Audi A1 review - Is Audi's smallest car one of its best?

A1 exhibits all the usual Audi traits, but lacks any real fun factor.

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.

Subscribe to evo magazine

If you're passionate about the world's greatest performance cars, experience the thrill of driving with evo magazine. Try your first 5 issues for £5.

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. 

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement

More on A1 hatchback

Visit/audi/a1/21157/new-2018-audi-a1-makes-public-debut-in-paris
Audi A1 hatchback

New 2018 Audi A1 makes public debut in Paris

Audi’s successful A1 has been totally reimagined inside and out, and there is another S1 on the way, too
3 Oct 2018
Visit/audi/a1/16242/mtm-audi-a1-quattro-brings-group-b-back
Audi A1 hatchback

MTM Audi A1 quattro brings Group B back

Audi tuner turns the Ingolstadt firm’s smallest model into a 1980s monster
26 Jun 2015
Visit/audi/a1-sportback
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 Sportback five-door review - price, specs and 0-60 time

Audi's five-door A1 Sportback driven. There's a clever new 138bhp petrol turbo engine with cylinder cut-off tech, too
4 Jan 2015
Visit/audi/a1/7125/audi-a1-sportback-14-tfsi-sport-review-price-specs-and-0-60-time
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport review - price, specs and 0-60 time

The new five-door 'Sportback' version of the Audi A1 is driven in the UK for the first time, tested with the most popular 121bhp TFSI engine
19 Nov 2014
Advertisement
Visit/audi/a1/14683/audi-a1-audi-a1-sportback-revised
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1, Audi A1 Sportback revised

Audi's smallest model and the sporty S1 and S1 Sportback receive subtle updates
14 Nov 2014
Visit/audi/a1/13943/audi-s1-abt-hits-305bhp
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi S1 Abt hits 305bhp

VW and Audi tuner Abt has extracted a further 77bhp from the S1 quattro - making a total of 305bhp. Details and pictures here
7 Aug 2014
Visit/audi/a1/14293/audi-a1-quattro-vs-mini-jcw-gp-ford-focus-rs500-and-renault-megane-r26r-verdict
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 Quattro vs Mini JCW GP, Ford Focus RS500 and Renault Megane R26.R - Audi A1 Quattro vs Mini JCW GP, Ford Focus RS500 and Renault Megane R26.R: Verdict

We know how good they are on road and track, but which hot hatch is the most extreme? Here are the results...
3 Jun 2013
Visit/audi/a1/14291/audi-a1-quattro-vs-mini-jcw-gp-ford-focus-rs500-and-renault-megane-r26r-on-the-road
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 Quattro vs Mini JCW GP, Ford Focus RS500 and Renault Megane R26.R - Audi A1 Quattro vs Mini JCW GP, Ford Focus RS500 and Renault Megane R26.R: On the road

Before we head to the track, these mega-hatches must prove themselves on road.
3 Jun 2013
Visit/audi/a1/12901/new-audi-a2-cancelled
Audi A1 hatchback

New Audi A2 cancelled

Audi has cancelled plans to launch a long-awaited A2 replacement
3 Jan 2013
Visit/audi/a1/12632/abt-tuned-audi-a1-sportback
Audi A1 hatchback

ABT tuned Audi A1 Sportback

Volkswagon and Audi tuning specialists ABT has added the A1 Sportback to its tuning catalogue
20 Jul 2012
Advertisement
Visit/news/evonews/279136/latest_issue_of_evo_magazine.html
Audi A1 hatchback

Latest issue of evo Magazine

All-new Porsche 911 - the definitive test v Aston, Audi R8, BMW, Jaguar, Lotus, Maserati, Mercedes AMG and Nissan GT-R. Audi A1 quattro driven, Renaul…
28 Feb 2012
Visit/audi/a1/7113/audi-a1-quattro-review
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 Quattro review

Audi's four-wheel drive version of the A1 combines 250bhp with a £40K pricetag. A stretch too far for Audi's elastic brand?
15 Feb 2012
Advertisement
Visit/news/evonews/277861/latest_issue_of_evo_magazine.html
Audi A1 hatchback

Latest issue of evo Magazine

Suzuki Swift Sport vs all its rivals and Honda NSX vs BMW M5, Porsche 911, TVR Tuscan, BMW M5 and Maserati 4200GT in our £15K special; Jaguar XKR-S vs…
31 Jan 2012
Visit/audi/a1/12132/audi-a1-quattro-revealed
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 Quattro revealed

Audi has announced a four-wheel drive version of the A1 supermini, powered by a 253bhp 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine.
21 Dec 2011
Visit/audi/a1/12049/hot-diesel-audi-a1-launched
Audi A1 hatchback

Hot diesel Audi A1 launched

Audi launches a more powerful A1 diesel as well as Black and Contrast special editions
15 Nov 2011
Visit/audi/a1/7076/audi-a1-14-tfsi-185-s-line-review
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 1.4 TFSI 185 S Line review

The 182bhp Audi A1 S line is the quickest and sportiest A1 - at least until the forthcoming S1 turns up.
11 Nov 2011
Advertisement
Visit/audi/a1/11803/audi-a1-tdi-with-free-tax
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 TDI with free tax

Audi reveals tweaked A1 1.6 TDI diesel that offers 99g/km CO2 emissions, 74mpg, free tax and no congestion charge
22 Jun 2011
Visit/audi/a1/11760/audi-a1-quattro-snow-drifting
Audi A1 hatchback

Audi A1 quattro snow drifting

Watch the new baby Audi showing off its stable handling on a snow-covered track
2 Jun 2011
Visit/audi/a1/11753/500bhp-audi-a1-clubsport-quattro-official-pictures
Audi A1 hatchback

500bhp Audi A1 Clubsport quattro official pictures

Audi unveils the A1 Clubsport quattro, a 500bhp hot hatchback that's quicker than an R8
31 May 2011
Visit/audi/a1/11251/abt-tweaks-the-audi-a1
Audi A1 hatchback

ABT tweaks the Audi A1

Renowned VW group tuner ABT gets its hands on the Mini Cooper rivaling Audi A1. Bodykits and more power
29 Jul 2010
Visit/audi/a1/11117/special-audi-a1s
Audi A1 hatchback

Special Audi A1s

Audi reveals special modified versions of its Mini rivaling A1, including a Quattro homage
6 May 2010