Long-term tests

Audi A1: Final report

After six months, our senior road tester bids a fond farewell to our smart and sophisticated supermini

  • The A1 looks great with its £350 roof contrast line. The sweeping silver arch works well with the red paint of our car. Monotone cars without this contrasting roof don’t look as special. We weren’t so keen on the optional £460 alloy wheels fitted to our car.
  • There's enough room for two adults in the back, but it’s a tight squeeze and the A1 is not quite big enough to use as a family car. The five-door Sportback version, which will arrive in February, will have a five-seat layout as standard.
I'm saying goodbye to our Audi A1 sooner than I’d hoped. It arrived in May, yet our time with the supermini has flown by – it feels like I haven’t been behind the wheel as much as I’d have liked. When you’re sad to see a car go, it’s normally a sign that it’s left a good impression, and that’s certainly the case here.
In my first update during the summer, I talked about how little luxuries make life more bearable. A few months later, that’s still how I feel about the A1. Each time you get behind the wheel, there’s a sense of being in something special.
Top-notch materials, a smart design and a perfect driving position mean you immediately feel at home. Better still, our A1’s (admittedly costly) options make it feel even more special, but it’s the simple yet clever design touches that I really like, such as the TT-inspired circular air vents and the pop-up screen for the optional sat-nav.
The A1 is very comfortable and refined on long trips, the controls are nicely weighted and the handling is sweet. But as a big MINI fan, I still think it lacks the agility and fun factor of its key rival. It rides better than most MINIs, though, despite the Sport model getting stiff suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels.
While a diesel would have been the more frugal choice, I like the 1.4 TSI motor. With 120bhp and an eager turbocharged nature, this feisty petrol helps the A1 punch above its weight.  Stop-start meant it proved quite economical, too, returning 36.6mpg with us – respectable given that it spent a lot of its time in gridlocked London. As I’ve said before, the A1 really does deserve that motoring cliche of “a small car with a big-car feel.”
Several colleagues commented that the A1 was their favourite car on our fleet, and judging by the disappointment on their faces as I explained it was due to depart, it left a good impression on them, too. They all mentioned how enjoyable it was to drive and how smart the cabin was – we all loved this supermini’s premium feel.
Strangely, in the same breath, they all pointed out a single negative as well. It’s an odd one, but everyone who drove the A1 noticed the bizarre convex glass in the driver’s-side door mirror. It creates over-the-shoulder blindspots and distortions that make parking difficult.
This sounds like a small point, but it’s something you’re aware of every time you get behind the wheel. Interestingly, a colleague drove another A1 recently and found it had normal mirror glass. Audi is not aware of any problem, so we’d love to hear from A1 owners out there – has your car got an odd driver’s mirror?
Of course, maybe this hall-of- mirrors weirdness was more noticeable because everything else about the A1 was so good. We’re going to miss it.

Extra Info

“I never pass up a chance to grab the keys. I’ve been lucky enough to take it on holiday, and to France for the Le Mans 24 Hours. I love the smart looks and the raspy exhaust note, and its cruising refinement is excellent.”
Paul Bond, Road tester

Most Popular

Appreciating cars: classic cars that go up in value
Appreciators: Renault 5
Features

Appreciating cars: classic cars that go up in value

Looking to invest in a modern classic? Here are some cars destined to appreciate in value
4 May 2021
Ford Escort XR3: we drive the hot hatch pioneer
Ford Escort XR3
Ford

Ford Escort XR3: we drive the hot hatch pioneer

Hot hatches democratised performance, and one of the pioneers, the Ford Escort XR3, is now over 40 years old
5 May 2021
Chinese EV brand NIO enters European market
Nio
Nio

Chinese EV brand NIO enters European market

NIO will soon start selling its electric vehicles, starting in Europe and likely heading to the UK too
6 May 2021