Audi A1

Premium alternative to the VW Polo

7.6
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 38 reviews
  • Quality feel
  • Good interior
  • Not bad to drive
  • Iffy ride quality
  • Cramped rear
  • Expensive
 

£14,530 - £22,830 Price range

 

4 Seats

 

56 - 76 MPG

Review

The Audi A1 is the smallest model the German carmaker sells, but it’s been injected with all the qualities that make us love the firm’s larger models – it’s solidly built, boasts impressive features and high-tech engines. It might cost more than the Fiat 500 or a Vauxhall Adam, but then it feels like it does.

There is one problem, though, and it’s called the Mini hatchback. The British-built challenger is three years younger than the Audi and that shows in its higher-quality cabin and the detailed graphics of its infotainment screen.

It’s also a good deal more fun to drive, but the A1 is still easy to operate and has great all-round visibility. All engines are economical too, with the 1.0-litre petrol the perfect choice for a city runabout, and the 1.6-litre diesel serves as a great motorway companion. Of course, the super-fast S1 isn’t as frugal, but few rivals can match its performance.

A base model A1 costs as much as a mid-range VW Polo but you get extras such as heated mirrors, air-con and, let’s not forget, that prestigious Audi badge.

Want to see the paint finishes on offer? Read our Audi A1 colours guide. To see if this compact car will fit into your life, check out our Audi A1 dimensions guide.

Audi is preparing to launch a new high-performance model before the A1 is replaced in 2018. See the exclusive renders in our Audi RS1 price, specs and release date article.

Audi’s well-known for its cars’ interiors, and – despite it being the cheapest and one of the oldest models in the lineup – the Audi A1 still has one of the better interiors in its class. Most of the plastics are squidgy and soft-to-the-touch, with tougher materials only appearing in the lower reaches of the cabin. Everything is laid out simply but, it has to be said, the design is starting to show its age, despite the variety of trim colours available.

Even entry-level models get an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch screen and a rotary controller at the centre of the dash that takes seconds to get used to and is a much quicker way of navigating between menus than the touchscreens found in most rivals. It’s a system Audi likes so much that it sticks it in all its models, including the range-topping A8.

Sat-nav is a £1,175 option on entry-level SE models, but it’s part of a pack which also gets you a sports leather wrapped multi-function steering wheel and a driver’s information display, nestled between the dials.

Audi A1 passenger space

By small-car standards, the Audi A1 is decently spacious up front. Head and legroom is reasonable enough, but the same can’t be said for the comparatively cramped rear. There, headroom is really tight thanks to the low roof and the seating is really upright – so not great for tall adults on long journeys.

Another drawback is that, unlike cheaper rivals such as the Renault Clio and Toyota Yaris, the Audi A1 only has two rear seats. That can be rectified by choosing the £620 more expensive Audi A1 Sportback which gets a full-sized bench.

Audi A1 boot space

At 270 litres, the Audi A1’s boot is a fairly good size, being about on par with competitors such as the Citroen DS3. It also has plenty of hooks, tether points and storage areas, and an adjustable boot floor is yours for £205. However, owners of the hot hatch S1 model will have to make do with 60 litres less (due to its all-wheel drive system), and all Audi A1 models suffer from a small step when the rear seats are folded, so it’s not as practical as the capacity suggests. Have a look at our Audi A1 dimensions guide to see exactly how big the A1 is.

After just a few miles on the road, the thing that strikes you is just how easy the A1 is to drive. The steering, pedals, and gear shift are all very light. Despite the sloping roofline, all-round visibility is very good and you can spec up rear parking sensors for £345. The seat and steering wheel have a wide range of adjustment so it is easy to get comfortable behind the wheel.

The A1 is the cheapest Audi you can buy, but that hasn’t stopped the people from Ingolstadt giving it three separate suspension set-ups. Sadly, instead of ranging from soft through to normal and firm, it seems to favour a firm, firmer, and rock solid setup.

That said entry-level SE models ride decently if you stick to the standard 15-inch wheels, but go up one wheel size to the mid-range Sport model with its lower suspension and it begins to get uncomfortable. Top-spec S-Line cars get an even firmer set-up and are really rock-hard – something that isn’t helped by the comparatively large standard 18-inch alloy wheels. The good news is you can have the SE suspension as a no-cost option on other trim levels. Similarly to a Mini, you can also get adaptive dampers with selectable driving modes for another £495.

Those expecting the Audi A1 to take the fight straight to the Mini hatchback and Ford Fiesta in the handling department will be disappointed. Though the steering is precise and overall body control is well contained, the handling dynamics are sensible rather than exciting.

The S1, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. It won’t entertain you quite like the Ford Fiesta ST, but with the standard quattro four-wheel drive, it is incredibly quick, no matter the weather. It feels like such a big step over the regular A1, that we’ve written a separate Audi S1 review.

The Audi A1 has a rather limited engine line-up, for an Audi at least. However, all of them are impressive for different reasons – the diesel claims over 70mpg and the new 1.0-litre turbo is a great all-rounder with zippy performance and a nice exhaust note.

Manual and automatic gearbox options are also available, though which ones are available depend on the engine you choose.

Audi A1 diesel engines

Those wanting a choice of diesel engines will be disappointed by having just one option to choose from: a 1.6-litre four-cylinder, with an ample 116hp to help move the car along.

Redemption comes with news that this is easily the most efficient engine in the range: all models with the 1.6 TDI fitted are exempt from road tax, thanks to the sub-100g/km of CO2 emissions, and fuel economy of more than 75mpg is possible.

Only one major issue appears to hamper the 1.6 TDI – it isn’t a particularly refined engine. However, if you frequently drive on longer journeys or plan on owning the car for a while, its low running costs will save you money.

Audi A1 petrol engines

Though the petrol range is still a bit limited, you do get a choice. Buyers can opt for an all-new 1.0-litre three-cylinder or a mildly-tweaked 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine, the latter of which is offered with two power outputs.

Of the two, it’s the smaller 1.0-litre that’s easier to recommend, given many critics reckon it’s a step up from the 1.2-litre unit it replaces and offers excellent fuel economy (even models with the fuel-sapping S-tronic auto can return 64mpg). Sub-100g/km CO2 emissions mean there’s no road tax bill to pay for the manual version, either, though the higher emissions on S-Tronic cars result in an annual £30 tax bill.

Those willing to sacrifice a bit more at the pumps for extra pace will probably find the 123hp 1.4-litre petrol to be the better fit, since it offers much more straight line speed whilst still returning over 56mpg. A more powerful 148hp version of the same engine comes with Audi’s fuel-saving Cylinder on Demand technology that shuts down two of the engine’s four cylinders under light throttle loads, though it’s only available with the top-spec S-Line trim.

For outright performance, the 230hp turbocharged 2.0-litre unit found in the S1 nails it. It dispatches the 0-62mph dash in a truly rapid 5.8 seconds and doesn’t stop accelerating until it hits its 155mph speed limiter. All that performance comes at the expense of running costs, though, thanks to fuel economy of 40.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 162g/km for road tax of £140.

The replacement for the older 1.2 TFSI. It drops a cylinder and a fraction of its capacity but, despite this, it produces marginally more power and, reportedly, is just as responsive.
The Audi A1 1.2 TFSI reviews are generally really encouraging. This is the cheapest engine in the A1, but the view from the experts is that this is still a really good engine. It may be a bit down on power, especially when compared with the larger engine options, but most of the critics reckon the entry level A1 is still a satisfying car to own.

With only 85 bhp on tap, this 1.2 TFSI A1 was never going to be a quick car, but it's quite nippy at getting up to speeds that you'd travel at around town. It's just reaching motorway speed and for overtaking that it will feel slow.

This engine is lighter than the other A1 engines, a few critics say that it means this one is more fun to drive as a result!

Running costs will be low. The 1.2 TFSI gets 55mpg and vehicle tax will only be £30 a year. It gets stop/start as standard which the reviews say it works fairly well, but is a bit slow sometimes.

If you go for a Sport model then you get sportier suspension, and then if you go for the S-Line it's even firmer, though one critic says the S Line suspension is too uncomfortable.

If you regularly do long journeys, then you may want to have a look at the more powerful engines in the range, as they're more suited to high speed cruises. However, if you spend most of your time behind the wheel in towns and cities, then the 1.2 petrol is very easy to recommend this engine.

The Audi A1 1.4 TFSi reviews all come to the same conclusion, that this is a nice engine that suits the car well. Much like the smaller 1.2 petrol, the critics seem to like this spec of Audi A1. The testers are fond of its sufficient pace, yet also have positive comments regarding its refinement and efficiency.

Though not quite as potent as some other engines in the range, the 1.4 motor has enough grunt across the range to feel quite quick by supermini standards, and overall appears to be good fun to drive. The experts say it's surprisingly quick and feels faster than the stats suggest. They also agree that it sounds really sporty, with a nice exhaust note.

The reviews reckon it works well with both the manual gearbox or the automatic gearbox (called the S-Tronic gearbox).

Running costs will be low, with 55mpg, and road tax of £30 for the manual, or £95 for the automatic. Just make sure you don't want the 1.6 TDI, which is more expensive but a lot more economical.

Overall, the A1 is a good overall car that works nicely with this 1.4 TFSI engine. It’s not the quickest in the range, nor is it as economical as the slightly more expensive 1.6 diesel, but the petrol motor offers an appealing blend of performance and efficiency, and is worth having a look at if you’re interested in Audi’s classy supermini.

The Audi A1 1.6 TDI reviews are fairly impressive. The general view from the critics is that it's a decent engine but with a couple of flaws. The smallest diesel A1 on offer is expected to be one of the more popular variants, so it’s encouraging to know that most of the critics reckon it’s a good overall car.

It’s one of the more affordable engine options in the range, both in terms of asking price and running costs, yet is also fairly refined and offers a decent turn of speed. However, quite a few don’t think this is the pick of the range.

Most of the reviews say that it feels too slow when accelerating up to high speeds and that it's a bit noisy and unrefined. Quite a few weren’t too impressed with the way it rides and handles either, especially with the firmer suspension that comes with Sport and S-Line trim levels.

On the plus side, it's really economical, with up to 70mpg. Vehicle tax won't cost a lot too, at either £20 or £30, depending on the trim level and gearbox you go for.

Overall, the 1.6 TDI A1 is quite an appealing car in its own right, and certainly makes sense if you rack up a large mileage or frequently do long journeys. However, if that’s not the case, then we reckon you may be better off opting for one of the petrol engines, as they’re better suited to shorter journeys and get more favourable reviews.

You'd think the combination of small car and 141 bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine would be a perfect mix, but reviews for the 2.0 TDI are less than positive.

Part of the issue is the diesel engine's weight, which harms both the ride and the handling. Reviewers note that it's even more of an issue if you opt for the sportier models with their larger wheels.

There aren't many issues with the engine itself - it'll do 0-62 mph in 8.2 and top out at 135 mph. Its 68.9 mpg combined is also suitably economical and the engine is both strong and refined. With 108 g/km of CO2 it'll be cost-effective to run too - but the list prices are simply too high for a car in this class.

Most testers say you'd be better off with the 1.6-litre TDI - it's cheaper, more economical and the driving characteristics are less compromised.

These are general, non-engine specific reviews. They give a nice overview of what the car is like, without focusing on just one engine/version.

The Audi A1 was awarded the full five-star rating when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2010. Part of the reasoning behind that decision was down to the high level of standard-fit safety kit, which includes ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the rear and front passenger seats, a tyre pressure monitoring system and a complement of front and side airbags.

However, Euro NCAP’s procedures are even more stringent now, so it’s worth pointing out that more recent rivals to the A1 – such as the Skoda Fabia – are even safer.

SE trim sits at the bottom of the A1 line-up, but with a 6.5-inch colour display, air-con, DAB digital radio and 15-inch alloy wheels coming as standard, it’s by no means basic.

Audi A1 Sport

Nonetheless, if you’re already paying the premium for an A1 you might not baulk at the idea of paying a little more for some desirable extras. Sport models are worth considering then and get more eye-catching looks on account of their 16-inch alloys and lower suspension, although the latter can be deleted at no extra cost if you value comfort. Inside, there are also sports seats and metal trim highlights, while most owners will appreciate the car’s Bluetooth phone connection, something that should really be standard.

Audi A1 S line

S line cars follow the same concept as the Sport models that sit below them. They get bigger 17-inch alloy wheels as well as a branded S line body kit and the no-cost option of S line sport suspension. Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights complete the exterior look. Inside, there’s an LED lighting package and a three-spoke steering wheel that’s nicer to hold than the standard item.

We have prepared a colour guide to help you choose the right shade for your new A1.

Conclusion

If you want the kudos of Audi’s premium badge, but in a smaller package that’s ideal for city driving, then the Audi A1 is a desirable model, especially when Mercedes and BMW have yet to launch direct rivals. Arguably its biggest obstacle comes from within its own ranks – the Volkswagen Polo offers broadly the same classy experience but costs quite a bit less.

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