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A1 to multiply Audi sales

Not one off: The Audi A1 will spawn a range of variants as the German company milks its new entry-level model.

Ingolstadt’s Mini rival will max out Audi market share with a multitude of variants

15 Feb 2010

AUDI’S answer to the Alfa Romeo MiTo and BMW's Mini will be one of the main drivers in its quest to be the world’s number-one luxury car-maker.

Company insiders even believe the all-new A1 light car may become the most popular Audi in the world when the full range is on sale inside the next three years, outstripping the brand’s best-selling A4 series.

For the time being, however, reports put Audi’s expectations at the 100,000 units a year mark for its bouncing newborn.

Australians will have to wait until the first quarter of next year before they can lay eyes on it in Audi dealerships.

To be unveiled at next month’s Geneva motor show, the A1 initially will hit the Swiss centre stage in three-door guise only.

A five-door hatch will follow in Europe later on this year, but we understand that both body shapes will be made available in Australia in early 2011.

Reports out of Europe suggest that a high-performance S1 version will be released in 2012, wearing the usual hot hatch war paint, while a 2+2 convertible baby brother to the A3 Cabriolet is also thought to be in the Audi pipeline.

Based on the soon-to-be-launched fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo platform known as A05, the A1 will be the first Audi in recent history not to offer an all-wheel-drive option, instead sticking to the front-wheel-drive layout of its donor vehicle.

7 center image This also means a strictly conventional suspension layout consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle, as per the A1’s Italian rival. The Mini uses a variation of BMW’s Z-axle design out back.

But an Audi insider told GoAuto there would be marked differences in the steering and suspension systems’ state of tune, to put clean air between the A1 and the Polo, as well as the other Volkswagen Group models that also share the A05 platform (Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza).

Engines will be direct-injection turbocharged diesel and petrol units, ranging from 1.2 to 1.6-litres in the first instance, with smaller capacities expected in the not-too-distant future.

The mainstay engine for Australia is likely to be one of the 1.4-litre petrol units.

Transmission choices are expected to include a variation of the S-tronic seven-speed dual-clutch item making the rounds in a number of Audi and Volkswagen models in Australia.

The last time Audi offered a vehicle in the light-car class (or supermini segment as it is known in Europe) was the 50 range. A sort of belated replacement for the popular NSU Prinz range, it proved to be a slow seller, and so was axed after only four years in 1978.

Ironically, the Audi 50 spawned the A01 Polo series of 1975 that has since evolved into the A1 we will see in Australia in 2011.

Audi sold just short of 950,000 vehicles worldwide in 2009, exceeding earlier expectations but falling short of the record 1.003 million units achieved the year before due to the effects of the global financial crisis.

But a string of successful mainstream and niche models – namely the Q5 SUV and A5 range – has Audi forecasting a possible record year again in 2010, with the A1 propelling the Ingolstadt firm further forward next year.

According to Audi Australia spokesperson Anna Burgdorf, the smallest Audi is destined to have a big future Down Under.

“The A1 will be one of our volume selling cars for sure,” she told GoAuto.

“Whether it would be the top model is hard to say. It will depend on the value proposition.

“But it will definitely attract an increase in the number of younger buyers to the brand, as well as older and existing Audi customers who want a second car.”

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