Audi E1

Posted on 30 April, 2009

IT’s the all-new Audi that claims to pick up where the original Mini left off! This is the E1 – an ultra-efficient city car from the German firm and a model which is being hailed as a spiritual successor to Alec Issigonis’ masterpiece.

Sharing its platform with VW’s forthcoming up!, the newcomer takes Audi firmly into new territory. It’s designed to sit below the Polo-based A1 – due next year – as the entry point into its model line-up, and is aimed at the likes of the new Fiat Topolino and MINI Spirit (revealed in Issue 1,056). Signifying the launch of a new wave of hi-tech Audis, the E1 goes on sale in 2011 and will be the first car from the company to wear the ‘E’ tag.

It will be closely followed by a full range of E-badged models over the next five years. And with a hybrid version of the A1 due shortly after the standard supermini’s 2010 launch, Audi is clearly readying itself for an assault on the eco-friendly small-car market.

However, despite its diminutive size, the E1 will remain a premium product that fits in with the brand. Although its proportions are reminiscent of those of the VW up!, the familiar mesh-styled grille, short overhangs and huge front badge make the electric three-door instantly recognisable as an Audi. Futuristic front and rear LED light clusters, large alloys and a sharply rising waistline that meets a neatly kicked-up C-pillar complete the E1’s look.

Inside, buyers can anticipate more of the same, with a cabin that boasts the usual premium levels of material quality but with a more creative design. As previewed on the A1, the E1 will get a development of Audi’s new mobile device – essentially a hand-held portable sat-nav, phone and MP3 player with touchscreen display. The gadget replaces the key and plugs into the centre console.

The E1 will be packaged similarly to Toyota’s iQ, which means customers can expect a 2+1 layout with plenty of room up front and enough space in the back for luggage or one small passenger.

A variety of engines will be offered, although the star of the show will be an electric powerplant. It incorporates lightweight lithium-polymer batteries and a punchy electric motor driving the front wheels.

So the small, agile car will be ideal for city motoring, delivering 0-60mph in around 10 seconds. And with a full charge providing enough energy to travel up to 100 miles helped by regenerative braking, the plug-in machine will have real all-round ability.

In addition to the electric variant, there will be petrol and diesel versions, using new 600cc two-cylinder turbo units. These will aim to offer sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and economy of 94mpg. A 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol is under consideration, too.

The E1 will be built at VW’s plant in Bratislava, Slovakia, alongside the up! as well as Skoda and SEAT variants. Audi’s version will carry a price tag of around £12,000, which will pitch it against rivals such as Smart’s electric ForTwo and Fiat’s forthcoming hybrid 500.

The electric E1 will be eligible for a Government grant worth up to £5,000 which will be made available to all buyers of electric cars and hybrids from 2011.