Little Guy With Superpowers: 2012 Audi A1 Quattro

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Four reasons we love the nonsensical but brilliant A1 Quattro

  1. IT MAKES NOSENSE

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    If you’d developed bespoke rear suspension, somehow squeezed it in together

The only explanation for the A1 Quattro’s existence is an excess of inspirational ‘take a chance, do it, seize the day’ type quote books in Ingolstadt the day the car was signed off, because it’s a deeply un-Audi product, really: a high-cost, low-volume enthu­siast car born of inefficient platform engineering.

A skunkworks project, the considerable effort that went into making the ATs Polo/Fabia/Ibiza platform drive all four wheels goes some way towards explaining that price – £41,035. More sophisticated multi-link rear suspension replaced the usual torsion beam set-up, the rear diff replaced the spare wheel well, the fuel tank changed shape to accommodate the propshaft, and some kind of giant shoehorn must have been fabricated to squeeze a 252bhp 2.0-litre turbo four into the engine bay.

  1. IT LOOKS BOTH GROUP-B COOL AND CUTE

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Colgate-white turbofan wheels. Jewel-like anodised red wheel- nuts. Chisel-sharp roof spoiler. A stance laden with menace. The A1 Quattro’s economies-of-scale, mass-produced successor, the Si, may share a name with a rally car, but the extravagantly spoilered A1 Quattro looks like it shares some of its bodywork. If there’s ever been a cooler looking supermini, we haven’t found it.

  1. IT’S A BIT LAIRY

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Compared to the full-production A1, the A1 Quattro’s much more of an event to drive. There’s greater heft to the steering, the sus­pension’s less yielding and whenever the throttle’s opened with intent the turbo shrieks like a Cup Final refs whistle. As with the Si, a 2.0-litre four-pot supplies the power, but it’s Audi’s older E A113 unit with the wick turned up to a heady 252bhp. There’s the occasional tug of torque steer under power where there’s none in the Si, and the transition from under- to oversteer is spikier in the A1 Quattro. Above all, there’s the sense that you’re driving something more serious and uncompromising, though that won’t slow you down for long. Such is the A1 Quattro’s blend of tiny footprint, parpy speed, leachy grip and punk spirit that every B-road is a playground.

  1. IT’S A UNICORN

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Only 333 A1 Qs were built (19 came to the UK), all left-hand drive and in any colour you liked as long as it was Glacier White.

2012 A1 QUATTRO


Price: £41,035 then, £40k now
Engine: 1998cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 252bhp @ 6000rpm, 258lb ft @ 2500-4500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Performance: 5.7sec 0-62mph, 152mph

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