Audi A1 (2010-2019) review - Engines, performance and drive
Choose between town-focused 1.0-litre petrol, 1.6-litre diesel for motorway driving and sizzling 2.0-litre petrol for thrills
Our pick of the A1’s engines is the 1.0 TFSI petrol unit with 94bhp. With acceleration to 62mph taking 11.0 seconds, it’s not exactly a powerhouse, but it sounds great and is happy to be revved, making it fun to drive. Also, because of its light weight (it only weighs 1,060kg), it feels far friskier than the performance figures suggest.
The most economical A1s are powered by the 1.6 TDI diesel, but considering it’s at least £1,000 more expensive to buy than the 1.0-litre petrol, you’ll need to work out the sums to make sure you’ll do the mileage to cover this extra outlay. The most powerful petrol engine apart from the range-topping S1, is the 1.4 TFSI petrol engine, with either 123bhp or 148bhp, but we reckon for most, that the little 1.0-litre will be a perfect fit.
However, that’s before you take the 228bhp S1 Quattro into account. The S1 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, which is giant-killing in a car of this size and weight. Then, add in four-wheel-drive traction, and you’ve got all the grip to go with that sparkling performance.
Performance and drive
As it shares mechanicals with the Volkswagen Polo, the Audi A1 unsurprisingly errs on the side of sensible rather than exciting with its driving experience. Sport and S line models get lowered and stiffened suspension (although buyers can revert to the standard set-up before they take delivery at no extra cost), plus the steering is precise and well weighted, and there’s a decent amount of grip. But the A1 can’t match the engaging MINI or DS 3 for ultimate driving fun.
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The ride is quite firm in any form, so if you decide to go for an S line model then it becomes quite uncomfortable. Unless you live somewhere with exceptionally smooth roads, we'd stick to the softer-riding SE versions – or select the standard suspension on range-topping models. Visibility is good in the Audi A1, and it's pretty easy to park, so it ticks the urban runabout boxes well.
Thanks to the low weight of its engine, the 1.0 TFSI petrol model has the best steering in the line-up, and ultimately delivers the best handling of any A1.
Having said that, both 1.4 TFSI models offer decent economy and a lower price than the diesel cars. The 148bhp version won't upset the MINI Cooper S – it's quite quick, yet lacks involvement. The S1 is faster, but comes at quite a price premium.
All engines are smooth and refined, and most are hooked up to the slick six-speed manual gearbox. However, as of the 2015 facelift, all engines – including the 1.6-litre TDI – are available with the seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic auto.
Just like the petrol engines, the 1.6-litre diesel is quiet and smooth on the move, but it works best with the manual gearbox rather than the seven-speed auto, as the manual adds a dose of much-needed fun.
In this review
- 1Audi A1 (2010-2019) reviewThe Audi A1 packs sharp looks, a high-quality finish and good refinement into a supermini package
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingChoose between town-focused 1.0-litre petrol, 1.6-litre diesel for motorway driving and sizzling 2.0-litre petrol for thrills
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEfficient engine range means the Audi A1 is at the cutting edge in its class for emissions and economy
- 4Interior, design and technologyNot only is the A1 gorgeous to look at, it has a high-quality feel, and space is reasonable
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThere’s no getting away from the fact that the A1 is small, but it’s still a comfortable car
- 6Reliability and SafetyAudis are solidly built, but the A1 hasn’t performed well in the Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey