dialled-in to the drive experience.
While some of my fellow Aussie journos had questions over a slight fuzziness to the steering on-centre, I had no such complaints with the way this car tipped into a tight bend or changed direction part way through.
Another dialled-in element is the suspension - the front end is a MacPherson strut set-up with twin-tube dampers and a thick (22.5mm) anti-roll bar, the rear a torsion beam arrangement that is stiffer than anything else to have come from Ford Performance.
The most surprising bit is how nicely the Fiesta ST rides. It is undeniably more comfortable than the existing model (I got a lift in one just two days before the launch drive), and while our test loop wasn't the typical rat-run through the back streets of Sydney or Melbourne, it promises to be well sorted when it comes to bump and body control.
We had a chance to sample all three A1 variants at the launch, and we’re happy to report each one slots into its target category nicely.
All cars benefit from an adjustable and sporty driving position, which is comfortable, even over long periods, and genuinely pleasant steering.
It’s really light at low speeds, but stiffens up to offer responsive and direct feedback at speed.
The entry-level three-cylinder kicks along nicely at city speeds, with its peak torque being available at a low 2000rpm.
It certainly feels like it punches above its weight, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling a little weak on the freeway, for more high-speed overtaking maneuvers. There just isn’t much power left in reserve.
The 30 TFSI has the least road noise of the trio thanks to its smallish wheels and spongey rubber.
Stepping up to the 35 TFSI brings a welcome power upgrade (adding 35kW/50Nm). It feels like the engine most suited to this car, with great performance at all speeds.
It’s far from a hot-hatch, but the efficiency technologies gained here should help buyers save a bit of extra fuel in the long run.
Power is much better at freeway speeds, and that’s perhaps what will sell this car over the three-cylinder which seems like a better fit for a predominantly city-slicking buyer.
Road noise picks up a bit, with the 35 TFSI’s extra wheel size and slim profile tyres.
The top-spec 40 TFSI seems to be an S1 hot-hatch in everything but name. The 2.0-litre engine with its relatively massive power outputs is more than enough for something this size, and it comes with some genuine performance enhancements too.
These include adaptive dampers (with three modes), paddle-shifters, and a seemingly more sporting six-speed dual clutch – which has more clearly defined ratios to play with.
While I was expecting the ride to be unduly harsh on the 40 TFSI just by eyeballing its big wheels, the experience behind the wheel blew me away with how comfortable those active dampers make it.
Even in ‘dynamic’ sport mode, the 40 TFSI is comfortable, while also being even more confident in the corners than the two cars below it. It also tightens up the steering and transmission response for a proper driver’s experience.
Driving on the paddle shifters was a good laugh, as they are instantly responsive, and having just six ratios proved immensely satisfying on country back roads.
The main downside of each variant was the road-noise, but other than that I only found the stop-start system to be a tad clunky in T-junctions. Combined with a dual-clutch auto, it can take a full second for everything to get going again, potentially costing you a gap in traffic.
Overall, every A1 is great fun behind the wheel, and each one slots nicely into a bracket suited to a particular target audience, be it someone who wants a city runabout or even someone looking for a luxury-tinged hot hatch.
The new Ford Fiesta ST hasn't been crash-tested anywhere in the world, but the regular model has, and it scored the maximum five-star rating under the Euro NCAP regime. It isn't clear if the ST will cop the same score or not just yet.
The standard safety kit list in the Fiesta ST is extensive.
Along with six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain - no driver's knee like the existing Fiesta) there is a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, auto high-beam lights, traffic sign recognition, hill-hold assist and driver fatigue alert.
The A1 hits the market with a fresh maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. This is largely thanks to its camera-and-radar based auto emergency braking system (AEB – works up to 250km/h for other vehicles or up to 65km/h for pedestrians), and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.
There is no blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross traffic alert available on the A1 range, however active cruise control can be optioned to the 40 TFSI as part of the ‘Premium Plus pack’ ($2990).
Freeway speed AEB is impressive for any city-sized hatch, let alone a premium one and on our test we found the lane keep assist tech to be subtle but reassuring.
All A1s now have a reversing camera as well as front and rear parking sensors. The expected refinements like six airbags, stability control and brake controls are also all present. The lack of a spare will be a let-down for long-distance drivers.
It's a much more promising ownership program than it once was, with Ford having recently introduced a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty across all of its models (purchased from May 1, 2018). Previously the brand backed its cars with a three-year/100,000km plan.
There will be capped-price servicing under Ford's 'Service Price Promise' plan, which will span the life of the car, as it does with all Ford models. The previous plan required servicing every 12 months/15,000km and it is expected that will be the same for the new model.
Ford will also update the Sync 3 sat nav maps for seven years from the date of purchase if you maintain your car with them throughout.
The A1 soldiers on with a three-year/unlimited kilometer warranty, which is standard among premium automakers – but still miles behind the mainstream industry standard of five year’s warranty.
Service intervals for all A1 variants are set at 15,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first.
The best news is in the A1’s service pricing which is most efficiently pre-paid as a pack at the time of purchase (and hence, can be added in on finance). The service packs are priced at a very-cheap-for-a-premium brand $1480 for three years or $1990 for five years.
The A1 is built in Spain.