When it comes to upmarket appeal and desirability, the Audi A1
is a class apart. Beautifully built and boasting big-car refinement, it’s our premium supermini favourite. If the Alfa MiTo wants to take top honours here, this is the car it must beat.
It’s immediately clear that there’s more to the Audi than just looks. Compared to its boldly styled rivals, the A1 appears a bit bland – and this isn’t helped by our test car’s dark blue metallic finish. Buyers who want more attention can choose the optional contrasting roofline, which adds a bright silver finish to the windscreen pillars for an extra £350. Our Sport trim test car went without this, but did have 17-inch alloy wheels (a £460 option).
In fact, it’s only once you climb aboard that the A1 really shines. Perfectly executed fit and finish, first-rate materials and superb comfort all help the Audi set new standards for quality in this class. All the plastics have a premium look and feel, while a wide range of steering wheel and seat adjustment makes it very easy to find the perfect driving position.
Neat details include air-con controls from the R8 supercar and colour-coded shrouds for the air vents. However, the Audi isn’t as well equipped as its rivals here – you’ll pay extra for useful features such as an iPod dock (£305) and cruise control (£235).
At least the A1 is on a par with the Alfa and Citroen for space. There’s easily enough room for four adults to sit in comfort. This car also benefits from a useful 270-litre boot with a neat false floor that allows you to keep valuable items safely hidden away.
Sadly, there’s no hiding from the Audi’s 1.6-litre diesel, which clatters nosily at idle and is gruff throughout the rev range. It’s a punchy engine, though, needing only 10.3 seconds to power the A1 from 0-60mph – that’s 2.5 seconds less than the Alfa.
Away from the test track, the compact Audi impresses with its poise and agility. And while the direct steering offers little feedback, the car’s decent body control and strong grip inspire confidence.
Petrol versions of the A1 have always impressed with their refinement – and the diesel does, too. The engine is noisy when accelerating, but it’s less intrusive on the motorway, while there’s little wind and road noise. So it’s a shame that the car’s impeccable cruising credentials are undermined by the extremely firm ride of our Sport model. Less sporty SE versions are much more comfortable.
Despite its premium badge, the Audi is actually very cost-effective to run. Strong predicted residual values of 51.5 per cent help to offset its steep £16,320 price tag, while a pre-paid servicing pack provides five years of mechanical maintenance for just £250. Only the 38.4mpg fuel economy on test is a cause for disappointment.
But on this evidence, the A1 is still in pole position to retain its class crown.
Chart position: 1WHY: Our reigning premium supermini champ wraps big-car quality and refinement in a small yet perfectly formed package.