Audi A1 review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2010 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Audi A1 supermini packs good looks, great quality and top notch refinement into a compact body

For: 
Great looks, high quality, strong residuals
Against: 
MINI is more fun, pricey, firm ride

The first Audi A1 came almost a decade after MINI reinvented the premium supermini, but the German manufacturer ensured it was worth the wait – with an upmarket interior, powerful engines, and a grown-up driving experience.  

Its desirable image and posh interior allow it to justify a rather hefty premium over the humble Volkswagen Polo, yet underneath they share a platform and large number of parts. While it doesn't play the retro card so successfully by the MINI and Fiat 500, the latest iteration does feature a wide range of personalisation options, allow you to make your A1 your own.

Engine-wise, there should be an A1 for everyone. The entry-level 84bhp 1.2 TFSI will be replaced in early 2015 with the brilliant 94bhp 1.0-litre TFSI. It packs plenty of power and despite being so small, is in fact the pick of the range. Moving up there are two 1.4-litre TFSI units, with 123bhp and 148bhp respectively. The higher-powered unit features Audi's Cylinder on Demand technology, which shuts down cylinders when they're not needed.

On the diesel front, the only option is the punchy 1.6 TDI with 114bhp It'll do 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds, yet return more than 76mpg. From late 2014, Audi's S Tronic automatic gearbox was made available on all engine variants.

Trim levels consist of entry-level SE, Sport, and S line. Sport and S Line models have a firmer suspension setup, but the trade off for a sportier drive is a compromised and sometimes uncomfortable ride. Though customers can delete this option on new cars free of charge. The higher up the range you go, the more the A1 starts to look expensive for such a small car.

Elsewhere in the range is the 228bhp S1 hot hatch with its searing performance. The 0-62mph dash takes less than six seconds, and thanks to the quattro four-wheel drive system, you'll be able to explore more of the performance, more of the time.

The A1 is available in both three-door and five-door Sportback body styles across the line-up.

Our choice: A1 1.0 TFSI Sport (from Spring 2015) 

Styling

3.8

The Audi A1 is a mature looking alternative to the retro MINI and distinctive Citroen DS3, so if you're looking to keep a low profile, it's certainly worth consideration.

Taking styling cues from the larger A3 and A4 models with the familiar corporate grille and swept-back headlamps, the A1 can also be specified with a range of alloy wheels, front fog lights and chrome exhaust pipe. A contrasting paint finish across the tops of the doors and down the A- and C-pillars help give the A1 a much-needed visual lift. A light facelift towards the end of 2014 sharpened the front end and added a new range of colours.

While the A1’s exterior lacks drama, its classy cabin is without doubt one of the best in the business. It’s slickly designed, perfectly executed and packed with high-grade materials. Neat details include a knurled metal finish for the heating and stereo controls, a beautifully damped pop-up screen for the infotainment system and crisply designed dials. There’s also plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, so getting comfortable isn’t a problem.

The Audi isn’t exactly awash with standard equipment – air-con, electric windows and voice-activated Bluetooth are the main highlights. If you want to match the DS3’s kit tally, you’ll need to raid the extensive and expensive options list, spending in excess of £1,000. 

Driving

3.2

Thanks to shared mechanicals with the VW Polo, it's no surprise that the A1 driving experience errs on the side of sensible rather than exciting. Sport and S-Line models get lowered and stiffened suspension (though this can be deleted at no extra cost), the steering is precise and well weighted, and there’s a decent amount of grip – but it can’t match the engaging MINI or DS3 for driving fun.

The A1's ride is quite firm in any form, so if you decide to go for an S Line model then it becomes quite uncomfortable. Unless you live somewhere with exceptionally smooth roads, we'd stick to the softer-riding SE models – or select the standard suspension on range-topping models. Visibility is good in the Audi A1, and it's pretty easy to park, so it ticks the urban runabout boxes well.

New Audi A1 2015 rear

The 1.0 TFSI petrol (due Spring 2015) is actually very good in this car. It's got plenty of punch and works well on the motorway. The light engine means it has the best steering of the line-up.

Having said that, both 1.4-litre models offer decent economy and a lower price than the diesel models. The 148bhp model won't upset the MINI Cooper S – it's quite quick, but lacks involvement. The S1 is quicker but comes at quite a price premium.

All engines are smooth and refined and most get the slick six-speed manual gearbox. However, as of the 2015 facelift, all engines – including the 1.6-litre TDI – are now available with the seven-speed S tronic auto.

Just like the petrols, the 1.6-litre diesel is quiet and smooth on the move, but it works best with the manual gearbox rather than the seven-speed auto as it adds a dose of much-needed fun.

Reliability

4.4

The A1 is up there with the safest cars in the premium supermini class, with plenty of standard safety equipment and a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating.

Despite Audi's upmarket image and reputation for quality, the A1 finished in a middling 63rd place in our 2014 Driver Power survey. Still, this is an improvement on its 95th placing in the 2013 survey. Owners highlighted an uncomfortable ride, practicality issues and running costs as negatives, but praised its reliability and ease of driving.

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.

Practicality

4.2

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. There's enough room for two average-sized adults in the rear, but only for shorter journeys.

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.

New Audi A1 2015 interior

If there's only two of you, the 920-litre space with the rear seats folded will serve you rather well. 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.

Running Costs

4.5

The Audi A1's light weight and frugal engines make for strong fuel economy. Both the 1.6 diesel and new 1.0-litre petrol emits less than 100g/km of CO2, and as a result are free to tax.

Elsewhere in the range, the powerful 1.4 is pretty impressive too – especially the 148bhp Cylinder on Demand (CoD) version, recording 58.9mpg and emitting 112g/km. Even the super-quick S1 will crack 40mpg with a light right foot.

Other running costs, such as servicing and maintenance, should be quite low thanks to Audi's comprehensive fixed-price servicing plan. This, combined with strong residual values mean the A1 is a good value long-term buy. 

Disqus - noscript

I have a Jazz and have driven an A1. This review scores the Audi higher on practicality..

I think that is amazing...And as far as comfort is concerned, the rear of a Jazz is larger and more comfortable.

Maybe the testers live in a different world.

Brought the A1 on your recommendation that the 1.6 TDI would average 74 mpg unfortunately driving really carefully I only manage 52.6, no so good for a diesel car as small at the A1. Audi say it not their fault and there is no fault with the car they blame the problem on the euro directive that the manufactures use to test the official mpg. The urban cycle is measured over a distance of 2.5 miles at an average speed of 11.6 mph and a maximum speed of 31 mph from a cold start, extra urban cycle, which lasts 6 minutes 40 seconds at an average speed of 39 mph and a top speed of 74.6 mph. The combined figures are the average of both tests. That's not real life, no wind resistance, no weight in the car, no hills, no radio or electrical items on, no heater and all done in a lab.

Yes the testers do live in a different world. The A.1 is essentially a tarted up Ibiza and shares the latter's rear headroom deficiency. An Ibiza to a reasonable specification is quite a decent looking car, somehow less stolid than the A.1 and anyone not in thrall to a ludicrous badge obsession would be mad to overlook it. (I own neither but know people who do). Ibizas also fare better than A.1's in the J.D. Power owner satisfaction survey

The A1 is one of my personal favourite Audi's, I think it just looks really slick. I think my favourite think about the car is how it looks, what is your favourite part?

It's a pity the designers didn't increase its visual appeal by increasing the size of the wheel arches enabling 18 inch alloys with 50 profile tyres to be fitted as standard. The wheels look puny.

For an Audi, don't you think the wheels look rather puny?

Regarding fuel consumption of vehicles, I've noticed many modern Turbo Diesels need quite a few thousand miles on the clock before they return quoted fuel economy.

Ive owned a Mercedes Smart Cdi diesel for the past five years, and not until my engine had reached 10-11000miles did it return economy in the high 80s.

Many people presume that modern engines do not require a running in process, well nothing has changed, a new car with an engine with delivery milage needs those moving parts to wear a little, bed in so to speak, and also it depends on how a vehicle is driven.

In stop start short journeys you will never achieve good fuel economy, its on those long motorway journeys where you can keep to a constant speed that you should get decent economy.

After all the quoted 74mpg for the Audi TDi is not such a high figure, it should be easily obtainable over a long journey.

Obviously you do not own one then.
My Metallic Grey 1.6TDi Sport is far from boring or unexciting, expensive and over priced maybe, but the Audi brand has always had an image of being expensive and overpriced.

Surprisingly, some of those added extras Audi are infamous for charging customers when ordering a new car, are cheaper than the rest of the VW Audi Group.

Metallic Paint- £340, VW want £540 for the gloss.
Climatic Air Con £330, VW want £380.

Even the Cruise Control costs less than VW and Skoda.

The biggest bargain though is £250 for 5 years of Servicing your new car.

Vw wants £495 for the same duration.

Audi only cripple you financially when you order their bespoke leather interiors and custom paint finishes.

Actually a new Audi A1 1.6TDi SE model is cheaper to own and run than some VW Polo models, its only when you buy the Sport or S models that the purchase price starts to spiral out of control.

The three dial Aluminium Climatic Air Con fitted by Audi.
Ive just ordered a new 1.6TDi Sport, and thought really hard whether spending yet more hard earned cash on A/C was really necessary.

After twiddling the knobs of another A1 with those Aluminium controls i knew that i would seriously regret not having them, and after all £330 was a fair price to pay for what has to be the most gorgeous accessory in any current Supermini.

Sounds like somebody is jelous

Watch your Fiesta depreciate like a brick, and how many Fiestas are on our roads.

The whole ambiance and driving experience of an Audi A1 makes it the most desirable Supermini on the road, even more desirable than the MINi.

Why would I be jealous. A DS3 is better to drive and also has a better Diesel engine. I have driven this so I know what I am talking about. So be careful what you say in the future.

Regular Fiesta's on the road, yes, granted. New Fiesta ST's, no definitely not.

Depreciate?! Shows how much you know doesn't it? At 58/59% residual after 3 years it's probably one of the strongest cars in terms of holding it's value you can buy! The only reason people find it more 'desirable' as you say, is because the world is full of badge snobs and like it because it has 4 rings on the front.

The reason most people buy an Audi, is for its magnificent build quality and interior design.

The Audi A1 1.6Tdi holds onto almost 61% of its original value after 3yrs, no Ford can claim that.

Some do covet that Audi badge, thinking themselves superior to other drivers, but the build quality and attention to detail is what makes an Audi special.

Not even Ford, VW or even the Mini can boast an interior as fine as the A1s.

My boss drives a Jaguar XJ Portfolio that he bought last year, and i can honestly say the materials used in my A1 are of better quality than his car that cost over £50k more.

Do you not read or something?! I think 59% is very close to 61% so I'd hardly call that difference depreciating 'like a brick'. The residual value of the Feista ST, especially the top spec one like mine, is brilliant because of how good it is and how popular it is.

I know Audi have good quality interior, my Dad has a new Q5 and the inside is brilliant I never doubted that. However my point is that for the money you have to pay for the A1 for a small Fiesta sized car is ludicrous (despite how good the interior is). I'll give you interior quality but other than that the A1 has nothing on the Fiesta ST.

Actually the Audi A1 i purchased was only £200 cheaper than your Fiesta.

My car was first registered in November 2014 and had 6 delivery miles on the clock.

It had been registered by Wolverhampton Audi.
The car had around £4000 worth of extra kit on it, making an identical new model nearly £23k.

A Fiesta is still a Ford, a car that is sold in its millions and will not turn heads on the high street.

A metallic Grey Audi on the other hand looks pretty special, and has an interior of the highest quality.

£200 cheaper than what? You have no idea how much I paid for my car. And even if you did pay less, mine was brand new with 2 miles clocked on it. Mine also has A LOT more performance than yours and better handling. Mine also has a sports suspension and still has a better ride than the A1.

You point that it wouldn't 'turn heads' is completely and totally irrelevant. For starters the ST doesn't look the same as a standard Fiesta, if you knew even a shred of thing about cars you'd know this. Second of all beauty is in the eye of the beholder so just because you think it looks better doesn't mean everyone else does, as a matter of fact I can tell you right now not everyone agrees with you believe it or not. The ST is an extremely desirable car which is why they are so popular.

You can keep your boring Metallic grey frankly, my Blue Metallic colour is very unique and no other car has a colour like it.

If you bought it new, then my delivery mileage A1 Sport Tdi was £200 cheaper than the Ford.

List price for my car if i had ordered it from the factory was just over £22800.

I picked mine up five weeks ago for £18470, and they allowed me to buy a 5yr service pack, which usually is only available on a new car.

I was more than pleased with the purchase, getting an almost 15 plate car for Fiesta money.

No, but its still a Fiesta, roughly the same shape, and parked on every corner.

Your ignorance is unbelievable. No it's not a Fiesta the performance alone sets it completely away from anything close to it being a normal Fiesta. It also it does have different looks as I keep reiterating Have you even been in one? Do you even know anything what it's like? Or are you one of these people that just assumes its inferior because it has a Ford badge?

There's a reason that it was the best hot hatch last year because of how brilliant it is. Also just to say I paid £18300 for my car. Just because you know the list price doesn't mean that's what I paid for it.

Hang on a minute, thats like saying a 1977 Ford Escort RS1800 in Racing Red is not the rarest Ford motorcar to come out of the Dagenham works.
Only three are known to exit.

Your Ford Fiesta ST is a pimped up Ford Fiesta, just like my Audi being a VW Polo in an Armani suit.

I have to admit the only really nice thing about the car are those lovely Recaros.

Ive never liked the cluttered dashboard of the Fiesta, and i believe the styling will look dated in several years.

Like the Audi, the Fiesta ST is way over priced at over £18000.

Now if you had blown that kind of cash on a mint MK2 Mexico or 1979 RS 2000 Custom then i would have forgiven you, but the interior quality of my Audi is light years ahead of the Ford.

How is it overprice in any sense? For a car that does 0-60 in under 7 seconds. I beg you to find a brand new car that you can get cheaper with that kind of performance. For what you get it's good value for money.

Of course the styling will look dated in 7 years. Most if not all cars' styling would look dated after 7 years.

You really do have this massive fixation on interior quality. While yes it's nice to have, did you forget what you should be buying the car for? Like the way it drives engineering etc.

Also if you agree with my point, like you just have that the Audi is overpriced, why are you even arguing with me?

Last updated: 27 Feb, 2015