Although it still contends there are no plans to bring it to the U.S., Audi has officially begun a mega-scaled pre-launch campaign for its smallest and arguably most ambitious new production model, the A1. Following a series of strategically timed info bursts prior to an online reveal in early February, the A1 will appear in public at the Geneva Auto Salon next March. At this point, the automaker has only confirmed that its hoped-for Mini killer will be positioned as a premium alternative for young buyers, primarily those who spend most of their time contending with urban driving environments. According to Stefan Sielaff, Head of Design at AUDI AG, the A1 will offer loads of customization potential, particularly in the area of interior appointments. Even the stylized initial renderings -- presented as graffiti-flavored wall sketches -- show that the car retains a strong resemblance to the original three-door A1 Metroproject Quattro Concept that was displayed at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show and its follow up five-door one-off, the A1 Sportback, that appeared in Paris the following year. While clearly identifiable as an Audi, Sielaff says the production A1 will have a few innovative tweaks to its grille and headlamp designs while playing up the dynamic character of its unique roof arch treatment.
It's believed the first run of A1 production models will consist of front-drive three-door hatches fitted with a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four that makes about 150 horsepower and shifts via a seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch sequential transmission. However, future possibilities include a high-performance S1 Quattro model, a five-door Sportback and ultimately a Cabriolet. All of those variations would help Audi establish its presence in a segment currently dominated by the Mini in all of its current -- and upcoming -- iterations. Given that the U.S. remains Mini's single biggest market, the A1 would seem to be a worthwhile addition to Audi's American lineup as well. But for now, we remain in wait-and-hope mode.