Audi A1 hatchback
Price £14,115 - £24,905
- Looks expensive
- Interior quality
- Strong resale values
- Firm ride
- MINI is more fun
At a glance
"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, and is usefully more practical, particularly if you have children.
If you need to get from A to B economically, or like a car which can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 5.8 seconds, there's an A1 for you. The petrol engine range features 1.2- and 1.4-litre litre engines, while those seeking lower running costs can choose from 1.4- 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 under its diminutive frame. ¬¬There's a number of different trims to choose from and a wide range of options to customise your A1.
But in any guise, the Audi A1 never feels quite as 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
Impressively cheap to run, but not class-leading
The A1's small size and Audi's efficient engines lend themselves to providing great economy and the 1.6-litre TDI is best of the bunch, recording 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km, of CO2 emissions, making it free to tax. It's not a class-leading performance though, being beaten by both 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 108g/km of CO2 means that 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 version of the 1.4-litre engine are available. The entry-level version with 121bhp is fractionally more expensive to run than the 1.2 with 53.3mpg and emissions of 126g/km for a £110 a year tax bill. The same engine fitted with technology that turns off half of the engine when it's not needed to save fuel sees power and running costs improved. Here the car returns 60.1mpg and has CO2 emissions of 109g/km for a £20 annual road tax bill.
Impressively, even the powerful 182bhp 1.4-litre TFSI S line returns 47.9mpg and 139g/km of CO2, which is not bad for a 141mph hatchback. The S1 quattro is in a different league, with 39.8mpg and 166g/km costing £290 to tax for the first year and £205 annually. 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 and costing £250, while a 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 Golf GTI.
Interior & comfort
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 they arrived you had to buy a car costing several times as much to find such attractive 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 recoup your initial outlay come resale time.
SE models with softer suspension and smaller wheels make the drive much smoother than Sport and S line models which have stiffer settings and low-profile tyres. It's important to test them before making a decision about the level of comfort you are happy with.
Forward and rear visibility is good, but you’ll need to beware the over-the-shoulder blind spot caused by the thick door pillar just behind your head.
Practicality & boot space
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, with better legroom, while headroom is restricted by the curvy roof. The boot measures 270-litres, which is usefully bigger 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
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 practicality and the harsh ride comfort 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 and all versions are fitted with six airbags, technology to prevent skids and help braking and even a first aid kit and warning triangle. There's also a tyre pressure monitor which 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.
Engines, drive & performance
Wide-ranging level of performance and competent handling
While it might seem at odds with expectations, the SE trim-level Audi A1 with a small 1.2 or 1.4-litre TFSI 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, taking 8.9, 7.9 or 6.9 seconds depending on how sporty the model, and how much you’re willing to pay.
The diesel motors manage 10.5 seconds and 8.2 for the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDI diesels respectively, but don’t feel as smooth as the petrol engines.
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.
Five-speed manual gearboxes are fitted to the 1.2 TFSI and 1.6 TDI, while every other version gets either a six-speed manual or 7-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. The S tronic can shift gear very fast and is very adept once on the move, but it can be a little jerky during low speed manoeuvres.
The Audi S1 is a very different proposition, 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 and producing 228bhp. It launches itself to 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.
Price, value for money & options
It’s not cheap, and you’ll want some extras too
There's no doubting the A1's quality, but it's also reflected in its 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 and start, alloy wheels, DAB radio and a 6.5-inch touchscreen, while Sport adds larger wheels and stiffer suspension, Bluetooth 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 with 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, such is the desirability of Audi models.
What the others say
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.
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.
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.