Long story short, the supermini segment of the market is one of the most congested and competitive of the entire automotive industry: no matter your budget or requirements, theres bound to be at least one car that tailors to your needs.
If your’e on the lookout with a bit of premium curb appeal, though, two do stand out from the crowd: the Volkswagen Polo and Audi A1.
Which, coincidentally, are mechanically almost identical underneath their swish, smart coachwork.
The big question, though, is which upmarket urban runabout is most deserving of your hard-earned pennies?
Given cars are all about carrying people and their possessions about, the quality and practicality of cars interior are one of the key areas to mull over when deciding which new motor is most suitable for your needs.
As the Polo and the A1 are at the more premium end of the market, a plush cabin is whats expected at this price point. And you arguably cant experience more opulence in a supermini than you can in the Audi.
Then again, that is expected from a brand thats renowned for leading the field when it comes to screwing a centre console together. But, whilst the Polo is by no means a low rent piece of kit, the only way you can find a cabin that can rival an A1s in terms of fit-and-finish is if you head up the class above.
But the quality of the materials only tells half the story: practicality is also a concern and, whilst superminis were never going to have a ton of space on offer, it is something worth mulling over.
Especially as the three-door A1 only has a pair of rear seats, whereas the Polos back bench can accommodate three people. To achieve the same result in the Audi, you’ll have to upgrade the A1 to five-door Sportback spec.
VW Polo Boot
Audi A1 Boot
At least the boot space isn’t too bad by supermini standards: the capacity for the A1 and the Polo are 270 and 280 litres respectively, which extends to 920 and 952 litres once the rear seat backs have been folded down.
With both cars making up two tiny pieces of the Volkswagen Groups mighty portfolio puzzle, and both sharing the same overall platform and basic architecture, you’d be forgiven for thinking the engines on offer in the A1 and Polo would follow the same cut-and-paste pattern.
For most of the Audis and VWs respective engine range, though, that isn’t actually the case. Whilst some have similar capacity, the A1 is generally bequeathed with more power than its Volkwagen sibling.
For instance, the 1.2 petrol in the Audi comes with 86hp, whereas the same unit in the VW Polo can only come out of the factory with either 60hp or 70hp on tap.
A similar story can be said for the 1.4 petrol (80hp in the Polo versus 122hp and 185hp in the A1) and the 1.6 TDI diesel (90hp for the VW, 122hp for the Audi).
The units in the Audi are also, bizarrely, marginally more fuel efficient and emit less CO2 emissions than the units in the VW, despite being more powerful. In some cases, this actually makes the A1 the less expensive of the two to tax, with most of the Polos being in a higher tax band than their equivalent engines in the Audi.
If it all seems doom and gloom for the VW, it is worth pointing out the Polo does have a few ace cards up its sleeve, most notably being the 1.4 petrol with the nifty cylinder deactivation tech: not only do both cars make do with the same 140hp power output, but the Polo also undercuts the
Audi A1 by a significant margin.
The Volkswagen has had a bit of a tough time so far: not only does it generally have less power than the like-for-like Audi A1, but the running costs are higher as well.
Depending on how long you plan on keeping the car, though, as well as how frequently you drive it and how long your journeys are, the Polo could end up being the more cost-effective of the two.
For example, the regular 1.4 petrol expected to be one of the more popular engine choices in both cars is available in the Polo brand new on the showroom floor from (at time of writing) 13,360. In contrast, a like-for-like Audi A1 will set you back a hefty 16,040.
Pricing remains static when you want to add an extra set of apertures to your suave supermini of choice: both Volkswagen and Audi charged 620 for the privilege of converting your regular three-door Polos and A1s into five-doors.
Given the five-door A1 Sportback model is a tiny bit bigger than the standard car, though, you could (just about) argue the upgrade for the Audi is better value than the Volkswagens.
As for their worth come resale time, both the A1 and the Polo have some of the strongest residual values in this class, so, so on the basis they’re well maintained depreciation shouldn’t be an issue when you decide to sell on and upgrade to a new car.
The Sporty Versions
Officially, if you want an out-and-out hat hatch version of either the A1 or the Polo, then you may have to stick with the Volkswagen for the time being: theres a Polo GTI, but there isn’t a dedicated S1 of sorts bar the ridiculously expensive (and no longer in production) A1 Quattro.
You can, though fit an A1 with the same 185hp engine and seven-speed DSG paddle-shift transmission that underpin the Polo GTI. The two are also identical when it comes to performance: VW and Audi claim both can go from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds, whilst only one mile-per-hour separates the A1s top speed from the Polos superior 142mph.
VW Polo GTI
Audi is allegedly, though, putting the finishing touches to even faster S1 and S1 Sportback models, which should comfortably put the Polo GTI in its place in the Volkswagen Groups hot hatch pecking order. Though, understandably, the Audi will most likely retail for an awful lot more than the Volkswagen.
Still, rumours are the S1 will pack a punch north of 200bhp, which could mean the Audi will become a rather prominent four-ringed fly in the Golf GTIs pretty well sorted ointment.
So, yeah, that could be something worth thinking about…
Judging from what the critics make of them, the Volkswagen Polo and Audi A1 are both stellar superminis, with plenty of positive reviews and awards to their respective names.
Both cars have also got some praise in the form of our user reviews, though it is worth pointing that quite a few don’t appear to be satisfied with the A1s ride quality and the running costs that fall short of the manufacturers claims.
The A1 is also quite a pricey car when compared with the Polo, though the high-quality cabin, the smart styling and the Audi badge to go some way to justifying the premium.
Whether its enough to make the A1 an attractive proposition, however, is purely down to you and your requirements from a car. The fashion-conscious buyer may be tempted to the Audi, but those with more restrictive budgets may find the Polos lower asking price to be the deal clincher.
If you’re considering buying a brand new version of either then check out our Audi A1 deals and VW Polo deals to save thousands. Compare discounted dealer prices and buy direct from an official dealer.