/ Motoring

Small car, big price, inappropriately timed?

If you told a friend you’d just spent £40,000 on a new car, they’d expect you to turn up in something quite lavish. So imagine their surprise when you roll up in a supermini – the Audi A1 Quattro.

For a select few in the UK this scenario will become a reality. That’s because Audi has released a limited edition run of its A1 supermini. And, if the rumours are true, almost all 19 examples coming to the UK have already been sold.

So what’s so special about this £41,000 small car? Well, with just 333 being made available worldwide, it’ll certainly be exclusive. And it boasts some outrageous performance figures for such a modest-sized car – 252bhp, a top speed of 152mph and Audi’s legendary Quattro four-wheel-drive system.

What do you get for £40k?

But what are you actually paying for? It’s still a three-door supermini that you’d struggle to fit four adults in, with limited boot space. It still shares its DNA with a standard £13,500 Audi A1, meaning it won’t have the dynamics of a purpose-built sports car. And it will only be available with left-hand-drive.

Ultimately, it’s not the most practical way to spend £40k.

Especially when you look at what you could buy for the same amount of money: a three-litre diesel Jaguar XF luxury car, a get-you-anywhere Land Rover Discovery, or even a brand new Porsche Boxster roadster. Even Audi’s limited run of the bigger RS3, with more performance and the same Quattro system, costs £2,000 less than the A1 Quattro.

Why make expensive special editions?

So why has Audi bothered to build it, especially in these times of global economic woes and restricted budgets where buyers are hankering for more affordable motoring?

Audi’s defences could be multiple. The A1 Quattro is a showcase of the brand’s capabilities to build something bespoke and special. It reiterates the firm’s desire to continue building iconic special edition cars. It’s been built to cater for a niche market where there’s still demand.

But at the end of the day, wouldn’t the majority of cash-strapped drivers prefer manufacturers to spend their resources producing affordable cars, rather than building these hideously expensive special editions?

And to show that it’s not just Audi making these special edition super-powered superminis, here are my top three outrageously expensive small cars from the past few years:

  • The Aston Martin Cygnet – a re-badged Toyota iQ that can cost as much as £43,750.
  • Mini’s ‘Inspired by Goodwood’ – priced at £41,000, it’s almost four times the cost of a standard Mini hatchback.
  • The Abarth 696 Tributo Ferrari – a £29,600 Fiat 500.

Surely the expertise and energy put in to these cars, and Audi’s A1 Quattro, could have been spent on developing reasonably priced cars that would appeal to more than just a few select people worldwide?

Sophie Gilbert says:
22 February 2012

Yep, I don’t get it either. Gimme that Porsche Boxster anytime! Does anybody buy these crazy price superminis? Maybe I’m being superficial here, but they LOOK so BORING!!!

Why even draw attention to the existence of stupidly expensive cars that will do over twice the maximum speed limit in the UK?

Frankly – I’d only buy one if I could get it as a fully tax deductible expense – then sell it at a profit.

Mind you I did have a Mini Cooper S once.

Pie Eater says:
29 February 2012

£40K for a small expensive car? Double the speed limit? Although very different to the A1 Quattro, that also describes my Caterham Superlight R400 (400 BHP per Ton) 0 – 60 in 3.8 seconds I’m told and it’s British! Live life in the fast lane, not the bus lane. Diversity is the name of the game. Go for it Audi.
PS. I have a clean licence. full NCB & have an advanced driver qualification.

I think you are missing the point a bit Wavechange. I’m well aware of the ultimately financial motivations of the car industry, but some of the most iconic and beautiful cars ever made have been ‘stupidly expensive and gone twice as fast as the speed limit’. The Ferrari 275? The Aston Martin DB5? These are works of art and have inspired countless other designs since. We would all be commuting to work having to look at even more copy-and-paste tin boxes everywhere if it weren’t for these manufacturers taking a risk and bringing out cars a little different or with some quirky character (not necessarily reffering to the Audi). Any example of design triumphing over cheap production reminds me that it is still possible for new cars to look beautiful. You could just as well say the Eiffel Tower is too tall, or the Taj Mahal a waste of money..
Also, all cars built these days go at least 100 mph. Accidents are not caused by this, but rather human error.

I’m not sure I am missing the point, fossilboy. With the beauty of nature to appreciate I don’t think I need a fast car to worship.