There are a couple of small cars of particular note in Audi’s past appertaining to the Audi A1. One was the A2 (1999-2005), cleverly constructed from aluminium but slow-selling. More pertinent to the A1’s role is the Audi 50 (1974-78), an upmarket three-door supermini that was also badged as a (better-selling and cheaper) Volkswagen Polo. The 50 is the closest thing to a predecessor for the new A1, which was first displayed as the Metroproject Quattro concept in 2007.
Today, a small car no longer needs to be cheap. It can be as much of a lifestyle statement – arguably even as aspirational – as any sports car. Witness the Mini. Now Audi wants its own slice of the premium supermini segment with the A1.
If more proof were needed that buyers are willing to pay a premium for a high-end small hatchback, consider the popularity of the A1; so far, it has been a sell-out hit among buyers. It’s clear that people are willing to pay for the many optional extras that Audi considers essential to the premium buying experience, too.
To be a true premium car, though, the A1 must do more than just look the part and wear the price. It needs to feel like one and, more importantly for us, drive like the car we’re led to believe it is. That’s crucial, given how closely related it is to other VW Group products.
In spite of the premium tag attached to the A1, the range starts at a surprisingly affordable (to use a VW tag line) price for the 1.2 TFSI SE model. It’s also surprisingly well equipped. Four engines are available at present. In addition to the 1.2, you can have a 1.4 TFSI, a 1.6 TDI or a 2.0 TDI; the diesels can also be had as a 99g/km eco special. The introduction of the five-door Sportback model has added an extra dose of practicality to the A1, for a £500 premium.
There’s also the limited-run A1 quattro, with 252bhp from a 2.0-litre turbo engine and four-wheel drive, although only 19 were set to be sold in the UK.