From £13,420
The smallest, cheapest Audi has a fine interior - but offers nothing else new in the class

Our Verdict

The A1 is a stylish, high quality and competent supermini, if a little expensive, it has the cabin quality and powertrain refinement that we’ve come to expect from an Audi.

15 June 2010

What is it?

The smallest, cheapest Audi ever that’s poised to become the biggest-selling model in its history: the A1.

The A1 was first seen as the metroproject quattro concept at the Tokyo motor show two and a half years ago and almost all of that car’s design has carried over to the production car. There are plenty of design touches from Audi’s larger cars on the A1: the ‘wing-design’ LED daytime running lights are now a familiar facial feature of new Audis and the A1 is no exception.

The front-wheel-drive A1 shares its steel-based platform with the Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia. But the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension systems have been tuned to provide the A1 with what Audi claims are more distinct and engaging dynamics than its siblings.

The UK will get three engines from launch: a 1.2 TFSI, a 1.4 TFSI and a 1.6 TDI. The model tested here is range-topping 120bhp 1.4 TFSI model equipped with the seven-speed S Tronic gearbox. In S Line trim as we’re testing here, it will set you back £18,280.

See the Audi A1 pics

What’s it like?

Sophisticated. No more so is this evident than in its interior. No other volume manufacturer keeps such a consistently premium feel in their cars across the range, and the A1 is no exception for Audi. Its interior quality and design feel like an Audi should, even though it’s the smallest, cheapest Audi.

Indeed, there are even aspects to the A1’s interior that could filter up to the rest of the Audi range. The MMI sat-nav that pops out the top of the dash is a stylish and neat feature that feels premium enough to move higher up the Audi range.

The 120bhp engine feels like it’s pulling a lot of weight around, although it would be unfair to call it underpowered. On the whole, however, it’s a refined unit that’s silky smooth; it just wouldn’t hurt to have a bit more grunt.

The seven-speed S Tronic gearbox offers quick and smooth upshifts but, as is often the case with DSG ‘boxes, step off can be hesitant and shifts from second to first and into and out of reverse are too jerky.

To drive, the A1 feels very mature. It feels far more substantial than its compact dimensions suggest, especially when considering its platform is shared with the Ibiza and Fabia. The Polo is more refined than its budget counterparts, but the A1 moves this on even further; it has an air of sophistication and refinement that we haven’t seen before in this class.

The weight of the steering is also heavier than anything in the class, further adding to its big car feel. From the front seats, this substantial feel makes the A1 feel like an ever so slightly smaller A3. But this big car feel in the front isn't carried backwards. There is less space in the rear seats and in the boot than a Fiesta.

Our test car came with 17-inch wheels clad in 215/40 R17 tyres. On billiard-smooth German roads of the test route, the ride was okay, but we believe this a wheel/tyre combination you’d want to avoid in the UK.

The handling is acceptable; not class leading, but it goes about its business again in a much more grown up way than the Ibiza. It’s not massively engaging; there’s plenty of grip and some throttle adjustability but the A1 won’t jab its tail out at will, although it will tuck its nose in if you really go for it.

It’s a solid, if somewhat uninspiring driving experience.

Should I buy one?

Small cars should offer something novel – a Mini is unashamedly retro, while a Citroen DS3 is the opposite. The Fiesta looks good inside and out and also has fine dynamics.

The Audi doesn’t offer anything novel, asides from an interior that’s unmatched quality wise in the class. It’s just the same Audi experience in a smaller package. If you want one, buy one: there’s no compelling reason why we wouldn’t recommend this car to potential buyers.

It doesn’t challenge the Fiesta for class honours, but buyers of these two cars are never likely to overlap.

The A1 offers the tried and trusted Audi formula at an affordable level and this will obviously be appealing to many. It's a shame then that there are cars that can do what the A1 is trying to do much better.

See all the latest Audi reviews, news and video

Join the debate

Comments
78

15 June 2010

[quote Autocar]It doesn’t challenger the Fiesta for class honours, but buyers of these two cars are never likely to overlap.[/quote]

Autocar does comedy, then quickly recovers into reality.

15 June 2010

I wish everybody (including Citroen) would stop saying the DS3 is not retro - It blatantly is a total 80's pastiche, blatantly and fully.

Bring back steel wheels.

15 June 2010

It's gonna be a huge success I reckon but compare it with the likes of mini, mito, ds3, even the fiat 500 and it's the least desirable machine by a mile, which comes as no surprise to me. The R8 was a masterpiece but every other audi model is nothing more than expensive VW cars. I can't really understand how audis are compared to BMW, Mercedes and Jags when their actuals opponents are Volvos, Alfas, and Lexus. They may produce interiors of the highest quality but other than that very little...

15 June 2010

Being an Alfa fan and knowing that strongest and most equipped Mito 1.4 Cloverleaf 170 Hp costs 17885, than Mito 1.4, 135 Multiair costs 15045, and not to mention new coming Giulietta starting from 17000, I really cant see the point of this Audi. Except if you are a big Audi fan ( that is possible!).

15 June 2010

The Mini-based 0-series, with the clever rear suspension and whatnot, will slaughter this overpriced Polo. Sure, it's pretty, and the interior frankly sets new standards for the class in terms of quality feeling (judging by the pictures), but the Pluriel-like side arches over the roof do it no favours, it looks rather plump at the rear...

15 June 2010

Why can't Autocar staff appreciate the fact that potential A1 buyers get a lot of engineering finesse for the money and aviod writing comical stuff like "It's a shame then that there are cars (read: the holy Fiesta) that can do what the A1 is trying to do much better."

After all, what is A1 trying to do?

15 June 2010

[quote reha]

Why can't Autocar staff appreciate the fact that potential A1 buyers get a lot of engineering finesse for the money and aviod writing comical stuff like "It's a shame then that there are cars (read: the holy Fiesta) that can do what the A1 is trying to do much better."

After all, what is A1 trying to do?

[/quote]

Indeed: good and all as a Fiesta is, I really strongly dislike its styling, internal and external, and it seems cheaply thrown together. It's also very much overpriced: seriously, I could get a sub-100,000 mile, 2002MY BMW M5 for less than a mid-range Fiesta now! Also, Ford's engines seem unrefined, and a bit sluggish. Now, if I could have a MINI stripped of all the retro-fripperies...

15 June 2010

Some cars are sold on price, some on driver appeal and some on badge appeal. If you are lucky you will get 2 of the 3. I think this will only sell for one reason, and its the only one of the 3 i dont care about.

15 June 2010

I've just received my brochure for the A1. I might be tempted, but, if I want to get a decently sized petrol engine (ie the 1.4tsi) I have to go up to Sport trim. With this comes sports suspension, which, in Audi terms usually means a rock hard ride. I wish they'd market it like the MINI, where you get a standard suspension set up whatever the model, but you can upgrade to sports suspension if you wish.

Maybe I'll be proved wrong, after all they also do an S line sports suspension on the A1, so maybe that is the rock hard one.

15 June 2010

[quote artill]Some cars are sold on price, some on driver appeal and some on badge appeal. If you are lucky you will get 2 of the 3. I think this will only sell for one reason, and its the only one of the 3 i dont care about. [/quote] Well said.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run