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Car group tests

Audi A1 Sportback vs MINI One 5dr

Premium superminis prove small needn’t mean basic, with Audi’s new 1.0 turbo A1 the latest arrival. We see if it can topple the MINI

Premium superminis are big business for manufacturers. The concept of giving a small car an upmarket makeover with plenty of scope for personalisation was pioneered by MINI, but it has subsequently been adopted by a number of other companies, including Audi.

Best superminis

The A1 has proven a strong seller, yet that hasn’t stopped the German brand from refreshing its supermini to keep it competitive against newer class rivals.

One major change is the introduction of a new 1.0-litre TFSI petrol engine. This turbo replaces the naturally aspirated 1.6, and brings with it improved economy and emissions without a compromise in performance.

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Best hatchbacks

So, how does the updated A1 compare with our current premium supermini champ, the third-generation MINI? The British-built machine was launched last year, and it’s clear that Audi’s revisions have been designed to keep the A1 competitive against it.

For this test, we’re putting five-door versions of the entry-level 1.0 TFSI A1 SE and three-cylinder MINI One head-to-head. These cars are evenly matched – but has Audi done enough to steal the premium supermini crown?

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Audi A1 Sportback review

MINI 5-door review

Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which posh hatch comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Exterior details

The entry-level A1 SE can be specced up with £400 contrast roof colours if you add the £390 metallic paint, but there are no wheel options, just the standard 15-inch alloy rims. In contrast, the MINI One gets only a body-coloured roof: Cooper models and above have a contrast roof option for no extra cost. However, you can upgrade the One’s steel wheels and plastic covers with alloys ranging from 15-18 inches in size and priced from £300 to £1,895.

Interior options

Audi offers contrast-colour air vent sleeves on the A1, or colour-coded interior trim for £500. You can also upgrade to a Bose surround-sound speaker system for £690, which adds illuminated speaker housings (above). The MINI One can be had with gloss black or dark grey trim (£125), and colour fabric on the doors and dash (£75), while the LED interior lights in the headlining and central dial change colour according to how you’ve set them up.

Verdict

1st place: MINI

If you’re looking for a fun yet stylish first car, the MINI One is a great choice. The five-door delivers greater practicality and more cabin style than the Audi. But perhaps more importantly, it’s more exciting behind the wheel. The agile chassis combined with a punchy petrol engine and precise steering combine to deliver a fun driving experience that more than makes up for its higher tax costs.

2nd place: Audi A1

The A1 Sportback has style on its side when compared to the MINI, and the 1.0 TFSI engine’s low emissions will make it an attractive fleet choice. However, in every other respect the Audi’s been left largely unchanged. That means the cabin doesn’t look as fresh as the MINI’s, and it’s not as spacious, either. Add in the higher price of options, and it misses out this time around.

Other options in this category

Fiat 500 TwinAir (105) Lounge

Price: £14,420 Engine: 0.9-litre 2cyl, 104bhp

Fiat 500 - front cornering

Facelifted 500 isn’t as spacious as the A1 or MINI, and you can’t get a five-door body, but there’s plenty of personalisation and Lounge spec is well equipped. The higher-powered TwinAir is a match for the MINI’s emissions.

DS 3 1.2 PureTech DStyle

Price: £14,795 Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl, 81bhp

Citroen DS3 front tracking

The other obvious rival here is the DS 3, which again is three-door only, but has roomier back seats and a bigger boot than the Audi. At this price only the lower-powered car is available; it’s slower but also less economical than the A1.

Key specs:

 MINI One 5drAudi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI (95) SE
On the road price/total as tested£14,565/£15,425£14,975/£22,915
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£7,821/53.7%£9,884/66.0%
Depreciation£6,744£5,092
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£492/£985£418/£836
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,360/£2,267£1,366/£2,277
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost12/£405/B/£2015/£417/A/£0
Servicing costs£349 (5yrs/50k)£450 (5yrs/50k)
   
Length/wheelbase3,982/2,567mm3,973/2,469mm
Height/width1,425/1,727mm1,422/1,746mm
Engine3cyl in-line/1,198cc3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs101/4,000 bhp/rpm94/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs180/1,400 Nm/rpm160/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel40 litres/£6545 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)278/941 litres270/920 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,150/530kg/N/A1,060/520/1,200kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.0 metres/0.29Cd10.7 metres/0.32Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs3yrs (60,000k)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/148Variable/121
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.16th/10th13th/25th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars79/73/66/4 (2014)90/79/49/5 (2010)
   
0-60/30-70mph9.8/9.9 secs9.9/10.3 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th5.1/6.8 secs5.1/7.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th9.1/10.7 secs10.9 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph119mph/2,400rpm116mph/2,600rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph54.0/39.5/9.7m47.8/34.8/9.4m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph64/44/59/70dB61/40/60/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range44.8/9.9/394 miles44.6/9.8/441 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined47.9/67.3/58.9mpg56.5/76.3/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined10.5/14.8/13.0mpl12.4/16.8/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket146/112g/km/17%146/97g/km/14%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/£260/£255Six/yes/£345/no
Automatic box/stability/cruise control£1,270/yes/£215£1,540/yes/£225
Climate ctrl/leather/heated seats£325/£1,305/£215£330/£1,550/£215
Met paint/contrast roof/keyless go£475/no/£215£390/£400/£390
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£595/yes/yes/yes£1,175/£605/yes/£250
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