The wind-swept, scrub-lined B-roads that meander their respective ways through Hampshire’s New Forest aren’t really what you’d think of as the typical stomping ground for a group of posh superminis.
More often than not, cars of this ilk find homes within the confines of the urban sprawl; places where a sharp design and the latest in glossy, cutting-edge tech can best assert their influence over the typically younger and more well-heeled audience to which they tend to appeal.
It comes as little surprise, then, that the small gathering of ponies lurking at the far end of the gravel car park we’ve commandeered as a base for today’s triple test don’t seem particularly phased by our presence on this grey, blustery morning. But that’s fine; after all, they’re not the ones tasked with deciding which of the three very red cars around which we’re currently huddled represents the most convincing take on a plush, circa-£20,000 supermini.
The first of our three doesn’t need much in the way of introduction. Ever since its launch under BMW guardianship the best part of two decades ago, the ‘new’ Mini (you can still, just, get away with calling it that) has enjoyed a fairly uninterrupted run as top dog in this decidedly chic corner of the market. Not only has it continuously proved popular among the more dedicated followers of fashion, but it has also made a name for itself as an entertaining and engaging little steer.
Three model generations later, this £19,030 Cooper Classic will have to lean heavily on its reputational fleet-footedness if it hopes to fend off the threat posed by a very serious contender.
Next to the jovial little Mini, the new, second-generation Audi A1 cuts a much sterner shape. Ingolstadt’s supermini has always placed aspirational design, a classy, tech-laden cabin and refined on-road manners ahead of an ability to provide giddy handling thrills. And in the case of this sharp-suited, £19,160 A1 Sport, it would appear that Audi has doubled-down on its approach – perhaps with enough conviction to see it take the win today.