Is the M6 the worst motorway in Britain?
That was exactly what I was thinking after spending two extremely painful hours on it last week.
For all but three minutes of that time I was crawling along in speed limited traffic jams caused by it being “upgraded” (downgraded) into a horrifyingly dangerous “smart” (thick) motorway.
In other words the hard shoulder is being removed. Heaven help people who break down when that’s happened.
A recent study of British motorways by the Honest John website showed that the M1 is most affected by roadworks with 74 now under way, or predicted, over the next three years.
The M6 came sixth with 34 works and the Car Park (M25) was seventh with 27 works.
Look at the amount of days lost by drivers, though, and you’ll get an extremely different picture.
The M6 led that with a staggering 1,586 days of delays. That was three times worse than the 503 days predicted for the second-placed M62 and made the Car Park positively saintly with a score of 395 days.
As Mrs Motormouth and I shuddered, thumped and suffered through endless miles of our journey from Mighty Macclesfield back to Colchester we came to the conclusion that the Audi A1 Sportback we were travelling in would have been far more comfortable if it had been fitted with normal tyres, rather than the sporty but backbreaking 215/40 R18 low profile tyres that were fitted as extras to what is an undoubtedly pretty little car.
If Audi had stuck with its standard 215/45 R17 set-up it would still have been harsh, but would also have made for a far more comfortable journey.
That’s the sort of thing that makes writing about a car far more difficult than it should be.
Over the past 23 years the amount of Audis I’ve driven that were actually standard could be written on the back of a pin head.
Still, at least the A1 hadn’t been messed about with too much. Apart from replacing its manual air conditioning with twin zone climate control (thanks for that) our A1, apart from its paint job, was pretty much the standard car – the standard 200hp S line Competition, that is.
With its gloss black roof (an extra), huge gloss black honeycomb grille, black air intakes, five spoke alloys, eye catching sticky-out silver door sills and laid-back Audi four-circle logos tastefully set low-down in the rear doors it certainly looked the business.
Could it live up to its racy look? I’ll say it could. For starters what’s the point of putting a 200hp engine into a car that weighs just 1260Kg if it can’t handle the extra power?
No problem with the A1 Sportback. It sticks to the road quite brilliantly, with lots of feedback through the steering wheel, sending a clear message of intent to the driver: “Push me as much as you like.” It’s brilliant. But there again it should be with 320Nm (237lb) of torque on hand to keep it in a straight line.
Then there’s its power. Times were when 200hp sounded monstrous but these days it’s more like the threat of a fly. Well that doesn’t matter so much with such a light car and the A1 Sportback fairly sizzles off from a standstill, hitting 0-62mph in just 6.5s on its way to 146mph.
It would have been so much better on the country lanes where I live if Audi had stuck to its standard tyres.
Astonishingly fuel efficient, it’s got a claimed 40mpg average fuel consumption and, when you’re not hammering it to destruction, such as on the gridlocked M6, it genuinely makes that claim easily achievable.
Its fuel efficiency is matched by its space, too, in what is only a small car at a touch less than 4m long (13ft 1in). Space inside the A1 Sportback is surprisingly good and it will comfortably cater for two adults in the back, never mind the two kids that most people will choose it for (that’s the excuse, anyway, for buying a baby rocket).
The boot itself is 27in deep, which leaves room for two suitcases, and extends to 4ft 7in with the rear seat backs folded down.
That means if you’re on the way to the tip (reclamation site), you can pile enough junk into it turn your trip into a long visit, sorting it all out to go into the various skips for metal, paper, cardboard, wood and everything else you’re supposed to do.
Overall I was well impressed with, what in reality is a souped up posh VW Polo with space for four adults, big door pockets and refined finish and equipment.
There’s no doubt that this upgraded for 2019 version is a smart car in every sense of the word.
Unlike our so-called motorways.
Audi A1 Sportback 40 TFSI S line Competition.
REAR MIRROR MONSTER: Sheer size means it’s never going to be a monster, just an annoying little bug that, however hard you try, you can’t shake off on twisty country lanes. Pretty though.
BACKSIDE BEAUTY: Strangely, carries far more threat than the front end thanks to huge lights, a twin exhaust, noticeable diffuser and four circles. Beauty and a bit of a beast.
PLAYTIME PLEASER: Sat nav, air con, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors, trip computer, heated folding door mirrors, LED headlights, DAB stereo with two USB ports, aux-in, SD and SIM points.
NAUGHTY NIGGLES: Low in standard kit until you visit the extras catalogue. No sign of a space saver spare, just a blow and go kit which won’t be of any use if you tear the tyre sides hitting a pothole.
TASTY TOUCHES: Two sturdy shopping bag hooks on each side of the boot are the requisite 19 inches above the floor. Shopping bags are usually half an inch shorter.
FAST OR LAST: Fast, with handling to match, make it a car that’s hugely rewarding.
WONGA WONDA: Not cheap, but, like all Audis, it’s beautifully built.
WOULD CHANTELLE LIKE IT? You’re not kidding she would. Chantelle would love any Audi.
To read the Factfile click here: