Rendered: 2011 Audi A1 Three-Door

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We've known since at least September--when the A1 and A8 skipped the Frankfurt Auto Show--that Audi is considering the A1 compact for the United States. A recent report out of Germany even says the car may do without all-wheel drive throughout the lineup to save on weight and production costs, despite the rumored addition of S1 and RS1 high-performance variants. Today a new report sheds a little more light on what's to come for the A1.

The new word is that the A1 is aiming to deliver a "MINI-like" experience, which, as expected, puts the A1 plainly in competition with BMW's small offering. Accordingly, that means pricing and performance targets will aim squarely at the MINI as well, which could further explain the rumored choice to eschew available quattro all-wheel drive.

Even the higher-performance models would retain the front-wheel-drive layout, in part due to the A1 sharing much of its underpinnings with the front-driven Volkswagen Polo. With a high-end dealership experience, an affordable car and enough performance and marketing cachet, the A1 may just hit a niche for Audi--even without all-wheel drive.

Blasphemy you say? Well, Audi may pride itself on offering quattro all-wheel drive on all of its current U.S. models, but it does sell front-drivers, so it's not completely out of character. And the harsh realities of fuel consumption mandates, production prices, margins and industrial parts sourcing mean that all-wheel drive is often an unintelligent choice everywhere but the road.

The potent S1 and RS1 models will be positioned to fight the MINI Cooper S and MINI Cooper S JCW, respectively, and they'll have just enough power on tap to do so. The S1 is expected to get a 1.4-liter 180-horsepower supercharged engine borrowed from the Polo GTI, while the RS1's engine is still a complete unknown, should it even be built. If it does come to fruition, a tuned-up version of the engine in the S1 could be tapped for up to 220 horsepower, but Audi could easily tap the corporate engine bank with any of a handful of alternatives as well.

Stay tuned as the progress of the Audi A1's march toward production and eventual U.S. sales unfolds. We'll keep you up-to-date with all the latest as it happens. Expect more details to come next spring as the 2010 Geneva Motor Show approaches.

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Comments (7)
  1. Based on the camouflaged photos: I wish the Audi Design Department would get over the need to slant the rear end too much on their hatches and avants. The VW versions always look better because of their more vertical rear ends. Maybe Audi lost the coin toss....

  2. NC2000--
    I don't mind the slanted stern - Reminds me of the Fiat 500, and is diferent enough from Mini to make it interesting

  3. Well, I want better than "don't mind". The VW Golf/GTI and the Audi A3 are the same basic chassis. But the VW design is very much more attractive, mostly due to the better rear end shape. BTW, reminding of the Fiat 500 is no plus in my opinion.

  4. By the time this car comes out, Audi will be doing much better in the US and the demand for smaller more fuel efficient cars will be much higher. Not to mention the cost for the convertible is said to be around $16,000-$20,000 which is a great bargain for an Audi. This car will do very well once it's released with a few miner detail adjustments.

  5. The only reason that related VW and Audi models are such radically different shapes is to provide a really strong differentiation between the cheaper and premium models. Are you really going to pay double for an Audi A4 Avant if it just looks like a Passat Wagon with a different inside? Audi have to work really hard to try and make the models very different shapes, sporty and dynamic. If you don't like the sloping rears then you'd better not look at the new 5 series wagon renderings!! Though I agree that anything that looks to the 500 for inspiration is going to be awful.

  6. Love the brand, hate the look of this one....

  7. Hi Guy's,
    Despite the possibility of demand for smaller more fuel efficient cars, Americans don't buy European makes for economy; they're just too expensive. Japan "owns" the fuel efficiency market.

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