Audi TT Coupe

Price range: $64,500 – $136,900

Overall

Good: Great styling, impeccable build quality, light body, nimble handling, sweet manual gear change and communicative steering. The entry level 1.8 TFSI is an honest quality, fun to drive sports car.

Not so Good: Small rear seats, more road noise than ideal and lower priced grades lack serious oomph.

Design and Engineering

Good : This 2nd generation model arrived in Australia in September 2006 with the mid life facelift following in October 2010.

Whilst it is almost 14cm longer and 8cm wider than the 1st gen model (available 1998 to 2006), weight is virtually the same. This is mainly due to the fact that the TT’s body is 69 per cent aluminium construction, with the remaining 31 per cent steel.

The exterior styling remains a real highlight. We love the swoopy roofline, high waist and classic Bauhaus lines over a distinctively squat stance. Yes, this TT remains one sexy looking automobile.

A wide range of engines with a wild spectrum of horsepower is on offer – all fitted with clever technology.

Not so good : One of our testers thinks the TT looks stumpy but the overall consensus was a big thumbs up from our design department.

Much of the TT’s platform originates from the Volkswagen Golf platform, although with so many components unique to the TT this really is a mute point. It’s definitely so much more than a Golf with unique styling.

Interior and Styling

Good : The brilliant interior styling is super classy. The quality fit and finish of the soft-to-touch plastics on the dash is significantly more premium than the competition. All the switchgear is logically arranged, the driver’s dials are clear and legible, and the brushed aluminium trim inserts look great. Interior colour treatments include Nougat brown, Garnet red and Titanium grey alongside the usual blacks.

There’s plenty of room up front for two. The driving position is fantastic, with comfortable yet supportive seats across all grades. The seats can be set nice and low, offering plenty of rearwards adjustability and the square bottom steering wheel feels great. The extended cabin width over the 1st generation TT means you won’t knock elbows with your companion in the front.

The boot is a surprisingly roomy 290L with the seats up, and with the back seats folded down a full sized bicycle with the front wheel taken off can fit in the rear, the cargo space growing to 700 litres. The rear hatch is more practical than booted sports coupes.

Not so good : A high waist body, shallow glass profile and low set seats equate to less outwards visibility than average, however it is by no means poor, and also gives the impression of a tight-fitting cabin.

Small rear seats, with cramped amounts of head and legroom are strictly for small children or short trips only if you’re above 150cm tall.

Boot is shallower than most and the loading lip is higher than ideal.

Performance

Good : Buyers may choose from a range varying from a super economical diesel 2.0 TDI Quattro with 125kW of power, 350Nm of torque and an official combined fuel economy of only 5.3L per 100kms, to the entry level 1.8 TFSI (118kW, 250Nm and 6.4L per 100kms), the 2.0 TFSI and 2.0 TFSI Quattro with155kW, 350Nm and 7.1 or 7.2L per 100kms, to the 2.0L S Quattro with 200kW, 350Nm and 7.9 or 8.0L per 100kms and the barnstorming 2.5L RS Quattro offering 250kW, 450Nm and 9.2L per 100kms.

After a week with the 1.8 TFSI, which can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds, we came away most impressed. This little four cylinder engine sounds excellent and is a joy to rev throughout its range.

Not so good : For the price, the 1.8 TFSI can’t match the oomph of a number of competitors however it is by no means slow. If you’re after more oomph we recommend looking north to the 2.0 TFSI for approximately $10k more.

Ride and Handling

Good : This model TT is so much more of a driver’s car than the 1st generation. The suspension has MacPherson struts with aluminium lower wishbones up front and a four-link rear end, while the steering is an electromechanical rack and pinion set-up.

The extensive use of lightweight aluminium for the TT’s body equates to the 1.8 TFSI weighing in at an impressively low 1240kg. On the road this variant fells nicely balanced, a number of our testers went as far as saying it had ‘real dynamic ability’.

The 1.8 TFSI is free of the dreaded torque steer that affects a number of front wheel drive sports cars. Road handling is impressive, the steering is sharp and responds well to mid corner adjustments and the ride is comfortable on the standard 17 inch wheels.

Not so good : Enter too fast into a tight corner and of course the front drive 1.8 TFSI will understeer and the steering feel isn’t quite class leading, lacking the feelsome communication and meatiness of the best systems. It isn’t a Lotus Elise beater dynamically, but it’s so much more of an easy car to live with on a day to day basis. Whilst impressive in isolation, the TT is still not the very best ‘driver’s car’. In its defence, how often can or should you drive like you are on a race track in this day and age? Road noise is a little higher than ideal.

Buying and Owning

Good : Overall the TT Coupe has taken a noteworthy step forward since the classic 1998 to 2006 1st generation model.

Standard features include climate control air-conditioning, a high-output audio system, a multi-function steering wheel, leather-trimmed upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels and an electronically retractable rear spoiler.

The entry level 1.8 TFSI doesn’t look or feel like a ‘cheaper car’ in comparison with the rest of the range and ticks the safety box with twin front and head-protecting side/thorax airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control as standard fare.

Not so good : The 1.8 TFSI grade is by no means lavishly equipped with features and is the sole variant not available with an auto transmission.

There is no spare tyre so owners must make do with a compressor and sealant, and the extensive options list is mighty tempting, making it hard not to get carried away.

Audi R8 Coupe

Price range: $277,196 – $366,900

Overall

Good: Stunning looks, fantastic handling and Quattro all-wheel drive. Plus, it’s rarer on the road than that other German sports car with all the numbers in its name.

Not so Good: Beware the options: they’re expensive. ‘Jerky’ R-Tronic gearbox at low speeds (we recommend at least trying the manual).

Design and Engineering

Good : It’s quite simple: the R8 has futuristic supercar looks, which are backed up by the latest technology under its skin.

Not so good : Rear visibility isn’t great – however a standard rear-view camera comes to the rescue.

Interior and Styling

Good : We loved the amazing interior – truly original and special. As per usual, Audi have used the highest quality materials and have completed it all with impeccable build quality (we love Audi’s care regarding ‘fit & finish’).

Not so good : A sound deadening interior is usually praised, but with the R8 it would be nice to hear the V8 a little more from the cockpit. The cargo carrying capacity is somewhat lacking (but that’s not why you want it though, is it!?)

Performance

Good : 4.2L V8 is naturally-aspirated and feels awesome high up in the rev range – and what a sound it makes! Most buyers go for the R-Tronic six-speed automated gearbox and it’s the right choice on the performance front – super quick gear changes will always be on the menu and it automatically blips the throttle on downshifts.

Not so good:  No doubt the V8 is fast – but not mind-boggling-ly so (but then there’s always the V10 range-topper? Tempting, isn’t it?) The fun R-Tronic transmission isn’t always as smooth as we’d like during low-speed city traffic.

Ride and Handling

Good : Looks might be wild but this is a bulletproof car to drive – ride is refined (thanks to adjustable suspension via a button on the dash) and the Quattro all-wheel drive system ensures handling is secure even at high speeds.

Not so good : Not much to say, at all, actually.

Buying and Owning

Good : Unlike some other temperamental ‘supercars’ the R8 is a true day-to-day proposition thanks to the comfy cabin and Audi reliability. Plus, it’s got an extensive safety kit.

Not so good : Ticking too many of the tasty options can see the price rocket by tens of thousands (for example a softer (Nappa) leather upgrade costs over $10k – ouch!) Mind the hefty fuel consumption…

Audi Q5 SUV

Price range: $63,400 – $75,500

Overall

Good: Audi have made a great compromise between maximising cabin space and minimising road mass. This classy Q5 comes with a choice of four excellent engines, has class-leading interior ambience…and handles very well for an SUV.

Not so Good: Firm ride brings no favours over lumpy surfaces… Beware the fun & expensive option list.

Design and Engineering

Good : Audi have successfully hidden the bulk when styling the classy Q5 – we even prefer the shape over the Q7. It shares the same platform as the Audi A4 sedan & wagon and A5 Coupe & Convertible yet offers the MOST interior space of the lot. The Q5 is also shorter than the A4 Avant (wagon) even though it wins on luggage carrying capacity.

Not so good : The Q5 is significantly heavier than the similar-sized Audi A4 Avant, but that’s no surprise given the AWD hardware and the higher-sitting chunkier body.

Interior and Styling

Good : The excellent, elegant dash design is logically laid out with high quality materials on show; all the buttons are clear to read and nice to touch. There’s excellent forward visibility due to the raised body height and relatively thin windscreen pillars PLUS a very comfortable driver’s seat. Decent levels of rear legroom & headroom and the cargo space is significantly larger than, say a Volkswagen Tiguan, and the second row seats also fold down so you can easily carry a bicycle in the rear when necessary.

Not so good : Rear seat is designed more for 2 rather than 3 adults (however, how often does this size vehicle have five large adults on board?) No third row seating option – Audi’s fans requiring seating for seven will need to look at the significantly larger Q7 SUV.

Performance

Good : All four engines are fine indeed. The smaller displacement 2.0L Turbo Petrol or Diesel grades both offer impressive levels of power and torque so think twice before opting for the larger engines. That said, we especially liked the 2.0L TFSI Petrol engine with a lovely 155kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It delivers peak power low-down in the rev range and is fitted with an excellent high-tech seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Not so good : The Q5 is a good bit heavier than the Audi A4 wagon, so of course, performance isn’t as thrilling; however we think the Q5 offers far better overall value than the A4 Avant.

Ride and Handling

Good : Excellent handling for an SUV. The ride is the best when you select the AUTO mode of the three-setting ‘Drive Select’ system rather than the softer COMFORT or the sporty DYNAMIC setting.

Not so good : Over rough bitumen the firm suspension can result in a less-than-comforting ride. We’d recommend resisting the larger size alloys rims to preserve ride quality. The steering, whilst not bad in isolation, is not class-leading in terms of providing a natural feeling.

Buying and Owning

Good : Entry-level grades don’t mean entry-level engine technology – the Diesel engines are frugal and the Petrol powerplants offer good economy for the performance on offer. Six airbags and Electronic Stability Control as standard ticks the safety features box. The Q5 has also performed very well in independent crash tests.

Not so good : Be careful when ticking the option boxes as the price can very quickly head north. The space saver only spare wheel limits Australian touring ability.

Audi A5 Sportback

Price range: $68,900 – $132,800

Good: Audi has taken the philosophy of a Coupe and the practicality of a Hatchback and combined these elements with a Sedan to bring into being the Audi A5 Sportback. After driving this car you’ll think twice before buying a normal sedan again.

Not so Good: Interior cabin space can seem confined to some passengers but to others it gives a real sense of sportiness. Entering and exiting the driver’s seat takes some time to get the hang of when the steering wheel is closest to the driver.

Design and Engineering

Good : I’ve never been excited by a five door Coupe…to be honest I just didn’t see the point…until now. Audi has done a superb job at executing a sporty four door car – without the visual need of big spoilers and unnecessary side skirts. The front design is identical to the A5 Coupe which is a good thing, from the side Audi has managed to design an oblique roof without removing too much rear headroom – well done Audi. And just like the front of the A5 Sportback, the rear is identical to the beautiful A5 Coupe. The rear hatch when opened has an almost 100 degree loading capability.

Not so good : The rear overhang is a bit on the heavy side however it’s a small compromise to a terrifically styled vehicle

Interior and Styling

Good : The interior is like any other Audi, sitting in the driver’s seat creates the sensation of a cockpit. Audi has done a great job designing the A5 Sportback to be a real driver’s car. Audi A5 Sportback owners can feel at ease their money was well spent, standard features include eight airbags, a multi-function computer with a decent size display screen, multi-zone climate control system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, keyless entry and start, cruise control, power adjustable front seats, leather all round and much more to keep you busy.

The A5 Sportback is as functional as a wagon, as sporty as a two door coupe, with the security of a sedan.

Not so good : Front footwells could be larger and Audi could have supplied a more user friendly steering wheel adjustment mechanism. Majority of the switchgear is located at the base of the gear shifter and the lowed section of the dashboard, which means to adjust something on the Sat Nav system driver’s have to look down for longer than usual which means their eyes are off the road for longer, that is until the button locations become second nature which doesn’t take too long. But for the more frequently adjusted features like the audio, the steering wheel controls have this covered.

Performance

Good : The Audi A5 Sportback is available in two great engines, the 2.0 TFSI four cylinder petrol engine with 155 kW and 350 Nm of torque, and my favourite the 3.0 TDI V6 Turbo Diesel power plant. The Turbo Diesel is the pick of the two with 176 kW and an inspiring 500 Nm of torque. Both engines provide excellent levels of performance whilst maintaining very conservative fuel economy figures of 7.5 L/100km for the petrol and 6.6 L/100km for the Turbo Diesel on combined cycles. You’ll appreciate the A5 Sportback provides an excellent balance between power and economy.

Not so good:  There’s nothing negative about the performance of the A5 Sportback; both engines offer bang for buck and very good levels of performance.

Ride and Handling

Good : My favourite attribute on the A5 Sportback is its handling capability, the quattro all wheel drivetrain combined with its wide track in addition to a fine suspension setup and grippy tyres equates to an excellent cornering vehicle. The steering uses Audi’s Servotronic speed-sensing system, so when parking the car and driving at low speeds the steering wheel becomes nice and light and on the highways if firms up to maintain a straight line with ease.

Not so good : The tyres are soft and a tad noisy on coarse bitumen but that’s the conciliation for that extra grip. At times on uneven surfaces the ride can feel firmer than average, but this comment is subjective because of the vehicle’s sporty nature. And for buyers that want even more sportiness in their Sportback’s DNA, Audi offers optional sports suspension for $700.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Audi A5 Sportback offers great value for money for a good sized luxury vehicle, on top of the impressive standard features list Audi offers and wide array of options for customers to further bespoke their vehicle. The A5 Sportback is a real head-turner, for new car buyers in the market for a medium sized luxury car wanting something with a rapid heart rate – go take one for a test drive and you won’t regret it.

Not so good : There are vehicles of similar size for a lesser expensive price tag but looks don’t come cheap and in this case they’re not out of reach either

Audi A4 Sedan

Price range: $52,100 – $119,900

Overall

Good: Stylish, class leading interior; spacious compared to competitors; impressive range of engines; build quality and refinement levels.

Not so Good: Evolutionary exterior styling is on the conservative side; average visibility; large turning circle.

Design and Engineering

Good : Launched in Australia in April 2008, the current shape B8-Series Audi A4 is significantly larger than its predecessor with an increase in length by 11cm and width by 5cm.

The front wheel drive platform remains (plus all-wheel drive is still available on upper spec grades) yet compared to previous A4’s the engine is positioned further back over the front axle which should equate to improved handling and weight balance.

The evolutionary styling is smart and classy and as it does without any excessively over the top design traits this A4 will age well.

Not so good : An overall conservative shape means the A4 doesn’t stand out as much in traffic as the competing Mercedes C-Class or Audi’s newer A5 Sportback. The A4’s large ‘single-frame’ grille has a lot of vertical height which visually reduces the width of the vehicle, making it look less sporty. A number of brands (including VW) have recently moved away from this design trait.

Interior and Styling

Good : A beautifully crafted and finished interior. Highlights include a very cool dash design which is best in class, the high quality materials on show and the amount of room on offer. The space inside is roomier than most rivals with generous amounts of headroom front and rear, a sizeable glovebox and a huge 480 litre boot. Fold the rear split-folding rear seats down and cargo capacity grows to almost 1,000 litre!

The driving position is comfortable thanks to supportive seats and a steering-wheel that adjusts for both rake (up and down) and reach (in and out) adjustment.

Not so good : Rear visibility is only average, the turning circle is larger than we expected and whilst rear seat space betters the competing BMW 3-Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class it is by no means super-sized. The MMI system is good however it could be more logical to use, and one of the cupholder up front is very small – forgot carrying two large coffee’s than.

Performance

Good : Nine different engines to choose from – four turbo diesel’s and five petrol offerings. The entry level grade is the TDI e, a super frugal 4-cylinder 2.0L turbo diesel that uses approximately half the amount of fuel as a 6-cylinder Commodore or Falcon! We like the power on offer – thanks to a maximum torque output of 320Nm it’s a willing performer, happy to zipp through traffic or overtake with zest on the highway.

For a diesel it’s also impressively refined and the Start-Stop feature (the other 8 grades are yet to be offered with this) means when you’ve stopped at the lights or in heavy traffic the TDI e’s engine also stops – inner-urban fuel consumption is amazingly low.

At the other end of the scale is the S4 which is powered by a supercharged 3.0L petrol V6 engine producing 245kW of power and 440Nm of torque. Combined with All-wheel-drive, this grade offers impressively fast performance, good fuel economy and excellent grip.

Not so good : The super frugal TDI e grade (the official combined fuel economy is 4.8L per 100kms!) is only offered as a manual. Audi is still working on how to incorporate start-stop technology with an automatic transmission. This being said the ‘regular’ 2.0 TDI comes with a self shifting gearbox and its combined fuel economy is still impressive at 5.8L per 100kms.

The S4’s supercharged 6-cylinder engine doesn’t have the low-down effortless torque of a V8 (i.e. BMW’s M3 or Mercedes C63 AMG) and the soundtrack is nowhere near as addictive.

Ride and Handling

Good : Overall the A4 has impressive handling attributes. The ride is good across the range, feels impressively solid, and is quiet inside the cabin and a worthy improvement over previous A4’s. The TDI e features low rolling resistance tyres, lowered suspension and some aerodynamic tweaks – yet it still drives as comfortably as the ‘regular’ 2.0L TDI grade over most road surfaces.

The S4’s all-wheel-drive system is rear biased and features a high tech differential which can shift torque from either wheels – equating to excellent handling, yet still providing more than a little fun for the driver.

Not so good : Whether you choose a front-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive A4, you’ll still miss out on the level of driver communication that the current 3-Series or C-Class offer. (However, the gap is now narrower than previously and for most buyers this isn’t a big enough reason not to lean towards the Audi). The TDI e grades’ low rolling-resistance tyres generate more tyre noise over coarse-chip roads and the standard sports-tuned suspension is noticed over poorer surfaces as well.

The S4 can be accused of being overly clinical, at times you feel a little disconnected from this go-fast A4 as it goes about its business.

Buying and Owning

Good : Ticks the safety box with standard equipment including eight airbags, traction and stability control, ABS with EBD and brake assist. To further personalize the A4, Audi offers an extensive options list.

Not so good : The TDI e grade (launched Down Under in February 2010) lacks an automatic option, which will cross it off the list of many medium prestige segment buyers.

Audi A3 Hatchback

Price range: $36,400 – $70,900

Overall

Good: Refinement levels; tangible quality; frugal engines across the range; go-fast S3 grade.

Not so Good: Aging (this one’s been here since ’04); firm rear seats; base 1.6L petrol lacks go; pricey against the superior VW Golf.

Design and Engineering

Good : The current generation A3 arrived in Australia back in May 2004 but has received a couple of facelifts over the last six plus years (one in early ’05, the other at the end of ’08).

The overall shape is conservative in a classy way. The five-door ‘Sportback’ body is a good compromise for those after something a little longer than the usual hatch but a little shorter than the usual wagon. Audi is renowned for quality finishing’s and the A3 doesn’t disappoint – panel gaps are impressively small.

Not so good : A couple of our of test review team aren’t so sure about the matching of Audi’s big signature grille with the conservative A3 styling (however we admit design is subjective). The overall shape is starting to age against newer competitors and it looks as if the next generation model is still a couple of years away.

Interior and Styling

Good : As with the exterior styling the interior is classy in a restrained way. The fit and finish is excellent and we’d imagine it staying this way for years to come. Up front the cabin is surprisingly roomy (well for a small car anyway), comfortable and visibility is good.

Sportback grades (the five door bodystyle) feature wide-opening side rear doors which provide easy access to the second row seats. Two adult passengers shouldn’t have difficulty getting comfortable in the second row thanks to the decent amount of knee, shoulder and headroom on offer.

The Sportback’s 70mm longer wheelbase over the three-door hatch equates to extra cargo space behind the rear seats. The approximately 350L of boot space is a healthy size and with the split-fold bench folded down a nice and long load space is created (and over 1,000L of capacity).

Not so good : Whilst extremely well built the A3’s interior lacks the visual flair of the brands newer generation models (the one size smaller A1 and one size larger A4 being two examples).

The Sportback’s rear bench seat is hard and flat = not the most comfortable place to be on long trips. If you tick the optional sports suspension and larger alloys with low profile tyres it only gets worse. Second row passengers also miss out on cupholders and storage is lacking back here.

Performance

Good : A wide range of engines on offer – our favorites’ are the 1.4L turbo petrol in the 1.4 TFSI grade producing 92kW of power and 200Nm of torque, and the range topping S3 grades 2.0L turbo which see’s 188kW and 330Nm. The 1.4 TFSI offers enough ‘oomph’ in both city and highway environments and is an impressively smooth little engine. Fuel consumption is also very good (5.8L per 100km – official combined figure).

The S3’s engine (which also features in the competing Golf R) is a real peach. Turbo lag is virtually non-existent, it responds instantly to a push of the throttle and is equally happy to potter along in day-to-day traffic as scream above 5000 revs on a Sunday morning drive along your favourite twisty roads. The torque delivery is impressively flat so unlike a number of hot-hatches it doesn’t require constant gear changing.

Not so good : The entry level A3 grade features an aging naturally aspirated (i.e. no turbo or supercharging) 1.6L petrol engine producing only 75kW of power and an even less impressive 148Nm of torque. Acceleration is nothing special nor is the official fuel consumption figure of 6.7L per 100kms.

Ride and Handling

Good : The A3’s dynamic abilities are higher than the class norm. The handling is safe, controllable and well-balanced whether you opt for the front wheel drive or all wheel drive grades. The A3’s steering is on the light side, yet is responsive and inspires confidence thanks to the nicely consistent weighting. The ‘go-fast’ S3 is fantastically balanced and offers very high levels of grip. We also found the standard suspension on the S3 provides a nice balance between a comfortable ride and sports car handling.

Not so good : Poor road surfaces aren’t the A3’s best friend. The ride is firmer than most.

Buying and Owning

Good : Pricing lines up well against its traditional competitors (think BMW 1-Series, Mercedes-Benz B-Class and Volvo C30).

Not so good : Compared to the Volkswagen Golf (yep, we just can’t stop mentioning it) the A3 starts to look a little overpriced. Of the two models you can probably guess which one we’d choose.

Audi A1 Hatchback

Price range: $26,500 – $42,500

Overall

Good: The Audi A1 hatchback is smart, distinctive, and an all round refined little hatch. It has cute styling and a better interior than almost any other supermini. The 1.4 TFSI delivers peppy, yet economical motoring when paired with such impressive handling.

Not so Good: The A1 has below average rear visibility, high option pricing and a smallish boot, even though it’s 70% bigger than the competing MINI Cooper’s.

Design and Engineering

Good : The distinctive looking supermini arrived in Australia in December 2010, and retaining much of the looks of the metro project concept car, it’s sure to stand out on the road.

The Audi A1 hatchback features a cute, slightly cheeky design, and like the MINI Cooper, the wheels of the A1 are positioned right out to each corner to eliminate clumsy overhangs.

The wrap over bonnet is pleasingly similar to the Audi R8 supercar. The sexy headlights are accessorised with daytime running lights and the optional Xerons are worth the money for looks alone. Optional chrome window arches when paired with a striking colour like red will certainly stop traffic. The arching roofline and high waisted body are design highlights, and the 0.32 drag coefficient is impressive for a supermini sized vehicle.

Not so good : The Audi A1 shares a platform with the less expensive Volkswagen Polo and as a result it’s deprived of the competing MINI Coopers’ more expensive multi-link rear suspension, making do with a simpler torsion beam rear set up.

In practice however, this is hardly a negative as the Polo is our favourite non premium supermini. Perhaps it would be better to think of it as a great foundation on which Audi have created supermini. The suspension has been tweaked to increase the sporty factor, the track (width between each side wheel) is wider than the Polo, and the ride height is 15mm lower. It is unfortunate that the side mirrors are such a dysfunctional size, since they look great.

Interior and Styling

Good : The Audi A1 has an upmarket interior with a class leading fit and finish. It feels very solid and we would even go so far as to say the dash wouldn’t be out of place in a $100,000 sports car. The circular vents lend the dash a fun, more youthful look than appears on larger Audis and the A1 does; in fact have overall more visual flair than is typically expected of Audi. The Optional LED interior lights further enhance the luxurious ambience.

The retractable dash-top display is first-class, a16.5cm high resolution monitor slides up and out of the dash when the vehicle is started to join a chunky, purposeful looking 3-spoke steering wheel. The seat is set lower than the typical supermini in a cabin that is quieter than that of the competition.

Second row passengers can enjoy significantly more space in an Audi A1 Hatchback than they can expect in a MINI Cooper and carry more luggage, rear luggage space is 270 litres compared to the MINI’s 160, and can be further increased by folding the split rear seatback, increasing space to 920 litres.

Not so good : The A1’s windscreen pillar is on the thick side, although this only becomes evident in tight corners. Rear side vision is also only average and older bodies may find the seats, of which there are unfortunately only four, rather hard, and headroom is quite limited in the rear. If you resist from ticking the option list the interior can appear a little bland (blame the standard dark tones) but why not have some fun and option it up?

Performance

Good : At present only one engine is available to A1 shoppers in Australia. The grade name is 1.4 TFSI which stands for a 1.4L four cylinder petrol engine that with the help of a turbo, intercooler and direct injection produces a healthy 90kW of power and 200Nm of torque. Fuel economy is impressive at 5.3 litres per 100kms.

Whilst a 1.6L turbo diesel and sportier grades will come later, we’re not worried as this little petrol engine is a ripper. Available with a six speed manual or a high tech seven speed dual clutch DSG transmission (think fancy Automatic) which Audi have christened the S-tronic. Both gearboxes are very good, after spending a week with the six speed manual we found it to be smooth shifting, accurate and nicely weighted.

A deservedly headlining feature fitted to the Audi is the Stop-start function whereby the engine switches itself off whenever you stop at the lights and the clutch pedal is depressed. Whilst it can be turned off, we don’t understand why you ever would as it is very unobtrusive, saves the environment and reduces your fuel bill whenever you come to a halt.

The TFSI enjoys being revved, and the flexible engine is powerful enough for a non hot hatch grade – a ‘go-fast’ A1will come later in the A1’s life cycle. It has sufficient low down torque/pulls well from as little as 1500rpm and the best performance comes between 3000 and 5500 revs so you don’t have to rev the engine to the max to get the most out of it. Though it is essentially a quiet engine, there is a nice, gruff engine note when pressing on, and adequate performance for most drivers, especially as the A1 feels faster on the road than the official performance figures indicate.

Not so good : If we’re being very picky, some may find the manual gearbox a little notchy, and the 1.4 TFSI does require a few revs for a quick start from standstill. Hot hatch Audi fans will have to wait until Audi releases a go-fast A1 before trying to beat a MINI JCW from the traffic lights, but don’t worry, it’s coming.

Ride and Handling

Good : The ride of the Audi A1 provides a good balance between comfort and sports car like grip, it becomes a bit firm on the optional 17” alloys but by no means uncomfortably harsh, and is still smoother than a MINI Cooper over rough surfaces.

The A1handles noticeably better than the Polo with which it shares its chassis, Audi engineers have done a great job injecting the A1 with another dose of character, making it nimble and good at cornering with sporty handling, minimal body roll, and no understeer.

The Chassis feels agile, accurate, responsive and fun. At highway speeds, the A1 feels so stable; you could be driving a larger car, the level of refinement of an Audi A4 for example. The stability control system is better than most and keeps the A1 planted through the corners. The steering is precise and changes direction quicker than a VW Polo. It is well weighted almost at the level of the MINI.

Not so good : Whilst the torsion beam axle is slightly less desirable in the handling stakes than the MINI Cooper’s multi-link rear suspension design, for 90% of the time and for 90% of drivers this is unlikely to be an issue, plus Audi notes that opting for the more compact torsion beam set-up creates significantly more room for cargo and rear seat space.

Still, for those that dream of carving along a twisting back road, the A1 is not quite as fun to drive as the class leading Renault Clio (which is a hot hatch) or the MINI Cooper.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Audi A1 has excellent safety credentials with six airbags, pre-tensioner seatbelts, Anti-lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist all as standard.

There are two trim levels – Attraction and Ambition. The entry level Attraction grade is well priced against the more expensive MINI Cooper and comes standard with features such as remote central locking, electric mirrors (and windows of course), cruise control, a quality audio system with an SD card reader and auto on/off wipers and headlights.The Ambition grade adds sports seats, a height adjustable front passenger seat, trip computer, better quality trim to the interior, and to the exterior it adds 16” alloys, fog lights and chromed exhaust pipes.

When it comes time to trade in or sell your A1, this should be a less painful experience than typical as we expect this little Audi to have a very high resale value.

Not so good : Tick too many options and the price of your A1 can head north quickly. It’s very tempting and we say go for it, as lots of the options are very desirable – such as a multi-function steering wheel, a detailed trip computer display and Bluetooth connectivity. When it comes to the exterior it would be hard to resist bigger wheels and the chrome coloured window arch.