VW Beetle vs Audi A1

15 Oct, 2012 1:00pm

Looking for an economical hatch with flair? We compare diesel versions of the Volkswagen Beetle and Audi A1 to see which does it better

Bold architecture is capable of making everyday buildings look amazing. Equally, unique design can turn a diesel hatchback into something more than bland transport. In this test, we put two distinctive three-door hatches head-to-head. Both have recently been matched to the VW Group’s tried-and-tested 2.0-litre TDI engine for the first time, and both have eye-catching styling.

But in other ways, they couldn’t be any more different. The Volkswagen Beetle is now into the second generation of its modern rebirth and looks unashamedly retro, while the smaller Audi A1 is a much more modern style statement that trades on its desirable premium badge.

So, if you’re after an economical, well built and stylish three-door hatchback that offers something a bit different, which is the better choice? And is there more to these cars than just stand-out design? Time to find out...

Verdict

If you want a well built, frugal and good-to-drive diesel hatchback, you’re spoiled for choice. But in this test, we’re looking for a car that has all of the above, while at the same time serving up an extra helping of character and style.

Which means picking a winner here is no easy task. After all, both attributes are hard to quantify. What isn’t in question is that the A1 is the cheaper car to buy and own. Add its premium badge and upmarket cabin to the mix, and you’d think it’d be on for an easy win against the Beetle.

However, it’s a smaller car, and, despite its sharper handling, a firm ride takes the edge off the driving experience. The VW is roomier and more comfortable. Classic looks and that strong heritage give it an edge when it comes to individuality, too. It won’t suit all tastes, but it’s sure to appeal to those who want to make a style statement. Blending just the right amount of retro appeal with the feel and quality of a modern VW, the latest Beetle is clever and classy.

Both cars are well suited to the 2.0-litre TDI engine and have similar performance, but the VW just edges to victory on account of its extra character. If Beetles aren’t your thing, though, the 2.0-litre TDI model is the best diesel A1 yet.

Disqus - noscript

An economical hatch with flair? Neither vehicle is this.
The Beetle looks backwards for its inspiration although that inspiration was original in its time (decades ago).
As for the A.1 it is an absurdly expensive, gussied up, Seat Ibiza. Various people I know own examples of both, coincidentally in the same colour. From the side, at any distance, they are indistinguishable.
You are being rather kind, as ever, to the VW group.

You're looking for an economical hatch with flair and you're looking for it under the VW umbrella? What were you thinking?

THE STYLING IS 1 THING BUT HOW CAN A CAR BE TRULY INDIVIDUAL WHEN THEY ARE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME CAR AND THE REASON THEY STARTED DOING THIS WAS TO LOWER PRODUCTION COSTS AND SAVE SOME OF THE SAVINGS ON TO THE CUSTOMER BUT INSTEAD THEY HAVE STEADILY RAISED THE PRICE ACCORDING TO THE BADGE AND THE AMOUNT OF LED,S AND THE SAVINGS???.........NEXT TO NO SAVINGS = ALL PROFIT

The A1 is based on a VW Polo and the Beetle is based on the Golf so they aren't really the same car. Granted the A1 is a bit like an ibiza in profile but its definitely got more flair and there is a significant jump in quality to justify the price - which is competetive against rivals such as the DS3 and Mito. They might not suit all tastes but what are they doing so wrong to justify the negativity towards them?

Flair is not a word I would use about VW group styling, with the exception of the Sirocco. An A.1 is an improvement in quality over an Ibiza but not such as to warrant the price difference. Specify an A.1 to the same level as a DS3 and you will find Audi have performed a walletectomy on you all over again!
The UK ought to outgrow badge snobbery.

surprise surprise....VW wins by AE

Ermmmm....Audi is owned by VW so clearly VW was going to win either way..... Duh!

Your anti VAG makes me laugh. Please inform me what you drive?? If you think AE is biased towards VW so much then there are many other websites for car reviews. Prehaps you should go read them instead!!

I do.

They are not the same car. The A1 is a posh Polo and the Beetle is a Golf in a frock.

another vag group advert... yawn!!

VW vs AUDI vs BMW vs MERCEDES vs LAMBORGHINI vs BENTELY vs ROLLS ROYCE vs BUGATTI vs SEAT vs SKODA vs NEW BUDGET BRAND vs WHEN WILL IT END OR WILL IT EVER ? THEY OWN EVERYTHING !

What a stupid comparison, someone looking for a Golf sized quality convertible would not consider a little overpriced "badged" city car.

Pointless comparison.

... and here come the tedious anti-VAG posse rolling out that old chestnut: "the A1 is just a re-badged/posh Polo."

Well, using your logic, the DS3 is just a re-badged C3, the Mito a re-badged Fiat 500, and so on. Most manufacturers platform share. Difference is, I hardly ever hear see people complain about those two.

How about giving VW a break, or is that too much to ask? Perhaps you could find the Riley Elf forum and go on (and on and on and on and on..) about an "overpriced stretched Mini with a posh badge for idiots and snobs" ?

Didn't answer my question, What do you drive?

I love the original beetle but I would never dream of owning a golf with a beetle body kit. What's the point? The latest Porsche 911, on the other hand, is truly wonderful and is the Beetle's real spiritual successor.

You are basically quite right about these vehicles being based upon other, less "glam" machinery, although the Mito is actually based on the Punto rather than the 500, just as, in looks, the A.1 is not so much a reworked Polo as an Ibiza. The Beetle is, of course, based on the Golf but its derivation is less blatant than the A.1/Ibiza parentage.
Yes Minis are overpriced, getting dated and the newer models are ugly as sin. Yet they have, for the moment, a USP of not being based on some more prosaic platform.
Give VW a break? They can rely upon a quiescent press and a legion of fanboys to sing their praises. An occasional person saying that the King is wearing fewer clothes than he would have you believe is a counterbalance.

It's VWG not VAG (it stopped being VAG in about 1994)!!

Would a Fiesta v Focus test be valid....? So why are these two being compared? I don't understand?

And a question to the VWG fanboys: Do VW make any car from the ground up without sharing bits between models? I thought the R8.... But it turns out that its just a Gallardo....

Like the styling of the A1, it's certainly a well built car. I honestly think it's more retro than the beetle! the diesel is the noisiest car I've driven in 20 years and manual only comes with 5 gears, it's like being in the 1990's again. Plus the boot is only a 30% larger than the Fiat 500!
Mental!

AEX 1337
For more breaking car news and reviews, subscribe to Auto Express - available as a weekly magazine and on your iPad. We'll give you 6 issues for £1 and a free gift!

Sponsored Links