Car group tests

Audi A1 vs MINI Cooper vs Citroen DS3

We pit Audi's new A1 against its two biggest premium rivals in this exclusive group test - which of these stylish supeminis comes out on top?

Audi A1 vs MINI Cooper vs Citroen DS3
Audi is on a learning curve with its new supermini. Arriving fashionably late to any party is a risky strategy – as it could all be over before you’ve even got there! So has the firm timed the launch of its eagerly awaited A1 to perfection? 
MINI single-handedly established the sector nearly a decade ago, but has now been joined by a whole host of premium supermini rivals. The most convincing of these is the Citroen DS3, which hit dealers earlier this year and has already notched up a group test victory.
The A1 is set to stir things up again, as it comes with one of the most desirable badges on the road, as well as a proven engine line-up that includes the 1.4 TFSI tested here. In mid-range Sport trim, it’s competitively priced, too, undercutting the MINI Cooper it’s up against.
The baby Brit is fitted with the Chili Pack and a 1.6-litre unit that matches the A1 for power. The DS3 is the joker in the 
pack as it sits between its rivals on price, yet features a more potent version of the MINI’s 1.6-litre engine.
Will it ruin the A1’s road test debut?

Verdict

When we sat down to compile our verdict, the A1 was in pole position. But the more we tried to justify first place, the more we realised it was our winner for the wrong reasons. Cars in the premium supermini sector should be fun and full of character – and that’s where it comes up short.
The Audi has a beautifully built cabin, a great engine and highly desirable badge. And if you’re an accountant, the more attractive prices, lower emissions and strong resale values make it the number one choice. There’s no doubt it’s the wisest investment, but you’ll never take the A1 out 
for a spin for the hell of it.
So it takes the runners-up spot behind the brilliant Citroen. With sharp looks, genuinely impressive performance and a spacious cabin, the DS3 DSport is the best all-rounder of our trio. It’s sure to put a smile on your face, yet demands fewest sacrifices in terms of comfort or practicality.
That leaves the MINI Cooper in last. Despite the recent changes, its single-minded focus on driving pleasure and retro appeal can’t compensate for the lacklustre performance of its 1.6-litre engine and cramped cabin.
1. Citroen DS3 DSport
The DSport provides hot hatch pace, livewire handling and quirky looks – all laced with a healthy dose of practicality. It’s not the most prestigious choice, and it doesn’t have the lowest running costs, but the Citroen is the best all-rounder in this trio.
2. Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport
It brings a slice of big car luxury and refinement to the supermini class, but the understated styling and uninspiring dynamics count against the A1. If all you want is a premium badge and a sensible investment, this is the number one – but it lacks personality.
3. MINI Cooper Chili Pack
From its exterior styling to its retro interior and lively driving dynamics, the MINI can’t be mistaken for anything else. But the fun Citroen is faster and more comfortable, while the A1 is cheaper and roomier.

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