Loving the Audi 1 but will we ever see it here?

From Car and Driver magazine

Audi has added two doors to its A1 hatchback, a car that competes head-on with BMW’s Mini, yet does without any retro touches or excessive cuteness. This five-door derivative is called the A1 Sportback and is significant not only for its styling and added practicality, but also for a new engine that’s available on this car first.

Cylinders: Deactivate!
That unit is a new 1.4-liter TFSI making 140 hp. It features cylinder-deactivation technology, a first in a non-hybrid four-cylinder. Only when needed, all four cylinders work together to move the car forward in a hurry or to provide engine braking; at partial loads, two cylinders are deactivated by pushing zero-lift cam profiles over the valves of cylinders two and three.

2013 Audi A1 Sportback

Cylinder deactivation is standard on Audi’s and Bentley’s 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8. Those cars get some high technology to go along with it: active engine mounts, which counteract vibration using out-of-phase counter-oscillations, along with a speaker-based noise-cancellation system. When changing between the two modes, extra fuel is injected to smooth out the transition.

With the 1.4 TFSI, Audi does without those active systems because they would be far too expensive for this class. Nevertheless, the engine works great. It is not only powerful and responsive with very little turbo lag, but also fuel-efficient. Cylinder deactivation helps reduce consumption by roughly ten percent, according to Audi. The transition from four- to two-cylinder mode is announced in the instrumentation, which is helpful, as it is virtually undetectable to the driver. We saw indicated fuel consumption in the low-40-mpg range, all the while appreciating the sonorous quality of this utterly enjoyable powerplant. The 1.4-liter will surface in Volkswagen models soon.

Plenty of Engine Options
We also sampled several other engines in the A1 Sportback, and the second surprise was that the entry-level 86-hp, 1.2-liter TFSI engine is entirely sufficient for this car. Coupled to a five-speed manual, it is lively and emits a pleasing but subtle note. We managed almost 37 mpg indicated with spirited driving.

Another surprise, although not as pleasant, was the 2.0 TDI model and its 143-hp turbo-diesel. Subjectively, the sweet spot of this engine’s torque band spans only from about 2200 to 2500 rpm, and on the whole, it doesn’t feel more usable than the entry-level gas engine. The diesel feels heavier, and topping off the bad news is the fact that this engine couldn’t match the indicated mileage we achieved in the 1.2 TFSI. That base model is simply much lighter. Load up any A1 with options, however, and you might end up with an extra 200 pounds.

2013 Audi A1 Sportback

We were not terribly impressed by the VW-sourced seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (internally called DQ200); we’d like it to react more quickly when really pushing the car. The A1’s handling, however, is a marvel. It is comfortable and sporty, with a slight bias towards the sporty side. On dry roads, the Sportback remains staunchly neutral, and there is virtually no understeer; this changes slightly when the road is wet. The generally direct electrohydraulic power steering is not always linear in operation, though. When changing loads and direction rapidly, for instance, it tends to briefly lighten up.

The Five-Door Package
Compared to the three-door A1’s, the Sportback’s roofline is stretched, but the car is not longer overall. You can enter easily through the rear doors, and there is sufficient legroom in back unless the seat in front is all the way back, which will be necessary only for a few front occupants. There is about 0.4 inch more headroom for rear passengers. The A1 Sportback, by the way, comes as a four- or five-seater. The four-seater has a sportier seat design, and, to be honest, four seats really are as many as this supermini should offer. One gripe: Long-legged drivers will knock their knees into the wide front center console.

The A1 family likely won’t get more body variations, but it is not complete yet: Audi has created a limited-edition A1 Quattro with a 256-hp, 2.0-liter TFSI in a run of just 333; next year, an S1 with about 220 hp will follow. What about a three-cylinder engine? No, says a company engineer: “We are studying it closely, but we don’t believe the smoothness is sufficient for our brand.”

What of the A1’s chances in the U.S.? We’ve asked this question before, and the answer is that Audi could get it ready for this market within a short time, but the demand is not deemed big enough at present. The option is being kept open for the next generation, however. For now, the only supermini we get is BMW’s own. It would be nice to have a non-retro alternative, particularly one as tech-packed and nice to drive as the Audi A1.

About Audi Mission Viejo
Audi Mission Viejo has been family owned and operated since June 15th, 2004. Nestled in the heart of Southern Orange County, Audi Mission Viejo has a commanding inventory of new and Audi Certified Pre-Owned vehicles and is a multiple winner of Audi’s Magna Society recognition – an award reserved for dealerships with exceptional service. Visit http://www.AudiMV.com.