Review

Audi A1 hatchback

Price  £14,115 - £24,905

Audi A1 hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Classy looks
  • High-quality interior
  • Strong resale values
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Firm ride
  • MINI is more fun

At a glance

The greenest
1.6 TDI SE 105PS 3dr £15,175
The cheapest
1.2 TFSI SE 86PS 3dr £14,115
The fastest
2.0 TFSI 231PS quattro 3dr £24,905
Top of the range
2.0 TFSI 231PS quattro 3dr £24,905

"The Audi A1 is a supermini with the interior quality and technology of a luxury saloon."

The Audi A1 is a stylish entry into the growing niche of upmarket superminis, which was invented by the MINI Hatch and joined by the Citroen DS3. These cars are the perfect fit for high flyers who live in the city, or simply don’t want a big car, yet still crave luxury and the latest technology.

There's a choice of a three-door model or five-door version called the Audi A1 Sportback. The latter is usefully more practical, particularly if you have children.

Whether you need to get from A to B economically, or would like a car that can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 5.8 seconds, there's an A1 for you. The petrol range features 1.2 and 1.4-litre litre engines, while those seeking lower running costs can choose from 1.6 or 2.0-litre diesels.

The quickest version is the Audi S1 quattro, which pulls off the impressive feat of fitting four-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine into its compact body. There are a number of different trims to choose from and a wide range of options to customise your A1.

But no Audi A1 is quite as much fun to drive as the MINI. Instead, it triumphs as a small car which feels big from inside, and makes an excellent cruiser.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.2 / 5

Impressively cheap to run, but not class-leading

The A1’s small size and Audi’s efficient engines combine for great fuel economy and the 1.6-litre TDI is best of the bunch, returning 74.3mpg and emitting 99g/km of CO2, making it free to tax. Those are not class-leading figures, though – it's beaten by the most frugal versions of the DS3 and all-new MINI Hatch, which can manage 78.5 and 83.1mpg respectively.

Despite its extra size, the 2.0-litre diesel doesn’t disgrace itself: it’s capable of 68.9mpg and emits 108g/km of CO2, which means road tax only costs £20 a year.

Petrol engines are well suited to the A1, improving refinement compared with the slightly noisy diesels. The 85bhp 1.2-litre TFSI engine manages 55.4mpg, which is a respectable figure, but can’t match the 61.4mpg of the 102bhp MINI One.

Three versions of the 1.4-litre engine are available. The entry-level has 121bhp and is fractionally more expensive to run than the 1.2, returning 53.3mpg and emitting 126g/km for a £110 a year tax bill. The same engine is also available with technology that turns off half of the cylinders when they're not needed, improving fuel economy to 60.1mpg and reducing CO2 emissions to 109g/km for a £20 annual road tax bill.

Impressively, even the powerful 182bhp 1.4-litre TFSI S line returns 47.9mpg and emits 139g/km of CO2, which isn't bad for a 141mph hatchback. The S1 quattro is in a different league: 39.8mpg and 166g/km mean it costs £290 to tax for the first year and £205 a year after that.

Audi offers two types of fixed-price servicing, both lasting for five years or 50,000 miles. The first is a long-life scheme recommended if you drive over 10,000 miles per year that costs £250, while the second fixed service scheme costs £450 and suits those with a lower annual mileage. The 1.2-litre has the lowest insurance group (9E), with a jump up to the rest of the range (14E-28E), while the S1 sits in group 33E, four groups above a Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Engines, drive & performance

3.5 / 5

Wide-ranging level of performance and competent handling

Perhaps surprisingly, an Audi A1 SE with a small 1.2 or 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine offers the best blend of comfort and handling for Britain’s potholed roads – and these are the models we’d recommend. Acceleration from 0-62mph is relaxed in the 1.2 TFSI, taking 11.7 seconds, and far better in the 1.4 TFSI versions, which take 8.9, 7.9 or 6.9 seconds depending on how sporty the model and how much you’re willing to pay.

The 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines manage 10.5 and 8.2 seconds respectively, but don’t feel as smooth as the petrols.

The 182bhp 1.4 TFSI S line sprints to 62mph from rest in 6.9 seconds and can top 141mph. It looks like a hot hatch on paper, but it feels unruly to drive, with firm suspension that crashes over bumps and a desire to spin its front wheels out of every junction in damp or cold weather.

The 1.2 TFSI and 1.6 TDI get a five-speed manual gearbox, while every other version gets either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. The S tronic can shift gear very fast and works well once on the move, but it can be a little jerky during low-speed manoeuvres.

The Audi S1 is a very different animal. It’s the only A1 fitted with Audi’s legendary quattro four-wheel drive and has a tuned 2.0-litre petrol engine taken from the Golf GTI that produces 228bhp. It launches itself from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and is limited to a top speed of 155mph, giving it enough pace to keep up with an entry-level Porsche Boxster and more grip than you’ll ever need.

Interior & comfort

2.4 / 5

Premium interior, but sports suspension is uncomfortable

The A1’s interior is only rivalled by the latest MINI for quality in the supermini class. Before those two models arrived, you had to buy a car costing several times as much to find such attractive cabin materials and upholstery. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake and the driver’s seat for height, so it’s easy to get comfortable.

You can customise almost every aspect of the interior, choosing the seats, steering wheel, upholstery and colours you desire to achieve the sporty or luxurious A1 of your dreams. We’d recommend avoiding lurid colour schemes though, as British buyers are notoriously conservative and you may struggle to sell the car.

SE models with softer suspension and smaller wheels make the drive much smoother than Sport and S line models, which have stiffer suspension and low-profile tyres. It’s important to test both before buying to see which you prefer.

Front and rear visibility is good, but you’ll need to be aware of the over-the-shoulder blind spot caused by the thick door pillar just behind your head.

Practicality & boot space

3.2 / 5

Bigger boot than the MINI, and Sportback has two more doors

With three doors, getting in and out of the back seats is awkward, but the two rear seats have more space than the MINI's, with better legroom, while headroom is restricted by the curvy roof. The boot holds 270 litres, which is usefully more than the MINI’s 211-litre boot, and just behind the DS3’s 285 litres.

The rear seats can split, but don’t fold completely flat, increasing possible luggage space to 920 litres. The quattro four-wheel- drive system fitted in the Audi S1 encroaches on boot space, reducing it by 60 litres.

The boot hatch opens to give reasonably wide access, however the large rear bumper makes the loading lip fairly high to lift items over. The A1 comes with a tyre repair kit as standard, not a small space saver spare wheel, which is an optional extra we’d recommend.

Reliability & safety

4.0 / 5

Five-star crash rating, with impressive technology and great build quality

The Audi A1 jumped up 32 places in our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, finishing 63rd out of 150 cars. Owners praised its low running costs and the way it drives, but it lost points for its limited practicality and the harsh ride of some versions – particularly the Sport and S line models.

Build quality appears to be impeccable when you examine the A1, with excellent paint finishes and flush-fitting bodywork. It’s even better inside, where every switch and dial feels precise and solid.

During Euro NCAP crash tests, the A1 was awarded the top five-star rating. All versions are fitted with six airbags, technology to prevent skids and help braking, plus a first-aid kit and warning triangle. There’s also a tyre-pressure monitor that alerts you to a possible puncture. Xenon lights, LED interior lights and automatic lights and wipers are a £1,095 option for SE and Sport models.

Price, value for money & options

3.1 / 5

It’s not cheap, and you’ll want some extras too

There’s no doubting the A1’s quality, but it’s reflected in the price. And, don’t forget you’ll need to take the starting figure with a pinch of salt, as it’s almost impossible to leave the options list blank.

The SE trim is quite well equipped with stop-start, alloy wheels, a DAB radio and a 6.5-inch touchscreen, while Sport adds larger wheels and stiffer suspension, a Bluetooth phone connection and sports seats. S line comes with 17-inch alloys, a body styling kit and LED interior lighting. The S line Style Edition and Black Edition get xenon headlamps and features like painted interior air vents, colour-coded exterior trim and improved speakers.

Other options include a Comfort package (rear parking sensors, cruise control, dimming rear-view mirror and auto lights and wipers for £605) and a Technology package, which includes sat nav and a 40GB hard drive for £1,375.

To customise the look and feel of the A1, a contrasting roof line costs £350, while having the entire roof painted silver, grey or black costs £400. Inside, the door grab handles, air-vents and lower console can be finished in the same colour as the car’s bodywork for £500, or you can splash out £1,695 for a quattro interior package, with red trim, leather bucket seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Every A1 is expected to retain a good proportion of its value, but an excessively customised car might be difficult to sell.

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 3 reviews
4.0 / 5
AS small as a MINI, as well built as a Bentley – The Audi A1 is the upmarket supermini that proves good things really do come in the smallest packages. Currently, Audi A1 drivers can choose between three engines: two petrol, and one diesel. Entry-level petrol cars get fuel efficient 86bhp 1.2 and 122bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engines. The engine with the highest MPG is a 105bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel.
4.0 / 5
The A1 doesn't handle as well as the MINI, which feels more balanced and agile in the corners, but it would be a crime to overlook the Audi for those less obsessed by ultimate driving finesse. 
The A1 is beautifully made and its cabin is the apogee of automotive design and assembly, but you would never consider driving this car for joy alone and the design is instantly forgettable.
4.0 / 5
The Audi A1 has supreme build quality, luxury and technology to match the Mini - and a proper sized boot. But the styling is conservative and driving experience uninspiring.
Last updated 
16 Jul 2014

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