AUDI A1: AUDIíS POSH POLO IS BACK AND BIGGER THAN EVER. BUT IS IT BETTER, TOO?

NOT SO HOT THIS TIME

BEN BARRY

ITíS STILL the smallest car in Audiís range, but the A1 has grown up for its second coming. An increase of 56mm might not sound like much, but now at 4029mm long itís even bigger than its Mini five-door rival Ė a car that seems to stretch the Ďsuperminií tag to breaking point.

Itís a larger, more mainstream look that lacks appeal if you choose a dowdy spec, but you can personalise to glamourise. The growth spurt is welcome inside, where the A1 feels more spacious all over, with four adults able to travel in comfort Ė definitely an improvement Ė and a boot that has grown 65 litres to 335 litres. Thatís a sizeable 57 litres larger than a Miniís.

This is a grown-up-feeling cabin, too, with an edgy origami dash, laden with slick infotainment. Nice that both the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 8.8-inch central touchscreen are standard. Itís just a shame the high-tech facade slips slightly when you spy some cheap plastics as high as the door tops.

Itís also a case of less is more when it comes to engines. The 40 TFSI is the most powerful, and is essentially a Polo GTI with the Cinderella treatment Ė the A1 and Polo share their MQB platform, although the Audi is likely to be significantly more costly, based on European pricing.

Its 147kW 2.0-litre turbo has a charmlessly flat delivery and no great turn of speed, and thereís some steering corruption and an occasionally grumbly ride, too. Mostly, though, it just lacks fun, which is an unacceptable oversight.

The 35 TFSI Ė a 1.5-litre turbo that can drop to two cylinders Ė has a calmer, more natural feel. It is, however, clearly slower, and also delivers its 110kW in a fairly monotonous fashion.

We werenít expecting to prefer the three-cylinder engine, but we do. There are two tunes, and we tested the more powerful 30 TFSI. No, itís not quick with 85kW, but somehow thereís more turbocharged attitude in its powerband, making it feel more energetic. It also weighs a huge 145kg less than the 40 TFSI, and feels fleet-footed and keen through the twisty stuff.

Imagine our disappointment, then, when we were informed by Audi Australia that the three-cylinder A1 is not going to be on the menu locally. Hopefully that will change, because the cheaper models in this premium family are actually the most fun.

BEN BARRY

NOT SO HOT THIS TIME

Audi wonít crown its new A1 range with an S1 hot hatch. Last time it swapped the base carís torsionbeam rear suspension for a multilink set-up to clear the quattro all-wheel-drive systemís rear differential and driveshafts. Thatís been vetoed on cost/ development grounds this time, even though the last car made a profit. One senior insider suggested electrification and autonomy are consuming significant resources, making such projects less viable.