Audi came out with the small premium car, the A1, it had been hinting at for so long at the 2010 Geneva auto show. But it also showed off an e-tron version of the A1, a series hybrid that could succeed the new model.
At auto shows in recent years, Audi hinted at the A1 with a number of concepts, and seemed intent on offering a premium city car. The resulting A1 competes with the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500, and is aimed at young, affluent buyers living in cities.
In Europe, the A1 can be had with a 1.6-liter TDI engine, a diesel, or a 1.4-liter turbocharged direct injection gasoline engine. The latter produces 122 horsepower, getting the A1 to 60 mph in about 9 seconds. Mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, it gets fuel economy of 44 mpg.
In the cabin, Audi offers surprisingly good technology, up with its high-end models. The navigation system comes with a 60GB hard drive and has detailed 3D topographic maps. Of that space, 20GB can be used to store music. The available Bose audio system uses a 10-channel 465-watt amp powering 14 speakers, which should equal a lot of sound for a small space.
At the recent Frankfurt and Detroit auto shows, Audi showed off two sleek electric car concepts, referring to them both as e-tron. The latest e-tron, based on the A1, looks nothing like those cars, but is more likely to reach production.
This newest e-tron is driven by a small electric motor making 102 horsepower, enough to send the car to 60 mph in about 10 seconds. A lithium ion battery pack gives it range of only 31 miles, but it also has a range-extending engine that generates enough electricity to get the car another 125 miles.
The navigation screen and interface controls in the e-tron look the same as in the standard A1, suggesting the same cabin tech. However, the e-tron uses an LED for its instrument cluster. Its drive controller is a small lever.
Audi built this window in the cargo compartment of the e-tron to show off one of the lithium ion battery packs. The electric motor and generator engine are mounted in front, under the hood, and drive the front wheels.