The new Audi A1 goes on sale in South Africa today and I drove it at the media launch yesterday. The company also announced that South Africa, as of the second half of the year 2019, has made it onto the list of Audi’s top 20 markets globally, by sales figures. Holding the 20th position, we are now a market it takes more seriously.

Audi touched on the fact that the premium market in SA has shrunk, vs the SUV space growing, but hopes the newly launched A1 and Q3 will draw new customers to the brand.

While I did not get to drive the Q3, I did drive the A1 and my first impressions are good. The redesigned A1 is sporty, aggressive, edgy – exactly why I love this car. I’ve not driven the outgoing model but the design between is noticeable; you can tell them apart immediately. It’s now lower but longer, and the width is the same. They are clearly targeting a younger crowd with this vehicle, and a special model Edition 1 in ‘python yellow’ will be available in limited quantities at launch. If you want this colour, rather get it sooner than later. 

Audi described buying an A1 like building a burger at Rocomamas, you choose what ‘base’ you want and then you had your options. There will be three engine sizes on offer, but we drove two at the launch; the 1.5L and the 2L (the 1L was not available). They will only come in automatic transmission. It comes in three trim levels: Standard; Advanced at an extra R14 000; and S Line at an extra R29 000. And then you choose the various bundled packages like Technology, Comfort, Lights (1L), Sport, S Line interior. It comes in 10 colour options, and the ambient lighting on the inside changes to 30 different colours.

I drove the 1.5 L 35 TSFI that is 110kW (250Nm) and the 2L 40 TSFI with 147kW (320Nm). You might guess which was my favourite of the two, considering I drive a Mini Cooper S – the 40 TSFI. It has more power than my car, and its loud. We drove the A1 around Sandton, getting onto the highway and towards the Cradle of Humankind with a stop and vehicle change there. One thing was obvious, everyone wanted to drive the bold colours, myself included. I think you can appreciate the design more as it pops in the bright colours.

The inside of the car is modern with neat finishing touches. It has the Audi MMI infotainment system that is a high-res 8.8-inch touch display on the base model as standard, including a digital instrument cluster. It is characterise by large icons that is simple to use, however touching it all the time leaves fingerprints all over. A virtual cockpit with extended functions is available as an extra (think navigation and driver assistance systems). These functions were available on the 2L and I love it when the navigation shows you arrows of where you’re turning next without looking back at the 8.8-inch screen. I also loved that on the maps, useful info like where the nearest garage is by km shows up; neat. 

The downside is that you have to pay extra for smartphone integration like CarPlay/Android Auto as part of the technology package. I think it should have been a standard feature. The package also includes two USB charging ports, LTE support, better coverage and wireless charging.

The passenger seats on the new A1 is bigger with more legroom, which can fit adults in the back. Also the boot space is now increased and when you put the seats down, you get 1090L. I can appreciate this function, having to drive myself to the airport and park there with my huge luggage in the back.

I love the new A1 because it looks great, is fun to drive, gets attention on the road, has modern finishes and a good infotainment system. What more could you ask for in a fun car of this size? The question of whether it will take A3 customers did come up and in all likelihood, it will but the A1 currently is more modern, and also price. Considering it is Audi, it is premium, so that’s what you will pay for. The price on the new model is a 2.5% increase than the outgoing model, which is great considering all the new features it has.

Audi A1 30 TFSI S tronic at R 359,900
Audi A1 30 TFSI Advanced S tronic at R 373,900
Audi A1 30 TFSI S line S tronic at R 388,900
Audi A1 35 TFSI S tronic at R 429,900
Audi A1 35 TFSI Advanced S tronic at R 443,900
Audi A1 35 TFSI S line S tronic at R 458,900
Audi A1 40 TFSI S line S tronic at R 488,000