Long-term tests

Audi A1: Third report

Racer Owen has piled on the miles getting to tracks around the UK in our baby Audi. What’s his verdict?

  • I regularly forget my iPod, so the fact that Audi’s Media Pack option includes an 18GB hard drive music storage system (which holds over 4,000 tracks) is fantastic. This mobile jukebox is easily controlled via the MMI dial on the dash, allowing you to scroll by album or artist, or shuffle tracks randomly.
  • Upmarket LED cabin lights are also part of the £540 Media Pack. While they’re a swish addition to the cabin, the glow in the footwell is so bright that it’s off-putting at night. Also, the seat adjuster has been damaged, but this isn’t down to poor build quality – it was chewed by a puppy!
My time at the wheel of our Audi A1 is racing by. I got the keys back in May, and it has been taking me to various circuits up and down the UK ever since.
With a hectic schedule of Britcar races in a Mazda MX-5 this year, I’ve really racked up the miles. But, just like our summer, the motorsport season is coming to an end and it’s time to take stock of my thoughts about Audi’s premium supermini.
It certainly seems like a popular choice: I’ve seen plenty of A1s on the road, especially in urban areas. My car must be one of the few to have covered the length and breadth of the country.
But it’s easy to understand what makes it so popular. While small cars with a ‘big car feel’ are a bit of a cliche, in the case of the Audi, it’s actually true.
Comfort on long trips is excellent. The cabin is packed with useful optional extras like sat-nav, Bluetooth and climate control, so I doubt I’d feel much more relaxed in any of Audi’s larger cars. I do wish I’d ticked the box for the optional cruise control, though.
Our car is fitted with optional 17-inch wheels, so the ride is a little firm, but it’s well damped and doesn’t get unsettled or crashy over bumps. And when cruising on the motorway, the 1.4-litre engine is relaxed, while outside noises are kept to a minimum.
The soft multifunction steering wheel is great to hold and Audi’s MMI control system is easy to use. All of this means you get a really upmarket feel.
But the A1 isn’t perfect. There’s a slight rattle coming from the driver’s seat and the passenger window sticks intermittently. And, as we reported in our last update, the bizarre convex surface of the driver’s mirror means you need to stay alert to avoid getting caught out by blind spots when changing lanes on the motorway.
On the few occasions that I’ve carried passengers, there’s been enough room for four adults. Only the front passenger seat slides forward automatically for easier access to the back, and that’s a pain, but the biggest compromise when you live with the A1 on a daily basis is the tiny boot.
In fairness, the Audi has far more luggage space than its chief rival, the MINI, but whenever I carry a full load of race kit, it’s always a little tight on space.
Also, it’s a good job that I get my driving thrills on the race track, because the Audi is sorely lacking when it comes to the all-important B-road fun factor, which the MINI is known for.
But really, these are only small niggles – I’m loving the Audi ownership experience, and after a tough day’s racing, I know I’d rather be behind the wheel of the upmarket, comfortable A1 for the long journey home to Kent.
With winter on its way, I’m preparing for the worst. In my next update, the car will have been fitted with a set of winter tyres that’ll allow me to keep on enjoying my A1, whatever the weather throws at us.

Extra Info

“The A1 has quickly become my favourite car on our long-term fleet. It’s comfortable, refined and luxurious in a way that’s unlike any other small car, making it the perfect companion for rush-hour driving. I keep finding new things to love about it, too – like the way the LED running lamps light up as you approach it at night-time.”
Luke Madden, Motoring Writer

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