Audi A1 review
Sporty, spacious A1 supermini packs Audi quality into a compact body
The Audi A1 features a stylish design and an upmarket interior, with many of the same desirable features as the larger models in the Audi range - cars like the Audi A4, Audi A6, Audi A7 and Audi A8. All of that means the Audi A1 is a serious supermini rival to the hugely popular MINI but also to the equally trendy Fiat 500 city car. The luxurious interior and posh image mean the A1 is easily able to take on other upmarket superminis like the Alfa Romeo Mito and Citroen DS3 as well.
The five specifications available - SE, Sport, S Line, S Line Style Edition and Black Edition - offer plenty of equipment, although the higher-spec cars are very expensive for such a small car. Cars with the S line suspension are sportier but the ride is compromised and becomes uncomfortable on bumpy roads. Audi also has an S1 hot hatch version in the pipeline.
The efficient 1.4-litre Cylinder on Demand petrol is a highlight of the engine range but there are two other petrol engines and two diesels available too. The Audi A1 is available either as a three-door hatch or as a five-door Sportback model.
Our choice: A1 1.4 TSI SE
With alloy wheels as standard and the unmistakable Audi face on the front, the Audi A1 looks much like the rest of the brand's range - which is no bad thing at this more affordable end of the Audi spectrum. It looks neat and classy on the road, and stands out next to its main rivals.
There are lots of paint options too, including a separate silver colour that flows up the A-pillars and over the roof. LED lights are an optional extra, as well as various other bits of trim to make the car look sportier, but be careful when speccing your A1 - it can get very expensive, just like with larger Audi models.
Particularly questionable are the set of expensive motorsport-inspired decals designed to make the Audi A1 look like a Quattro rally car, this might be taking things a step too far. S Line models are more restrained, gaining a mild bodykit, sports suspension and large 17-inch alloys as standard. S Line Style Edition models get smart xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights.
The standard Audi A1 doesn't have quattro four-wheel drive, but grip is still good, and the accurate steering and excellent body control mean it's good fun to dive - although it's beaten by the agile MINI in this area.
The Audi A1's ride is actually quite firm, and if you decide to go for an S line or Black edition models then it becomes quite uncomfortable - we'd avoid these sporty versions unless you happen to live somewhere with very smooth roads.
Visibility is good in the Audi A1, and it's pretty easy to park, so it ticks the urban runabout boxes well. Three turbocharged petrol engines and two diesels are available: an 85bhp 1.2 and a 1.4 with either 120bhp or 183bhp make up the petrol line-up. On the diesel side there's a 104bhp 1.6 and a powerful 141bhp 2.0.
The 1.2 petrol is actually very good in this car. It's got plenty of punch and works well on the motorway as well. The light engine means it has the best steering of the line-up.
Having said that, the 120bhp 1.4 is probably the best all-rounder, with decent economy and a lower price than the diesel models. The 183bhp 1.4 model won't upset the MINI Cooper S - it's quite quick, but lacks involvement.
All engines are smooth and refined and most get the slick six-speed manual gearbox. If you go for the 1.4 TFSI you can opt for the accomplished seven-speed S Tronic transmission which further improves economy and lowers emissions.
With plenty of standard safety equipment and a five-star Euro NCAP score, the Audi A1 is up there with the safest cars in its class.
Audi placed a respectable 10th in our 2013 Driver Power survey - but the Audi A1 dropped a substantial 40 places, ranking towards the bottom at 95th out of 150 in the top car rankings. Owners tended to agree that the compact dimensions have compromised the practicality.
The interior feels sturdy and durable, though, and the engines are all tried and tested in the rest of the VW Group's range of cars - so should prove very reliable.
With lots of soft-touch plastics and mouldings, a clear and logical layout and chrome-rimmed air vents, the Audi A1's interior makes the car feel like a much bigger model. Don't be fooled, though - this is still a small car. However there's enough room for two average-sized adults in the rear, which is pretty good.
A 270-litre boot will be big enough for most trips, but do try to avoid taking the whole family and their luggage on holiday if you value your sanity. If there's only two of you, the 920-litre space with the rear seats folded will serve you rather well, however. It's certainly bigger than the equivalent space in the MINI and Fiat 500, although the Citroen DS3 has more room.
If you don't need the extra doors and can go without a middle seat in the back, the three-door Audi A1 will provide enough space for most, but, the five-door A1 Sportback does get a third rear seat, and an extra pair of doors make for a much more practical car. There's lots of space for front seat passengers in both models.
The Audi A1's light weight and frugal engines make for strong fuel economy, and the 1.6 diesel, which emits 99g/km, is free to tax. It also returns 74mpg combined - the best of any model in the range.
As for petrols, the 1.2 posts 55mpg and emits 118g/km, while the more powerful 1.4 isn't far behind, recording 53mpg and emitting 124g/km. There's also a new 1.4-litre CoD petrol which returns an impressive 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of just 109g/km - but can still go from 0-62mph in just 7.9 seconds.
Other running costs, such as servicing and maintenance, should be quite low but it's advised to take up one of Audi's comprehensive, fixed-price servicing plans. This, added to strong residual values and you've got a good value small car that holds on to a big part of its new price.