Review

Audi A1 hatchback

Price  £14,530 - £25,600

Audi A1 hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Understated, stylish design
  • Powerful, efficient engines
  • Classy, upmarket interior
Cons
  • Ride can be a little uncomfortable
  • MINI is more fun to drive
  • Pricey to buy

At a glance

The greenest
1.0 TFSI SE 95PS 3dr £14,530
The cheapest
1.0 TFSI SE 95PS 3dr £14,530
The fastest
2.0 TFSI 231PS quattro 3dr £25,600
Top of the range
2.0 TFSI 231PS quattro 3dr £25,600

“The Audi A1 is a technology-filled and desirable supermini with the nicest interior of any car in this class.”

On paper, the Audi A1 seems like poor value for money. It costs about £4,000 more than an equivalent Ford Fiesta, while a similar Volkswagen Polo will set you back about £3,000 less. Arguably, the A1 fulfils exactly the same role as these cars: they’re all easy-to-drive, cheap-to-run small hatchbacks, with good standard equipment and a pleasant driving experience.

But what neither the Fiesta or Polo – or any other rival, for that matter – can offer is the Audi's outright desirability and plush interior. It's a small car, but the A1 has a dashboard design and cabin materials that put some much larger (and more expensive) cars to shame. Considering how much time we spend inside our cars, this is no small consideration.

On a less subjective note, the A1 also benefits from excellent residual values. It's an in-demand car on the used market and as a consequence its secondhand values are very strong indeed. The A1 comes with three doors as standard. If you want a five-door version, you need the Audi A1 Sportback, while there's also the performance-orientated 2.0-litre Audi S1. We’ve reviewed both these cars separately.

Audi offers the A1 with a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines, the best of which is the 1.0-litre petrol. This road-tax-exempt engine is capable of 67.3mpg, yet its 0-62mph time of 10.9 seconds means it's more than able to keep pace with traffic. It's also the cheapest in the A1 range.

The more expensive 1.4-litre petrol is available with two power outputs (123 or 148bhp) and the latter is actually more efficient, managing 58.9mpg. This is thanks to Audi's clever ‘cylinder-on-demand’ technology, which shuts down half the engine when it's not needed. Even the cheapest 1.4-litre engine is over £2,000 more expensive than the 1.0-litre, though.

Speaking of efficiency, the 114bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine's 76.3mpg impresses, as does its road-tax-exempt status. The diesel costs about £1,000 more than the entry-level petrol, which is reasonable, while its 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds means it's easy to recommend if you cover more miles than most. Company-car drivers will find its 19% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate relatively appealing, too – although the 1.0-litre petrol attracts just 16% BiK tax.

The Audi A1 feels solid on the road, with plenty of grip and accurate steering. It's not as much fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta, though, and the (cheaper) Skoda Fabia does a better job of smoothing out potholes and poor road surfaces.

Inside is where the A1 really excels. Soft-touch plastics, rock-solid build quality and a pleasing overall design combine to make a really special interior, equal in quality to that of an executive saloon.

Audi offers the A1 in three levels of trim, staring with SE and rising through Sport and S line. The entry-level A1 SE is well equipped, coming with DAB radio, air-conditioning, electric windows and a 6.5-inch infotainment display that rises from the dashboard. We recommend Sport trim if you can stretch to it, though. This adds Bluetooth phone and music connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted controls, front foglights and larger alloy wheels.

The top-spec S line model comes with even larger alloy wheels and sports suspension, but it's worth test-driving this setup carefully to make sure you’re happy with it; we found these changes made potholes and road imperfections too noticeable. Fortunately, Audi will fit the standard suspension from the SE to the S line at no extra cost, and this is something we recommend you do. There's also a special Black Edition, which is loaded with equipment but very expensive.

Reliability is the sole area of concern for the A1. In our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it came 152nd out of 200 cars – by no means an encouraging result. For this reason, you may wish to consider purchasing an extended warranty when buying an A1.

There are no such worries over safety, thanks to the A1's five-star rating from Euro NCAP. All models come with six airbags, anti-lock-brakes and electronic stability control, as well as Audi's ‘Secondary Collision Brake Assist’ system, which applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent a secondary impact.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.2 / 5

The Audi A1 is impressively cheap to run, but not class-leading in this respect

Engines, drive & performance

3.5 / 5

The Audi A1 offers decent performance and competent handling

Interior & comfort

3.6 / 5

The Audi A1 has a premium interior, but the sports suspension is uncomfortable

Practicality & boot space

3.2 / 5

The Audi A1 has a bigger boot than the MINI

Reliability & safety

4 / 5

The Audi A1 has a five-star crash rating, with impressive technology and great build quality

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 4 reviews
4 / 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."
4 / 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."
8 / 10
"The A1 is a proper Audi in pocket-sized hatchback form."
4 / 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."
What owners say 
4.156640007019
4.2 /5 based on 125 reviews
62%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
18 Apr 2016
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