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Review: 2013 Audi A1 1.6 TDI S-Line

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On: Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 1:02PM | By: Jon Summers

Review: 2013 Audi A1 1.6 TDI S-Line

Americans visiting Europe for the first time usually find the cars—and most other things, from elevators to food portions—rather too small—less minimalist and more plain inadequate. Europeans visiting America tend to find the cars excessive in terms of engine capacity, cylinders, and seats, but lacking in quality, with interior plastics being of the grade usually used in water bottles. Audi's A1 is a thoroughly Euro-market car—small but premium. Does it work?

Aesthetically, yes. Our test car was equiped with the S line package, and looked sharp on five-spoke alloys, with a deep valance and lustrous blue paint. Audi's aggressive corporate grille looks good to this tester, and certainly seems to encourage highway ditherers to move aside.

Inside, the controls fall easily to hand, with the steering wheel featuring a type of soft-touch plastic this tester last encountered on a 2013 Corvette. Seats, too, feel premium, and gripped nicely. The trunk is embarrassingly small, failing to swallow two carry-on size suitcases.

The infotainment system seemed rather obtuse, and we concentrated on the driving experience in the thousand miles we spent with the A1.

As to be expected with modern turbo diesels, a stab of throttle yields impressive punch—in the A1 1.6 TDI, enough to test the traction control in both second and third gear when coming off damp roundabouts—however, this soon tails off underwhelmingly. This translates to full throttle often being required for smooth merging. Keeping up with the ambient flow in the fast lane of European highways often requires a shift down from fifth to fourth. The A1 never becomes thrashy or uncivilized, but it is just a bit slow.

The clutch is light and precise—indeed, stepping into the A1 after a spell with an '87 5-liter Mustang, we nearly put the clutch through the bulkhead when first behind the wheel.

Despite the need for frequent wide open throttle, the A1 returned an eye-popping 49.9 mpg in mixed city and highway motoring.

Overall, this is a worthy but dull car, and that is somehow at odds with the brash Audi exterior. This is a premium VW Polo, not a cheaper hatchback A4.

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