Review

Audi A1 hatchback

Price  £14,115 - £24,900

Audi A1 hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Stylish looks
  • Premium interior
  • Great resale values
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Uncomfortable ride
  • MINI 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 £24,900
Top of the range
2.0 TFSI 231PS quattro 3dr £24,900

"No other supermini can offer the same level of interior quality and desirability as the Audi A1."

The Audi A1 is a supermini and the entry-level car in Audi's UK line-up. It's a similar size to a Ford Fiesta but a more premium car, making it more of a rival to cars like the MINI Cooper, Citroen DS3 and Alfa Romeo MiTo. And while it may be the lowest-priced car in the Audi range, it offers the same level of luxury and superb build quality that characterises the Audi A4, Audi A6, Audi A7 and Audi A8.

It's a small car, but it has a bit of a big car feel from behind the wheel thanks to the plush cabin, and the A1 is equally at home nipping about town as it is cruising on the motorway. It's available in four specifications: SE, Sport, S line and top-of-the-range Black Edition. It's easily the most expensive supermini on sale, which makes it the most exclusive. None of its rivals, with the possible exception of the new MINI, come close to matching it for cabin quality, but it's not as much fun to drive as a MINI and it suffers from a slightly uncomfortable ride.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.2 / 5

Superb range of engines are all cheap to run

The A1 comes with a wide choice of engines, so you’ll have no trouble finding one that matches your needs. The most economical in the range is the 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel, which will do 74.3mpg and 99g/km CO2 – making it free to tax. If you want a little more power, take a look at the 138bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol. If you select one with Audi's Cylinder On Demand technology – which shuts down a cylinder in the engine when your cruising to save fuel – then it will do 60.1mpg and 109g/km CO2. That puts it in tax band B (free for the first year, £20 per year thereafter) and it will still blast from 0-62mph in just under eight seconds.

Top-of-the-range Black Edition models, meanwhile, get a 182bhp TFSI petrol engine that does 47.9mpg and 139g/km CO2 and will go from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds. Audi offer a fixed-price servicing plan to help keep costs low.

Interior & comfort

2.4 / 5

Interior is luxurious and comfortable but ride is too stiff

You won’t find a higher quality interior in the supermini class – from the inside, the A1 feels like it should be a premium executive car. The seats are really comfortable, too, and there's plenty of room in the front. The rear seats are a little cramped, though, thanks to a sloping roofline that cuts into headroom, which will be an issue for taller passengers.

The main problem with the Audi A1 is that the ride is too harsh. Audi has given it a firm suspension setup to ensure it handles well, but the downside to this is that it crashes over bumps and potholes. The uncomfortable ride really clashes with the A1's image of a luxurious supermini. We’d recommend going for the smaller alloy wheels, too, because larger versions make the ride even more uncomfortable. The engines, at least, are very smooth and quiet – the petrols, in particular, are virtually silent – so the cabin is relaxing.

Practicality & boot space

3.2 / 5

Acceptable but not the best in class

You can have the A1 in either standard three-door form or as a five-door Sportback version. Three-door cars only have two seats in the back, but the Sportback benefits from an extra seat. The larger version is more expensive although it's just as stylish as the smaller three-door version.

Boot space is reasonable in the A1. You get 270 litres of capacity, which is 59 litres more than the MINI and on a par with the space in the Citroen DS3. If you need more space, you’re better off going for a more conventional supermini such as a Ford Fiesta or Skoda Fabia – they have more room in the rear seats and larger boots. The A1 does get split-folding rear seats as standard, and they fold down to create a load area with 920 litres of capacity.

Reliability & safety

4.0 / 5

Five-star safety rating, superb build quality and good reputation for reliability

One of the most striking things about the A1 is just how high quality the interior is – we would expect it to prove very durable. Audi, as a premium German manufacturer, has a solid reputation when it comes to reliability, too. The firm did well in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey – it came 10th out of 32 in the manufacturer rankings, putting it above BMW (although it was quite some way behind Mercedes, Jaguar and Lexus). The A1 did pretty well, too, ranking 95th in the Top 100 Cars league table. It was mainly marked down by owners for its lack of practicality, but it beat the MINI, which is one of the A1's main rivals.

The car also got a five-star safety rating from the Euro NCAP crash tests. It comes with six airbags, traction control, ABS, electronic stability control and ISOFIX points for child seats as standard.

Engines, drive & performance

3.5 / 5

Great range of engines and competent handling

There is a wide range of engines to choose from in the Audi A1. The entry-level unit is a 1.2-litre TFSI petrol fitted with a turbocharger that offers surprisingly good performance. It's responsive and feels quicker than its 0-62mph time of 11.7 seconds would suggest, and does a great job of nipping around city roads. The most powerful engine in the range is a 185bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol, which will get you from 0-62mph in under seven seconds – which is lightning quick for a car of this size.

It's the diesel engines that impress the most - they’re smooth and quiet and offer a fantastic mix of performance and economy. You’ll get a lot more mpg out of them than you do the petrols but you won’t see much of a compromise in acceleration. The A1's handling is very good thanks to the stiff suspension setup, there's also plenty of grip and the steering is accurate and responsive. Higher-spec S line and Black Edition models get an even firmer suspension setup for sportier handling, but this compromises comfort even further. The Audi A1 is better looked at as a luxurious supermini rather than a sporty one – if you want the most thrilling drive in this class, go for a MINI Cooper.

Price, value for money & options

3.1 / 5

Very, very expensive for a supermini, but offers quality no other small car can match

The A1 is eye-wateringly expensive – that's the price you pay if you want a premium badge on the bonnet – but no other supermini comes close to match the Audi's level of luxury and quality. If you’re keen on a high quality, premium supermini but can’t stretch to the A1, we’d recommend the Volkswagen Polo (which the A1 is based on), which is also very good but much more affordable.

Equipment levels on the A1 are good – as you’d expect, given the price tag – and all models get a pop-up screen, plush aluminium switches, air-con, electric windows, central locking and alloy wheels. Audi also offers an excellent pre-paid maintenance deal which gives you five-years’/50,000 miles’ servicing cover for just £250. As the A1 is exclusive and comes with a premium badge, resale values are likely to be among the strongest in class.

What the others say

3 / 5
based on 4 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 
13 Mar 2014

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It´s one of the best small cars i have seen!!

I had one with every option fitted you could get. Broke down 9 times and the dealer had to buy it back. I suspect I was the victim of a Friday car - however the build quality of my particular car was the worst of any I have ever driven. The centre armrest fell off for goodness sake!

Would suggest a SEAT Ibiza is a much better buy as they are very similar in appearance and, unless you are the sort of person who judges a vehicle by stroking the plastic, it should be adequate. J.D. Power 2013 survey suggested owners did not find either vhicle the tops for comfort but the Ibiza scored better in general.

Love this! Just so damn expensive!

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