Audi A1 Hatchback review

Our Rating: 
2010 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Audi's new A1 might be small, but its arrival is still big news for supermini fans

As small as a MINI, as well built as a Bentley – The Audi A1 is the upmarket supermini that proves good things really do come in the smallest packages. Currently, Audi A1 drivers can choose between three engines: two petrol, and one diesel. Entry-level petrol cars get fuel efficient 86bhp 1.2 and 122bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engines. The engine with the highest MPG is a 105bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel.

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Smart but conservative is the best way to describe the new Audi A1. Its neat proportions and compact dimensions confirm it as a MINI rival, but it has none of its competitor’s cheeky retro charm. You’ll need to pay extra if you want yours to stand out with contrasting windscreen pillars. You’ll also find the most attractive alloy wheels are only available as cost options. Only higher spec versions feature the snazzy Xenon headlamps and eye-catching LED daytime running lamps. As a result entry-level examples can look surprisingly anonymous.


Audi has established itself as the car maker to beat for interior quality and the A1 underlines its superiority. The quality of the materials and switchgear will be alien to traditional supermini buyers and the clarity of the instruments and major controls is unrivalled. The pop-up display for the stereo (and optional satellite navigation) is a prime example, its smooth manual operation feel beautifully engineered. Sport trim provides added glitz while S line versions feature a moody black roof lining and aluminium trim.


With a fine selection of engines and a capable chassis, the Audi A1 is a competent car to drive, but you’ll never want to jump behind the wheel and head for your favourite road – just for the thrill of it. The steering provides little feedback and the chassis isn’t as alert or adjustable as the class leaders. Refinement is impressive, though, and SE models are comfortable. Sport trim provides firmer suspension, and S line models get an even more driver focused set-up. Specify any of the bigger optional wheel designs and you can expect ride comfort suffer even further.

The 1.6-litre TDI diesel offers combined fuel economy claims of 70.6mpg, which helps keep running costs down. Elsewhere, the Audi A1 is competitively priced and pretty well equipped. Air conditioning is standard across the range, while Sport models come with Bluetooth. However, chances are you’ll want to liven up your car with a visit to the options list, and that’s where things will start to get expensive. Fortunately, costs are balanced by the Audi A1’s frugal engine range with stop/start technology, an affordable pre-paid servicing pack and low CO2 emissions.

There's plenty of space up-front, but passengers travelling in the back don’t get the full five-star treatment. There’s adequate legroom for cars in this class, but taller occupants will find the sloping roofline and tailgate compromise headroom. Young teens won’t notice but adults will feel confined. It loses another star for its 2+2 layout – Citroen’s DS3 is available with five seatbelts. Boot space is very generous, and significantly ahead of the MINI, while false boot floor provides a flat load area when the seats are folded.

The Audi A1 borrows its basic chassis and suspension structure from the VW Polo - which gained a full five stars for safety in the Euro NCAP test. Expect to see the baby Audi achieving a similar result. From behind the wheel everything feels incredibly well made. Audi drivers in general tend to agree, with their cars consistently performing well in satisfaction surveys.

Engines, performance and drive

MPG, CO2 and running costs

Interior, design and technology

Practicality, comfort and boot space

Reliability and Safety

Last updated: 25 Jan, 2011