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A fine car for all seasons

If the suspension copes with our standard roads, not the half dozen or so that have been praised by Transport Malta, we think the car really must be worth owning. The suspension and transmission of the Audi A1 TFSI seems to fit the bill rather well.

In fact, the springs and shock absorbers of the McPherson front axle react even before sports mode is registered with razor-sharp responses.

This is helped by the direct steering ratio that is geared for an immediate response to steering wheel movements. Moreover, the electro-hydraulic steering ensures that the amount of steering assistance is always geared to the driven speed. There are manufacturers that seem to forget that the rear end deserves the same sort of engineering interest present at the front end.

Audi, of course, deem the rear end as important as the front, and provide the driver with a marvellous compound link rear suspension with completely newly-designed guide bearings.

This ensures precise cornering and excellent directional stability that is translated into great levels of handling and maintaining comfort levels par excellence.

A car that handles itself really smoothly was something of a dream until we had the A1 out and about at decent speeds. Audi engineers have introduced a new element; the targeted braking actions of the ESP with an electronic cross-axle lock shift the wheel torques, helping the all-important traction, especially when cornering hard. This is a car that loves being cornered as hard as the abilities of the driver permit.

The occupants’ safety has become a great buying factor for most motorists and the Audi A1 is most extraordinarily well-equipped with safety devices should an unfortunate incident occur; that’s after the Electronic Stability Programme has ensured greater directional stability.

The occupants are, in fact, cocooned in a structure that sits firm in front or rear shunts, and to a much greater degree than most of the competition, in side smashes as well.

Obviously, the seat belts are absolutely state-of-the-art, with belt force limiters, belt tensioners at the front and a seat belt reminder function on all seats.

The occupants’ safety is further enhanced with full-size thorax/pelvis airbags integrated into the driver and front-seat passenger seats.

There are head airbags for all the occupants. There is an ISOFIX child seat mounting on the rear seats and, since this car came in the author’s favourite two-door format, the additional feeling of security for this scribe provided an irresistible urge to examine the A1’s performance with determination.

It must be said that we were most pleasantly surprised by the car’s performance. Its ability to build up the revs at an amazing rate when in Sports mode really made us seriously question whether we had the 90 kw engine (0-100 km/h in 8.9 seconds), or the dynamic 136 kw engine (0-100 km/h in only 6.9 seconds).

There were two experienced drivers on board, both fully able to tell whether a car is accelerative, or very accelerative. If the engine was running true, this is one of the most interesting, agreeable and habit-forming cars we have ever been in.We ‘blasted’ up the St Paul’s Bay bypass, leaving various bits of high-powered competition way behind us.

The A1 handles and drives like a very good sports car, not just a fast hatch. The car is comfortable, well set up with all the delights contemporary drivers crave for and yet can be as docile as a well-bred Persian cat, especially since driving in town demands a more refined way of getting from one dismally similar urban street to another.

In-town motoring had to be linked with the more pleasant side of things. In fact, having negotiated various urban sprawls, we wandered past the airport, round Ħal Far, Birżebuġa and then Gudja before having a very fair Costa coffee at the airport. This gave us serious time to cogitate over the marvels of the little car we were enjoying so much.

This is such a beautifully constructed, suggestive car that were I to purchase one, the temptation to add the finishing touches of a decorative film kit to make it seem like a rally winner, and a sunshine roof, would be too much of a temptation to overcome.

I would also, for good measure, have footrest and pedal covers in stainless steel. But no, I would not have an eye-catching rally number, graceful as it is, on the doors of the vehicle.

Verdict

Comfort
This really is a little, but very competitive Audi.

Performance
Most certainly behaves like a five-star marvel.

Cool
And sensible with it.

Quality
Audi quality across the range is fantastic.

At a glance

Top speed
203 km/h.

0-100km
8.9 seconds.

Economy
Standard EU5.

C02
119 g/km

Engine
1,390 cc TFSI. Four-cylinder in-line petrol engine with direct fuel injection and exhaust gas turbocharger.

Power
90 kw at 5,000rpm.

Maximum torque
200Nm from 1,500-4,000rpm.

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