The Audi A1 is now knocking on the door of its eighth year on sale, but the smallest Audi hatchback is still a strong premium supermini contender against rivals like the Mini Cooper.
It may lack the retro-cool of its Anglo-German nemesis, but the A1’s sharp design and exceptional build quality make the A1 a consistently strong performer for Audi. The range topping S1 is also a unique entity in the supermini hot hatch class being the only all-wheel drive option, although this does come at considerable financial expense.
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Overall the A1 is still a solid, entertaining and sturdy premium supermini, but with a recently revised Mini just revealed and the impressive, if dull new Volkswagen Polo showing up the A1’s relative age, an all-new model can’t come soon enough. Luckily we won’t have to wait too much longer though, as an all-new version should appear at some point in 2018.
Performance and 0-60 time > A 93bhp engine sees the A1 hit 62mph in 10.9sec and reach a top speed of 116mph. If you want performance then look to the S1 quattro.
Engine and Gearbox > All 1-litre Audi A1s come with a five-speed transmission as standard, while TDI models and 1.4-litre TFSI-equipped cars have a six-speed ’box. A dual-clutch ’box is offered as an option.
Ride and handling > The Audi A1 is a sensible, grown-up car. Its talents aren’t as blatant as many hot hatches, but be patient and it will show its fun side.
MPG and running costs > If fuel economy is your goal then the TDI model is the one to go for – it manages a combined 80.7mpg and dodges road tax due to minimal carbon dioxide emissions.
Interior and tech > Fit and finish in the A1 is what you would expect of an Audi – it’s superb. The 2015 Audi A1 also has cylinder-on-demand technology, which improves fuel economy.
Design > The A1 is a good-looking, polished hatch that impressively translates Audi’s chiseled design language into supermini form.
Prices, specs and rivals
The A1 looks expensive compared to ordinary superminis, but then it’s pitched at a buyer who is unlikely to be looking at a Fiesta or Corsa. The Mini is the A1’s most obvious rival, even if the Audi cannot match the Brit for verve on the road. The cheapest A1 starts at just under the £16k mark, for a 1.0 TFSI manual three-door version. The five-door Sportback models add around £600 to the list price, and go for the S Tronic automatic and you’ll add £1,500 more to that.
SE trim comes with the essentials, but Sport really adds to that, gaining Drive Select, telephone preparation with Bluetooth interface, voice control, adjustable lumbar support on the seats, a multi-function steering wheel, gloss black and aluminium finishes on the air vents and control switches, as well as front fog lamps and 16-inch alloy wheels.
S line models benefit primarily from the more assertive exterior styling and gain 'xenon plus' headlights with daytime LED running lamps. The options list is lengthy, allowing plenty of personalisation, but it’s as expensive as it is long so be careful with the check boxes.
The A1’s biggest problem is that a Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport cost just less than £23,000, that’s the same sort of price as a 1.4 TFSI Black Edition A1 with an S Tronic gearbox. As much fun as the A1 is to drive, it’s not as fast, adjustable or anywhere near as fun as our favourite supermini hot hatch.
While the Audi A1 might be aimed directly at the Mini as competition, only a handful of the variants, S1 included, are remotely fun to drive. The 1.4 TSI model is most definitely the pick of the bunch and while they all have the capacity to please, you’ll be happy behind the wheel because of the beautiful environment you’re situated in, rather than any deep-seated desire to drive it. Sport trim brings stiffer suspension, to the detriment of ride comfort, but thankfully it’s a free de-select option, and despite the evo mantra, we’d recommend doing without.