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The littlest Audi

Roger Walker test drives Audi’s latest model

When my marriage unfortunately collapsed, and after the mortgage was repaid, I used my share of the house to buy myself a car that I had always loved: a new, hot off the press, Bauhaus inspired, Audi TT.  Its design was such that that model is now an auto art classic.

The launch version had tan coloured upholstery. There was also a grey/blue body colour option called ‘denim’.  ‘I’ll have that combination,’ I said to the salesman.

Surprisingly, he replied, ‘You can’t be serious, if you are going to have a tan-coloured interior, the exterior should be silver or grey. Conversely, if you want the denim body you should have a grey interior.’ Somewhat miffed, I replied, ‘Look here my friend, I make my living making aesthetic judgements and I’ll have my choice please.’

Humbly, I came to realise that the design aura of the Audi brand is such that he was right to protect its purity from the insensitive. Naturally I can’t mention his name for fear of litigation.

Years later, here I am being introduced, by a handsome young salesman called Brodie at Armstrong Motors, to Audi’s newest model, a beautiful Turbo Blue (much brighter than denim) shiny new Audi A1 Sportback 5-door hatch.

It comes with a choice of motors in three guises, all with 7-speed S-tronic  gear boxes:  Although electric power is humming in the wings, these cars are petrol powered.  (For smaller vehicles brother diesel seems to be packing his bags).

The ‘littlest’ is the 30TFS1 with a 1.0 litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol engine producing 85kW and 200Nm of torque sitting on 16 inch wheels, next the 30TFS1 Advanced with the same engine, and featuring 17-inch wheels.

I am entrusted with the top-of-the-line 35TFSI S Line, with 1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol 110kW/250Nm and really grown-up 18-inch wheels. She (I have decided she is female ) also has adaptive cruise control, and body tweaks including contrasting coloured mirrors, side skirts, and a rear spoiler. Titanium black headlights, more aggressive front bumper and LED taillights are completing touches.

Her interior offers a lot: top-of-the-line sports seats, steering wheel with paddle shifters, keyless entry, wireless phone charging, LED ambient interior lighting, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. All models have a multi-media screen sitting in a central  panel, and in the way of other modern vehicles the instruments in front of the driver are ‘virtual’ which means they’re images on a screen rather than actual instruments. Phew. She also has the option of a $2,200 B and O premium 3D sound system.

Three slots above the grille and the blister wheel arches reference the awesome Quattro Sport rally champion car. Yes, let heritage speak, I say.

If there was such a thing as automobile archaeology, the primitive Model T  Ford was perhaps the first ‘people’s car’, followed fifty-odd years later by the Beetle. This lovely looking A1 Sportback is a premium five-seater with a bigger and more functional interior than its Audi predecessor. As a contemporary ‘people’s car’, this vehicle will appeal to all ages and family arrangements who appreciate tasteful style. More than that, she is an affordable ‘designer’ car.

Yes, it’s true that cars from other manufacturers around the world are growing in stature, with great engineering, build quality and efficiency, but it will be many years before they have the provenance and soul of Germany, that wonderful place from which the car began its carwinian evolution. Automobilia’s Olduvai Gorge.

I happily start my time with the A1 Sportback through  the stop-start city grid, up the challenging Brooklyn hills, onto to the sweeping ribbon of road from the airport around the bays, and to the motorway.

Her gear changes are smooth, settling to the optimum rev count for low speeds. Her supple auto box holds the gears longer on the motorway to give the best driving condition.

Her controls are intuitive, simple to operate and reassuring, with enough safety features to soothe the worry of the random danger caused by the many daft road users, but respectful enough to reassure you with the basic controls that make you the driver and not a passenger.

Much later I check out ease of parking outside my favourite café and can report rear-view vision (and camera) excellent, as was the provender.

It is many miles/car generations better than those early predecessors. A number of modern offerings, the poise of chassis, smoothness of  drive train, subtlety of cornering, and comfort of travel, make the Audi A1 a huge pleasure.

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