The Audi A1 is a perfectly good little car. Unfortunately it's been polished to a sheen of absolute dullness. It's boring. Which is why the A1 Quattro is such a massive, brilliant surprise. This is 249bhp of Quattro AWD stuffed into a tiny A1 - and it makes it beautifully mental. OK, so we've only driven it on spikes on ice, but the way this thing puts the power down and provides drive is pretty exceptional. And Fun. Lots and lots of fun.
No, it's not the five-cylinder that you might have been hoping for. Instead it's a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder TFSI with 249bhp and 258lb ft of torque. It's got the usual Audi tech: a couple of balancer shafts, a variable intake camshaft, heavy-duty direct injection and an intercooler for the little turbo. But it's in an A1, which weighs 1300-odd kg. The results? Good: 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and 152mph top end.
OK, so I reckon it might be slightly less exciting on tarmac, but the fact that it's quite subtle means that you'll be able to spring traffic light surprises on all sorts of more obvious weaponry. It looks bullish and peppy, without becoming caricature. There's a deep front bumper, some skirts and a couple of 100mm exhaust pipes bracketing either end of the modified rear valance. There's a black roof that matches the rear boot panel and a small-ish rear spoiler, and there'll be 18-inch retrotastic ‘Turbine' alloy wheels finished in the same Glacier White paint as the majority of the bodywork on the 333 LHD and 6spd manual-only production cars.
It feels, unsurprisingly, a bit like a tall TT, but there's not much wrong with that, the dimensions and re-jigged Haldex AWD meaning that you can pitch the car in and it reacts absolutely faithfully - on ice you don't even need to steer the car with the steering wheel, just adjust the angle of dangle with the throttle. And it sounds like a little rally car - all raspy goodness and twittering turbos.
It's expensive at around £45k (Euro 49,995), but you do get a fully-loaded little car with special sports seats, info system, xenon lights, auto air-con, keyless ignition, electric everything, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and even a 465-Watt, 14-speaker B&O sound system. And should the A1 Q be a bit rich for your blood, rumour has it that there'll be a full production A1 with Quattro (probably an ‘S') with slightly less power and RHD.
Only a couple of dozen full-blooded A1 Quattros are coming to the UK. Those that splash the cash should really hope for snow next winter...
2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, six-speed manual, AWD, 250bhp @6,000rpm, 258lb ft @ 2,500-4,500rpm, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, 152mph top speed, 33.2mpg (combined), Transmission: Haldex IV (FWD bias)
For more on the new Audi A1 Quattro, pick up next month's issue of Top Gear Magazine, on sale 29 February 2012.