Audi A1 Review
The A1 offers big Audi quality in a fun-size package, making it one of the most satisfying superminis you can buy.
Pros: Styling, interior quality, efficient engines
Cons: Can be costly to buy, limited rear space, numb driving experience
Trim range: SE, Sport, S Line, S Line Style, Black, Amplified
Petrol engines: 1.2T (86), 1.4T (122, 140, 185)
Diesel engines: 1.6 TDI (105), 2.0 TDI (143)
Gearboxes: Five-speed manual, six-speed manual, six-speed S tronic
What is the Audi A1?
The Audi A1 brings premium quality to the supermini sector. Available as a three-door hatchback or five-door Sportback and with a range of super-efficient engines, it presents an immensely convincing ownership proposition.
Although it is derived from the Volkswagen Polo, it has been thoroughly engineered to Audi’s high standards, providing a stern challenge to the MINI.
Thanks to the Audi A1's tiny dimensions, you're unlikely to find the performance underwhelming whichever engine you choose. Even the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol turbo unit serves to propel the car along at a pretty decent rate.
But it's the brilliant 1.4 TFSI which offers the best performance, with the range-topping 185hp proving to be an absolute firecracker of an engine. The 1.6 TDI or lesser-powered 1.4 TFSIs offer the best performance to efficiency compromise, though.
Ride and handling
No two Audi A1s in the range feel the same, so it's imperative that would-be buyers test drive a few before purchase. This is particularly true of the ride, which gets noticeably firmer, the further up the trim level ladder you get. For the softest ride, stick to the SE, which does without sports suspension.
The Audi A1 also suffers from a numb driving experience, with the steering distinctly lacking in much feel. But it makes up for it with bags of grip, and general composure is excellent.
Behind the wheel
Dashboard and driving position
The Audi A1 scores very highly here, with a dashboard which feels every bit as special as you'd think. The layout is clean, the dials and displays are clear and there's an overwhelming feeling of quality.
The steering wheel and driver's seat offer plenty of scope for adjustment, so finding a suitable driving position won't be a problem.
The Audi A1 feels intimate, but never claustrophobic. The three-door hatchback does suffer from restricted rearward visibility, which can make parking tricky, but the narrower C-pillars found on the five-door Sportback help to improve matters.
Gadgets and technology
A 'Concert' radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility, an SD card reader, Aux-in socket and a 6.5-inch display is standard across the range.
- Smartphone connectivity: The optional Audi Music Interface allows for smartphone connectivity. Bluetooth is standard on Sport and S Line
- Navigation: The Technology package includes a satellite navigation system
- Personalisation: Track information is displayed when using the Audi Music Interface
- Audio: The optional Audi Music Interface supports USB, portable hard discs, iPods, MP3 players and cassette player connectivity
- Internet: No internet connectivity is available in the A1
- Can it Tweet or Facebook: No
- What is the standout gadget on the Audi A1: The optional BOSE premium surround sound system offers 14 speakers and a 10-channel amplifier
Passenger space and practicality
Your front seat passenger in the regular three-door Audi A1 will be sitting very comfortably, but the same can't be said of those people sitting in the back.
Rear space is cramped, with the rather upright seats delivering a rather uncomfortable seating position. It also feels quite claustrophobic in the back. Again, opting for the five-door Sportback does improve matters and also offers the benefit of a fifth seat.
Boot space is the same regardless of whether you opt for the three-door or the five-door, with a total of 270 litres of space on offer. And that's rather a lot for a car of this size.
The A1 has inherited many of the qualities offered by its larger, more expensive Audi counterparts, with very little in the way of wind and road noise. The engines are supremely quiet – especially the silky-smooth petrol units – and if you avoid the big alloys and top trim levels, the ride is delightfully comfortable. Top marks for the A1 here.
The Audi A1 scored the maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP safety test, so this is one small car which will safely cocoon you against the mean city streets.
The A1 also boasts side and head-level airbags, the latter of which cover the entire front and rear side windows.
Running Costs/Value for Money/Pricing
All engines feature start-stop, with the A1 also boasting a braking energy recovery system, helping the little A1 to deliver some pretty remarkable economy figures.
Pick of the bunchy is the 1.6 TDI, which has the potential to offer 74.3mpg on a combined cycle (emitting 99g/km CO2). Even the more powerful 2.0 TDI only drops to 68.9mpg, with CO2 of 108g/km – for us, that’s even more impressive than the 1.6 TDI.
The 138hp 1.4 TFSI engine features cylinder on demand technology, which deactivates two engine cylinders when cruising, boosting the economy to a decidedly diesel-like 60.1mpg.
The Audi A1 isn't a cheap car, but the quality on offer more than makes up for the price point.
Audi wouldn't let its reputation for delivering exacting standards slip on the cheapest model in the range, so you can expect soft-touch plastics, high quality materials and a superior paint finish. A real class act.
Pricing and equipment
Prices start from a reasonable £14,115 for the 1.2 SE hatchback, rising to an eye-watering £22,055 for the 2.0 TDI Black Sportback. Whichever way you cut it, that's an awful lot of money for a supermini.
The entry-level SE trim offers 15-inch alloys, air conditioning, electric front and rear windows, CD/MP3 player and a 6.5-inch screen.
The Sport model adds the likes of 16-inch alloys, sports suspension, Bluetooth, multi-function steering wheel, aluminium interior trim and front fog lights which, as a result, heighten the premium feel. It's the trim level to opt for - assuming you can live with the ride.
Value for money
The Audi A1 feels every inch the premium supermini Audi wants it to be, and as a result, the prices reflect this. The A1 is not a cheap car.
But it's a car in demand, so residual values remain high. Be selective with your choice of options and you could find a queue of people wanting to buy your A1 when it's time to sell it.
The Audi A1 competes in a crowded sector, with the likes of the MINI, Volkswagen Polo, Alfa Romeo MiTo Citroen DS3, SEAT Ibiza and Ford Fiesta battling for attention.
Some rivals may offer sharper dynamics and others may deliver greater value for money, but Audi has planned a canny card with the A1. When it comes to overall quality, no other car in the sector can compete with it.
Given the choice between the three-door hatchback or the five-door Sportback, we'd have to let our head rule our heart and opt for the more practical version. It lacks the purity of the original, but the additional doors help make it a more rounded proposition.
The Audi A1 may not be the most satisfying car to drive, but it certainly has the potential to be one of the most satisfying cars to own – in any price sector.