Automobiles

Audi A1: Vorsprung Durch Technology Preview

Audi is all set to mix it with the little boys with an affordable new supermini dubbed the A1. With that in mind, we figured we'd take a look inside this miniature marvel and check the tech

After years of producing large saloons, SUVs and hatchbacks, Audi is all set to smack the automotive world upside the head gasket with an affordable new supermini dubbed the A1. With that in mind, we figured we'd take a look inside this miniature marvel to see what sorts of car tech the scientists at Audi have managed to incorporate.

As standard, the A1 comes with a pretty decent radio. Actually, it has two radios -- twin tuners mean passengers can play one radio station while the A1 hunts for another in the background -- eliminating wasteful tuning time. The stereo comes with a CD drive that'll read MP3 and WMA discs, an auxiliary input socket for connecting MP3 players via a cable, and it'll even read digital media from its integrated SD memory card reader.

If money, as rappers say, "ain't a thing", you might want to opt for the more upmarket Audi Technology Package, which takes the A1's geekery to new heights. This £1,345 option consists Audi's third-generation MMI (Multimedia Interface) system, which includes a 6.5-inch colour TFT screen, two SD card readers, a USB port and a 40GB hard drive, 20GB of which can be used to store music.

The remaining 20GB is set aside for the sat-nav, which is pretty advanced. You can either prod away at the 800x600-pixel display or, better still, hit a button and speak your directions aloud for itas voice recognition system to process. We've yet to try this for ourselves, but if it works, it could make getting hopelessly lost a heck of a lot more fun. According to Audi, the system displays 3D topographical maps, which in some cases looks a bit like Grand Theft Auto on the Nintendo DS.

Three speaker packages are available with the A1. One is so unspeakably rubbish, it doesn't even given a mention in Audi's marketing bumph. The second, dubbed Audi sound system (£250) consists a six-channel amplifier pumping sound to nine separate speakers, including a subwoofer in the front and rear. If you really want to take it upmarket, you can splash out on the £675 Bose Premium sound system -- which offers 5.1-channel surround sound, a nine-channel amp and 14 speakers, two of which (in the front doors) have fancy light bezels.

There's loads of tech outside the A1's cabin, too. Audi offers a couple of parking aids -- one £300 unit that beeps when you're too close to objects, and another £525 model that beeps and shows you how close you are on the internal display. Personally, we recommend you spend that money on extra driving lessons, but the choice is yours.

Also present is hill-hold assist, which temporarily prevents you rolling backwards on steep hills while you find your biting point (£65), auto light and rain sensors in case you can't tell when it's dark or raining (£310), cruise control in case you lose control of your right foot (£230), and illuminated door handles in case you've forgotten your glasses (£310).

Admittedly, some of its gizmos are priced somewhere north of where we'd like, but we'll confess to being extremely excited about A1. We'll be keeping a keen eye on this as it approaches its November release, as well as its electric counterpart, the A1 e-tron. With a bit of luck, we'll have a full review for you in our Car Tech reviews channel in two blinks of a Mini's tail light.