In an era of striving for political and any other correctness, it would be really unfair to call some cars “feminine”, but somehow, it imposes itself. When an automaker creates a new model, one of the first things that you pay attention to is the target customer group. So, the “unisex” models are usually declared as “feminine”, except “hairy” and “testosterone” (read “the fastest”) versions, which are due to the high performances and sporty looks, usually most appealing to the male part of the audience. Those are the exact models, with “R” and “S” badges that you can see “shooting up” in the neighborhood as gifts for the 18th birthday gifts for the girls who drive them to the Pilates, solarium or shopping mall.
In the category of small, “leisure class” models, MINI has been undisputed (the only one in the first place) king, and among its owners, there are drivers who love it for its features and understand what the brand represent. Whatever model showed up in the comparative test, MINI came out as a winner, proving again (and demonstrating) that timeless retro look and superior driving performances had no equal rivals.
Although the concept of the Mini was “born” in the UK and was greatly improved in Bavaria, this small “blue blood” city car did not have a competitor from the same language area – at least not yet. Now, a really “masculine” brand came on the scene – Audi. As already known, the Audi A1 began its life as Metroproject Quattro – a concept that announced the return of the brand to the small car category (who still remembers the Audi 60?).
In contrast to the direct rival (and favorite?), which is obviously characterized by the aforementioned retro lines, the “four rings” model features a modern design that suggests the Audi’s “techno” orientation. Since the test car came in traditional black color, A and C pillars came to the fore, as well as “silver” roof arches, reinforcing the aforementioned impression regarding the look of this car. Of course, LEDs are inevitable detail that is slowly but surely becoming the trademark of the second Bavarian car manufacturer.
To be completely honest, if Audi continues at such a pace, the big question is who should be called “the second Bavarian…” at the end of next year, but it’s another story that finds its place here as well, with few more pages in the content. In fact, Audi is rapidly expanding its range and recording significant achievements in terms of global sales. A1 will have its contribution for sure, proving even now to be a real hit and a true alternative to the MINI in the European markets.
One more domain where Audi built the image of a quality manufacturer was “interior”. The A1 is no exception. The instrument panel is slightly oriented towards the driver; the used materials and finish would assure even a “blindfolded” person that he is in a premium class car. Each element is nicely integrated into a whole, and details that stand out are in any case large central display and leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Audi A1 1.4 TFSI
On the other hand, the A1 do not offer much in terms of space, although the front seat position is almost like in the A3. The back seats are there only for short journeys and not particularly tall people, while the trunk has a volume of 270 l. It fits nicely in the class average, because the A1 is 3.95 m long, with the 2.47 m wheelbase.
Our old acquaintance, MINI was created by a well-known recipe called “each wheel in every corner of the car”. Thus, its overall length of 3.7 m (with almost identical wheelbase as Audi – the difference is only 2 mm) is really noticed only in terms of small trunk – 160 l. The impression, when we talk about the passenger compartment does not differ much, and the Audi offers a slightly wider space behind, while MINI can host two passengers there and offers more room for the heads. We have commented on the architecture of the instrument panel a lot of times – the large central speedometer, “aircraft” switches. What are also common for both models are excellent ergonomics and a low position at the steering wheel, but the exact difference is a subjective matter.
back seat head room
Audi A1 has a rather high lateral line and the windshield is set with the much smaller angle towards the driver, so the driver feels quite “tucked”, which proved to positively affect his subjective impression of safety. MINI, on the other hand has almost vertically positioned windscreen and larger glass areas; it appears quite “airy”. So, as we said before, although in terms of dimensions pretty similar – they are very different in reality.
Atmospheric or Turbo
The conclusion we have suggested previously considering interior refers also to what can be found under the hood. As the standards that regulate the quality of exhaust gases are becoming increasingly stringent, so the engine technology advancement is conditioned to follow those rules more than a need for higher performance. The only “cure” for this is use of turbines, in order to increase power and torque. That is the choice of Audi’s engineers, and A1 are offered with turbo engines only. The model we drove has a 1.4 TFSI unit which produces 122 “ponies” at 5000 rpm and 200 Nm at 1500-4000 rpm. Such data promises high performance and low fuel consumption and CO2 emission, but that has to be checked out, of course. The test car is equipped with the seven-speed DSG transmission, which Audi calls S-tronic.
However, MINI reserved the turbo technology for the most powerful version only. The tested Cooper has 1.6 l engine with 122 hp at 6000 rpm. Talking about the torque, all 160 Nm are available at 4000 rpm. It is a great result for the normally-aspirated engine, but in terms of torque availability in every everyday driving, it cannot fully match the features of turbo technology. If you want the Mini keeping pace with the A1, you should have its engine in higher revs. However, chronometer brought another surprise – Audi needs 9 seconds to reach 100 km/h, while MINI reaches the same speed in 9.2 seconds…
Audi A1 is also a little quieter. All other characteristics regarding drive are equal, including top speed and average fuel consumption, which can be kept within 6 l with moderate ride (no more than 8 l in the city). We were not able to reach factory data, but it was never common to achieve those features.
However, what Audi gained from the comfort, more advanced engine, and really excellent gearbox (1900 € extra cost), Cooper made up with the driving characteristics. Simply, MINI still provides the best sense of control. Perhaps, some female hands would prefer the Audi A1 in the city drive, but the steering and suspension of the MINI simply “talks” with the driver and “tells” him what the well-balanced body “wants” to do. In this clash, the MINI is an athlete and the Audi is a gentleman.
They do not differ much in the terms of price either, but the Audi made a slight advantage in this area. The basic A1 with 1.2 TFSI engine (with 86 hp) costs 16,777 €, while the price for 1.4 TFSI is 19,024 €. Ticket to the MINI world will cost you 16,690 € for One (1.6 75 hp), while for the Cooper version you have to pay 19,990 €. Since the amount of standard equipment is nearly identical, satisfactory and in a way adequate to premium prices, the buyers of these cars will make a choice based on the design and character. Is there anything else to add?
As we said before, these were two very similar, but at the same time very different cars. The values of the MINI brand are already well known, so we will not discuss them much, except that the tested car is still very actual model that even surpasses the newer competitors in the areas where it is the best – originality, great driving performances. The Audi A1, however, has some features that the MINI does not. The A1 has more torque at lower engine speed, it is quieter and slightly faster, but gives you a completely different impression during the drive. Because of this, Audi is not spoiling the MINI’s party and vice versa. The newcomer to car market is, in fact, a different alternative for the MINI, and there is plenty of room on the market for both of them. They are different enough, and it is hard to believe that the fans of either of them could change the favorite colors.
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