I had to move some stuff a few weeks back, which necessitated the rental of a car. Having previously moved all my worldly goods by cart – an entertaining and challenging feat that I may write about in future if I have the time – I decided on this occasion to avoid being labeled as an eccentric or a tramp, and so headed off to the car rental village at Edinburgh Airport armed with my driver’s licence and bank card. It transpires that rocking up of a Sunday lunchtime and expecting to get a vehicle on-spec is not a good strategy, however the good folk at Sixt were able to hook me up with an Audi A1 for 24 hours. Transporting all my possessions to my new place, combined with a trip to IKEA for furniture, definitely seemed like a task worth the reasonable rental fee for the car.
The Audi A1 I received was an interesting little car, so much so that it inspired me to write something about it. Rather than doing a straight-down-the-middle review – because, let’s face it, all cars you get these days are pretty much the same – I thought I’d do a written pecha kucha, if such a thing is possible. Pecha kucha (Wikipedia it if you’re that way inclined) is a presentation style and expanding brand whereby presenters display twenty slides for twenty seconds each. Appropriate punchiness and spontaneity apparently ensue, and a quick trawl of the internet seems to suggest it’s reasonably entertaining and effective. Personally it seems to smack a little of marketing and management speak (hopefully it won’t get hijacked that way), but I thought I’d give it a go in written form, seeing as time is tight and I’m in need of inspiration. So, without further ado, twenty points each taking twenty seconds, on the subject of the Audi A1:
- Brand – This is an Audi, and as such is priced accordingly. In other words, it ain’t cheap. Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t be paying over £13,000 for a small hatchback;
- Shape– the A1 is tiny but has the Audi corporate look to it. So headlights reminiscent of Fernando Alonso’s eyebrows, big grille with four rings in the middle, and a slightly oddly-shaped steering wheel;
- Old Peugeot – something about the rear of the A1 reminds me of an old Peugeot 104, or even a Talbot Samba. I can’t quite figure what it is, though. Maybe something to do with the line running across the top of the rear lights and above the number plate…
- Interior – as this is probably supposed to be a ‘premium’ car, it is well furnished inside. Were it not for the slightly more cramped environs, one could be forgiven for thinking they were in any car in the Audi range, such is the nature of the various knobs, dials and buttons;
- Not for giants – I couldn’t sit properly in the back of the A1, and I am not a big man. My wife probably couldn’t sit in one of the rear seats of the wee Audi without banging her head on the roof, and she’s 4’10. Which leads me to…
- Low ceiling – this isn’t a big car, and the roof height reflects that. At a mere 5’7 this presented no problem to me at all in the front, but my head simply couldn’t fit in the gap between the rear seat and the roofline, even with the head restraint removed. This is not a car for more than two people;
- Boot – despite the above observations, I was surprised at the amount of clobber the little German machine was able to hold. I hired it to move all my worldly possessions to my new house, and it held them all comfortably. It even did remarkably well on a trip to…
- IKEA– traditionally the best place to go and stuff yer motor full of crap ye dinnae need. I managed to get two tables, two chairs, a basketload of towels and several other boxes of flimsy junk into the back. With the seats down, mind. Not that anyone would be able to use them anyway;
- Grunt – I was issued with a 1.2-litre turbodiesel, more than enough power for a car of that size. I’d be lying if it said it blew my brains out when I so much as tapped the accelerator, but the diminutive oil-burner dispensed ample horses for pottering around town;
- Economy – it’s been a long time since I owned a car, so I don’t really know what to expect from a modern small hatch in terms of fuel economy. The A1 seemed pretty good, though – the fuel needle stayed right up at full even after a whole day of town driving, although oddly enough it did dip lower once I’d replenished the tank to the tune of £20. Weird.
- Handling – there were no heroics at all in the time I was custodian of the car, not even a chance for a whirl round the unofficial Edinburgh rally stage otherwise known as SS1: King’s Buildings. Nonetheless, the handling seemed sharp enough, although I must be turning into my father in my old age because it dawned on me the other day that if you’re really noticing a car’s handling characteristics under normal operating conditions, you’re probably going too danged fast;
- Fuel saving – I got the fright of my life at a set of traffic lights mid-afternoon, when the engine on my steed died without warning. Turns out that it was some kind of fuel-saving device that cuts the engine out at traffic lights when the car is in neutral and the clutch released. For some strange reason it decided to start working after lunch, giving me something of a shock as I thought I was going to look like a muppet who’d stalled his car;
- Radio – minor point, but I couldn’t get the blasted radio to work properly at all! I was able to get seven different variants of Grant Stott’s voice on the local radio, but not a whisper of the Wimbledon Men’s Final. None of the buttons did what they looked like they would do (i.e. tuning and controlling volume), although I dare say that could be remedied by (shudder) reading the manual;
- Equipment – I talked about the inside of the car above, but it’s worth reiterating that this is a generously equipped machine. I guess the idea is that it incorporates all of the creature comforts of an A3 or A4 in a much smaller package;
- Target market – this really does appear to be a car designed for modern yuppies, or at least very wealthy urban dwellers. Why on earth else would you need a ‘premium brand’ small hatchback with a ridiculous list price?
- Sales– no matter what I might think, the A1 is clearly doing well, as I’ve seen lots of them trundling around Edinburgh (only Stockbridge and Morningside, mind). Maybe people are prepared to pay for quality and branding over size;
- Reviews – as I had no idea I was going to be handed the keys to an A1, and as my previous thoughts on the car went as far as ‘god, you must really want an Audi’ when I watched one sail past on the road, I was completely oblivious to the rave reviews the smallest member of the Ingolstadt fleet has been receiving in the motoring press. It wasn’t just me or all those buyers, then – those in the know really do rate the A1;
- No bad cars – driving around in the A1, then seeing my old man’s ten year-old Honda CRV (which is still holding up amazingly) a week later, it struck me that there really aren’t any bad cars any more. No matter what you get now, you’ll get reliability, quality and a good degree of practicality. Perhaps this means we’re going to see more;
- Distinctiveness – if all cars really are so good, then how to differentiate them from one another? (a cynic might say that all vehicles are now produced by only one or two companies anyway). Audi have clearly gone down the route of ‘quality’ with the A1, and it’s worked. Maybe in ten years I’ll be able to afford a second-hand one (if there’s any fossil fuels left);
- Rally – road cars don’t really get me excited these days, too bloated and samey most of the time, but rally cars still do. It occurred to me that an A1 rally car, a four-wheel drive turbocharged Quattro Sport version, would be an awesome, awesome thing. They could even do a version with the old white/yellow/black/red Quattro S1 colour scheme. Not that I thought about that a lot as I took the car back to the rental station at the airport at 3am, honest…
There we are, then. The Audi A1. Smart, robust, stylish, expensive. Would I buy one if I had the cash? Of course not, I live in the city…