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 and the ever increasing standard - reset once again by the new iterations Ford Fiesta and the Seat Ibiza.

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 make up the range.

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. Completing the range is a hot S1, with 228bhp from a 2.0-litre turbo engine and four-wheel drive, and although it has been mooted that a 280bhp RS1 would join its Audi Sport sibling.

But how will the A1 fare when up against our strigent benchmarking, and can it take a chunk out of the supremacy held by the most dynamic small cars on sale?

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

  • Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo
    First Drive
    22 November 2017
    Porsche bolsters its hybrid range with a 671bhp Panamera Sport Turismo flagship. Can it justify the premium over the Turbo?
  • Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI
    First Drive
    22 November 2017
    Driven for the first time on British roads, Skoda's new compact SUV doesn't disappoint, with decent on-road manners and performance
  • Aston Martin DB11 V8
    First Drive
    22 November 2017
    Aston's decision to utilise AMG's 4.0-litre V8 struck us as an inspired one initially, but will a drive on UK roads change our minds?
  • Volvo XC40 cornering
    First Drive
    21 November 2017
    Volvo’s XC40 arrives in the premium compact SUV segment and hits the right note with design, practicality and driving style
  • Jaguar E-Pace D180
    First Drive
    19 November 2017
    Not the driver’s car many would hope from any car wearing the Jaguar badge, but the E-Pace is an attractive and interesting addition to the compact premium SUV ranks