Audi's small wonder for families
Affluent Hongkongers have long equipped their family fleets with chic, small cars such as the Mini Cooper (HK$282,275), Mercedes-Benz A160 (HK$225,500) and Smart ForTwo (HK$139,800). They know such cars can cut the cost of zips to the shops, give mum branded swish in town and provide recently-licensed offspring with alternative wheels to the family Maserati and Alphard at weekends. The well-heeled now have even more choice with Volkswagen's Polos (HK$166,000), Mazda2 (HK$133,990) and similarly priced Fiat 500s and Grande Puntos. So Audi's new three-door A1 hatchback enters a competitive market with a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, fuel injection and funky looks.
The Bavarian marque wanted to prove that its smallest car was just as luxurious as its larger siblings, so gave the A1 the big Audi grille, then made the 'baby' runabout look sporty with 'mascara' LED daytime running lights and a rising 'sculpted' line above its sills.
Available in two models, the standard Attraction (HK$261,900) and the more sporty Ambition (HK$305,900), the A1 also has a circular, Citroen C3-like roof arch, available in contrasting colours, but only on the Ambition for an extra HK$3,500. Other Ambition options include Xenon plus lighting (HK$9,000) and an electronic 'comfort key' (HK$3,500).
The A1's highlight is its interior, which is as well-finished as any other Audi with black and silver knob trimmings and supportive seats. The Mini Cooper feels more cosy for two people, but the A1 is much better for four.
Attractive d?cor touches include different-colour surrounds to the dashboard's four air vents, and lower light switches in red. The headlight switch would have been easier to reach in the wheel instead of the dashboard, but the speed clocks' dial illumination is among the clearest on the road in red and white. The cabin can be bright with an open sunroof and dual-tone seats.
The Eastern Island Corridor seems lumpy via hardened shocks and the Ambition's leather Milano sports seats, so commuters may prefer the Attraction version's Zeitgeist cloth upholstery. The split rear seat backs can be folded to extend 270 litres into 920 litres of luggage space.
Easy to handle with fine all-round views of Kowloon traffic, the 122hp A1 promises 100km/h sprints in 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 203km/h - 1.5 seconds and 6km/h faster than the Mini Cooper. If the A1 seems sedate in traffic, just shift the seven-speed S-tronic gearbox into sport mode for all the lane changing you need in Hong Kong.
The test car is good on fuel, however, with 5.2 litres of petrol per 100km (45.23 US mpg) versus the 1.6-litre Mini's 6.4l/100km and its carbon-dioxide emissions 119 grams per kilometre compared with the Mini's 150g/km.
The A1 pampers mums, restrains the young, and reminds families of the technological advances of Audi's smaller engines.