Arab Today, arab today audi a1 vs mini cooper s
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Arab Today, arab today
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Audi A1 vs Mini Cooper S

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Audi A1 vs Mini Cooper S

London - Arabstoday

There is an evil glint in the weather deity\'s eyes. A day that started at a perfectly agreeable 21 degrees with crisp blue skies has taken an unfriendly turn. Mercury is sitting at a clammy 41 degrees and a freak sand storm has painted the horizon an unpleasant shade of ochre. Forget reduced visibility, we\'ll be shovelling sand out of unspeakable places by the time it passes. It\'s the kind of day that weatherologists warn isn\'t safe for being outside. Or driving quickly. Or for doing handbrake turns. But today it\'s par for the course because I\'ve got my hands on two of the hottest superminis around. Dicing with danger, and all that. The new Audi A1 arrives on our shores waving a metaphorical 185bhp sabre. It wants the Mini Cooper S\'s scalp. And today for the first time, at least in the UAE, these rivals come together for a punch-up. The pretender from Ingolstadt will take on the segment champ and the battle will play out right here, right now. So, the Audi A1. Yes, it is essentially a Polo underneath the four rings and yes, it is overpriced for a re-skinned Volkswagen. But what most people don\'t know is how much more grown-up and serious this thing feels than the VW. Try 185bhp and 250Nm of torque from a twin-charged 1.4-litre engine, a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox and a beefed-up steering that affords the same meaty quality as the one in the R8 supercar. It\'s a serious little racer. But today it\'s got its work cut out. Rival Mini, despite its chintzy and wilfully eccentric appearance is currently perched at the top of the hot supermini pack. And for good reason. Now, if you literally take a step back and assess their exterior forms, the Audi scores the first victory. The Mini has startled eyes and a gawping face, whereas the white A1 with its angry LED headlights and scoop-riddled mug looks like a quietly furious Imperial Storm Trooper. With sand in his orifices. The cabin is properly sporty too with heavily bolstered bucket seats draped in leather from cows of aristocratic lineage (probably). Plus, there are all the toys you\'d expect in a full-grown Audi. It\'s got a sat-nav, a honking Bang & Olufsen stereo and fantastic S line trimmings. The Mini\'s cabin is quirky and ‘trendy\', but the plastics are of the cheap, scratchy variety. The central speedo still feels a bit desperate and form generally takes precedence over function. The centre console is far too busy and all the important controls are exactly where you don\'t expect to find them. Also, the seats, as comfortable as they are, aren\'t as supportive as the Audi\'s. But I\'m sure Mini drivers wouldn\'t mind any of this. So, there\'s more to hot superminis than just a scowling fascia and fancy interior as the Mini has already proven; if the A1 doesn\'t deliver dynamically then all the LEDs and leather don\'t count for nought. Time to deploy the heavy foot. Both these cars have the same remit, but the execution couldn\'t have been more different. The A1 has a po-faced approach to performance. The steering and the brakes, as you\'d expect in a serious sportscar, are heavy. But, to call the A1 ponderous would be unkind, and actually untrue. It sounds good too, even though the exhaust gases have to carve a particularly curious path due to forced induction. The buzzy little engine\'s mechanical growl and the unapologetic, yobbish burp that emits from the exhausts every time the gears realign themselves and a mouthful of torque is fed to the system, provide aural entertainment that warrants a standing O. I plough rapidly into the first bend and exactly when it\'s too late, notice that the apex isn\'t quite where I left it during my recce run. It\'s difficult to get the desert to stay still when gale-force winds are battering the scenery. Turn in and the A1 understeers clear off the errant sand patch. Instinctively, I lift off, the front wheels claw at the tarmac, sending the back swinging around. The nose falls back in line. Nail the throttle. And I catapult out of the corner. It\'s text-book front-wheel-drive hot hatch manners. But something isn\'t quite right. The suspension doesn\'t seem to be on cordial terms with corners — it never seems settled. Matters are not helped by the fact that the steering, which loads up almost erratically during cornering, displays a certain reticence, so you\'re always reacting to second-hand information you get from your bottom. This results in you constantly making corrections to eke the best out of the A1. It\'s a car you drive with an intent expression on your face. Sure the Mini sounds whiny and effeminate driven back to back with the A1. But it\'s a cheeky, joyful little car that will cock its inside wheel when you\'re really hammering it. It\'s also blessed with a deliciously progressive — if a tad stiff — chassis. Chuck it into a bend and the suspension reads out the surface with uncanny ability and settles into a rhythm pronto. There are no nervous lurches at all. Even though in a straight line the A1 will leave the Mini trailing, I have nary a doubt that around a twisty road the Brit car will be faster. Even today when invading sand has rendered the tarmac relatively grip-less, it skips and bounces fluidly from apex to apex. However, the downside to this is the ride, which is jarring and harsh thanks to the firm suspension. It\'s perfect if you love driving hard, coming out of every roundabout sideways and prefer being on first-name terms with every pebble and cobblestone on the road. Around town, the Audi is much more comfortable and better suited for long-haul driving. The Mini\'s 184bhp, 240Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre engine has a chin-scratching moment of contemplation before the turbo spools up, which means you need to resort to manual shifting to keep it on song. And it\'s impossible with the silly pull-push paddle shifters. The A1, meanwhile, packs the Polo GTi\'s twin-charged engine, which works like this: The supercharger kicks in at 1,500rpm after which a massive turbo — good for efficiency — takes on charging duties from 3,500rpm. It\'s like a relay race with boost and quashes lag. So unlike the Mini, where you press the throttle and stare blankly at the speedo as the system hunts for the right gear before translating your inputs into forward momentum, the A1 with its clever double-clutch gearbox delivers stomp-and-go response. Handy for quick bursts of acceleration when you\'re darting in and out of traffic. The sandstorm has finally abated and yet despite the evident peril, it\'s been a day of perma-smiles and this is my conclusion. The A1 runs it close. Far too close for comfort. It\'s a better looking, better packaged proposition than the Mini. But purely as a fun machine, the Mini is still king. There\'s a fluidity to its responses that the A1 lacks. It\'s a car that — and I apologise for employing a tattered old cliché — becomes one with the driver. A well-specced A1, like the one here, costs about Dh138,400 — over Dh16,000less than what BMW wants for a Mini Cooper S. So, if I were looking for a fast, grown-up supermini and had my sensible hat on, my cash would go to Audi. But even though I don\'t care about the image a Mini purportedly portrays, I\'m inclined to pick the Cooper S. Because despite the potentially disastrous test environment, sand-slicked roads and terrible visibility, it was more predictable, confidence-inspiring and, therefore, hugely more entertaining than the A1. Bet that\'s the one the weatherologist would recommend too. From gulfnews

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