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, and Audi has grabbed its own slice of the premium supermini pie 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 1.0 TFSI SE model. It’s also surprisingly well equipped. Five engines are available at present.

In addition to the 1.0, you can have a 1.4 TFSI in two power outputs, or a 1.6 TDI; the diesel 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 hot S1, with 228bhp from a 2.0-litre turbo engine and four-wheel drive, and in 2017 it will be joined by the 280bhp RS1.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Superminis

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week

  • BMW 220d Convertible M Sport 2017 review
    First Drive
    26 July 2017
    The 2 Series range receives a light facelift, enhancing its exterior and interior look, improving infotainment and adding more standard kit
  • Renault Captur Dynamique S Nav dCI 110
    First Drive
    26 July 2017
    To keep pace with rivals in this increasingly competitive category, Renault's popular compact crossover has had a mild refresh both inside and out
  • Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
    First Drive
    25 July 2017
    New top-of-the-line Porsche hybrid, though fast and flexible, is simply too heavy to strike the same sweet sporting compromise as its siblings
  • Caterham Seven 420R Donington Edition
    First Drive
    25 July 2017
    Limited-edition road-legal Caterham track car is a superbly enthralling drive, with enough creature comforts to be used on the road as well. Even more addictive than most of its rangemates
  • McLaren 570S Spider
    First Drive
    25 July 2017
    McLaren has created its most attainable drop-top by removing the roof from the 570S coupé, but none of the car's talent has come away with it