In the final quarter of 2019, Audi South Africa introduced the second generation A1 into the local market. We recently spent a few days driving the Audi A1 35 TFSI and share some of our impressions here.

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New appearance

The most obvious change on the second generation A1 is the styling. A1 V2.0 has changed significantly from its predecessor. The A1 Sportback, to give its proper name, has grown by 56 mm in length now measuring 4 030 mm; 43 mm of that total has been added between the front and rear axles. The width has remained almost the same at 1 740 mm while the height is just 1 410 mm.

Audi has often come under fire for its samey-samey designs, so the completely redesigned, and immediately recognisable, new look A1 is a breath of fresh air. Just over thirteen and half thousand units of the first A1 were sold in SA, a great deal of those, seemingly, in the Cape Town area so it was easy find an older shape car to park alongside for a visual comparison. The new car’s stance is squatter and less rotund, it’s far sportier.

Read our Audi RS4 Avant driving impression here.

New inside, too

Its fresh external appearance is accompanied by a completely new look interior. The facia is angled ever so slightly towards the driver. A fully digital instrument cluster with a high-resolution 8,8-inch display is standard on the smallest Audi. A touchscreen infotainment display and the air vent strip on the front passenger side are integrated into an area in black glass look – very stylish. Speaking of the infotainment system, it offers a full suite of connectivity and can be controlled by remote switches on the steering wheel.

The expansion of exterior dimensions, as well as increased wheelbase, has helped create an interior that is more spacious than before. While rear legroom has increased a touch, luggage volume has expanded by 65 litres. Normal capacity is 335 litres which increases to 1 090 litres with the rear seats folded flat.

A high-riding A1 City Carver was added to the portfolio late last year, read more here.

Auto transmissions and turbo power

Audi has kept the local A1 line-up quite simple in terms of powertrains. There are no manual gearbox options. All engines are mated with dual-clutch automated transmissions. Models carrying the “30” badge have a 1,0-litre engine (85 kW/200 N.m) similar to that found in the VW T-Cross (which we reviewed recently). 35 TFSI versions, like the test unit we drove, are fitted with a 1,5-litre powerplant that delivers 110 kW/250 N.m. Top of the range “45” derivatives boast a 2,0-litre motor with 147 kW/320 N.m. All the engines are turbocharged petrol units.

You can read our Audi Q3 review here.

On the road

The Audi A1 35 TFSI variant is the mid-point of the range is, so an ideal introduction for our first encounter. There is more than enough grunt from the 1,5-litre four-cylinder engine. Torque begins to swell from just above idle speed and builds to a plateau pretty quickly. As with most small turbocharged engines there isn’t much character in the way it goes about it its business. The seven-speed transmission shuffles between gears without too much need for driver interference. If there is one point of criticism, is that the auto stop/start system is a quick to turn off the engine but isn’t as swift to re-ignited the fires. So there can be moments where you spend a fraction longer than expected at junctions or fresh green traffic lights.

The Audi A1 35 TFSI is commendable from a ride and handling perspective. It feels a tad sportier and more planted than its VW Polo platform would suggest. Our test unit was fitted with larger, 17-inch alloys and these make their presence known over sharper road imperfections. Other than that the A1 will not leave you wincing at every bump in the road.


As an entry point to the world of Audi ownership, the A1 has done a great job. There are many people who can now consider “buying up” into an Audi thanks to entry-level models such as the A1 and Q2. Sales of the first generation attest to that fact. Sharing parts with other models from the VW Group has also helped keep pricing to an acceptable (by modern SA standards) level.

The Audi A1 35 TFSI proved to be an impressive model that has the hallmarks of its larger siblings (stylish appearance, high-quality interior, modern conveniences, high-tech powertrain) but at a lower price point. Considering Audi’s five-year Freeway Plan, which takes care of almost all maintenance bar tyres and fuel, is standard and you have an attractive option in this premium hatch segment.

Model: Audi A1 35 TFSI Advanced

Price: R454 800

Engine: 1,5-litre turbocharged inline four

Transmission: seven-speed DSG, FWD

Max power: 110 kW

Max torque:  250 N.m

Top speed: 222 km/h

0-100 km/h: 7,7 sec

Fuel consumption: 5,1 L/100 km