Long-term tests

Audi A1: Second report

A bikers’ tip helps to address a problem with our premium supermini

  • I really like the attention to detail and high-class elements of the A1’s cabin. The TT-inspired circular vents look great and allow you to direct air exactly where you want it. The smoothly damped action of the manually folding sat-nav screen is another fine touch – you don’t mind the fact it isn’t automated.
  • The driver’s seat rocks back and forth on its runners ever so slightly. This means it creaks a little and, while the movement is tiny, you can notice it in stop-start traffic. I’ll get this looked at when the car goes in for its first service. Aside from this, and the mirrors, I’ve no complaints.
I’ve never ridden a motorcycle, but my colleagues who are familiar with life on two wheels have taken to using their bike skills when driving our A1 long-termer.
It’s got nothing to do with balance and plenty to do with visibility, as the so-called ‘life-saver’ – the last rearward glance over your shoulder before changing lanes – is vital in the premium supermini. The habit is drummed into motorcyclists during their basic training, and it’s critical to do this in the Audi, too.
The problem stems from the small, convex and strangely magnified driver’s-side door mirror glass. It creates large over-the-shoulder blindspots, and I’m not the only one who has noticed the problem. In fact, nearly everyone who has driven the A1 has commented on it.
And neither is it apparent only when merging with traffic on motorway slip roads or changing lanes. Deputy road test editor James Disdale managed 
to scrape a pillar with the A1’s rear wheelarch in our office car park, when the optical distortions played havoc with his normally impeccable reverse-parking skills.
This complaint sounds like a small point, but it’s something I’m aware of every time I get behind the wheel. Of course, it’s made worse by the fact that everything else about the A1 is so good. I’m really enjoying life with the Audi – and to illustrate how much we think of it, the model won the Best Premium Supermini prize in our New Car Awards.
Our long-termer’s hall-of-mirrors weirdness and creaking driver’s seat are the only real drawbacks, though. The quality of the cabin, tactile multifunction steering wheel and LED interior lights of the £540 Media Style pack give the inside a genuinely upmarket feel. Elsewhere, the satellite navigation included in the £1,225 Tech pack, plus Audi’s excellent MMI control system, mean we’ve got enough high-end goodies to match an executive saloon’s.
It isn’t simply the optional extras which have endeared the A1 to me, as the little Audi also gets the basics right. It’s easy to drive, offers big-car refinement and has enough performance to raise a smile. The punchy 120bhp 1.4-litre turbo and slick six-speed box work well together, while the handling is composed and vice-free.
Mind you, I’ve noted that the high air-con loadings required over the warm summer months render the stop-start system inactive for long periods. Still, we have averaged a decent 38.7mpg, so it’s hardly critical.
The German machine has been kept busy, too, thanks to its leading role in our New Car Awards issue, where it was one of the cover stars. I’ve always been a fan of our example’s red paint and silver pillars, and I wasn’t surprised to see how well they stood out against the night sky in our fireworks-laden photoshoot.
With the A1’s ‘celebrity’ duties over, I’m keen to reclaim the keys and get back behind the wheel. I just need to make sure that, as with all good bikers, I don’t forget to look over my shoulder...

Extra Info

“I passed my bike test soon after getting my car licence, so I’m in the habit of doing a life-saver no matter what I’m driving or riding. Nowhere is it more vital than in the Audi A1 – especially when changing motorway lanes. The strange thing is, the view out of the nearside mirror is fine!”
Dean Gibson, Deputy Chief Sub-Editor

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