Strong image and an upmarket feel, but lacks competitors' sense of fun

What is it?

Judge a car solely on how fat the order book is, and how successful it is predicted to be, and the Audi A1 would probably be a five-star car. Thankfully, that’s not how it works. This is the first time we’ve driven the new supermini on British roads, and we’re testing the 1.6 TDI – likely to be the biggest-selling model in the UK, accounting for 40 per cent of sales.

See pics of the Audi A1 1.6 TDI in action

What's it like?

The car is intended to offer a more upmarket experience than conventional superminis, and in practice it does have an aura of solidity and quality that most small hatches lack.

The 1.6 TDi is available only with a five-speed manual gearbox, which has a long but positive shift action that complements the relatively weighty steering well enough to give the A1 the feel of a bigger model.

But it is not an involving car. Composed and easy to drive, yes, but a long way short of being fun.

The cabin in our test car emphasised the slightly dull drive by being mostly dark grey and silver, although there are plenty of personalisation options to make it more interesting.

The 1.6 TDi unit is also not the motor of choice if you want entertainment. Long gearing means it can feel quite underpowered, but with familiarity it can be worked harder to offer perfectly acceptable performance. And with such decent economy and emissions, thanks in part to standard stop-start, as well as class-leading predicted residuals, it’s easy to see the appeal.

Should I buy one?

In reality it’s hard to justify the A1, given the multitude of more affordable rivals. If you want a grown-up, solid-feeling supermini, the VW Polo does it for thousands cheaper. If you want something chic and fun, a Mini, Citroën DS3 or Ford Fiesta all do it with more flair and for less cash. Still, given the high initial demand, the badge appeal clearly justifies the price to many, and if you’re one of them then the Audi won’t disappoint.

The A1 sacrifices little of the brand’s perceived quality or image to its market position. But if badge matters less, there are other options that do compact, stylish and frugal without sacrificing value and entertainment.

Audi A1 1.6 TDI Sport

Price: £16,320; Top speed: 118mph; 0-62mph: 10.5sec; Economy: 70.6mpg; CO2: 105g/km; Kerb weight: 1140kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power: 104bhp at 4400rpm; Torque: 184lb ft at 1500-2500rpm Gearbox: 5-spd manual

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Join the debate

Add a comment…
Llandudnoboy 19 May 2015

The new 116HP 2015 TDI Engine is worthy of the Audi name.

Many people have been critical of the diesel engine under the A1s bonnet, saying its a gruff and thirsty unit.

I can now set the record straight for everyone.

Less than two weeks ago, i collected a brand new A1 TDI Sport, with the updated 116Hp 92CO2 engine under the bonnet.

It has covered only 164miles from new, and even though both gearbox and engine are very tight, it is returning well over 60mpg.

The engine is refined, very quiet and subdued, and suits the whole driving experience of the lovely A1.

I am pretty confident that once the engine has a few thousand miles on the clock, it will return over 70mpg.

Also, resale value of A1s with the TDI engine, are amongst the best in its class.

Audi have certainly worked hard in improving the 2015 TDI engine, and from my experience, its the engine of choice.

Llandudnoboy 19 May 2015

Worth every penny, and the diesel is a gem.

Ive only had my A1 TDI Sport for less than two weeks, having bought it new from Lightcliffe Audi, here in North Wales.

I certainly did not mind paying a bit more for the newly updated 1.6TDI engine, it is quiet,extremely refined for an oil burner, and totally suits the driving characteristics of the A1.

Audi have also tweaked their suspension for their 2015 facelift models, the 12 plate TDI i took a test drive in, had much firmer suspension, so it was pleasing to see that the new TDI Sport has a more comfortable yet still firm ride.

When you buy an Audi, you are obviously captivated by the superb choice of factory fitted extras, they do cost quite a bit, and add considerably to the cost of the car, but when you own and drive such an upmarket Supermini, it seems silly not to buy a few.

My Nano Grey Metallic ( a totally new Audi colour for 2015) A1, has the beautifully designed alloy Climatic Control A/C, exactly the same ones s in the R8, Sat/Nav, Cruise Control, and also new for 2015, the Design Pack.

The Design Pack costs nearly £1000, but includes some very desirable extras, including a full glass
electric sliding roof, Privacy Glass, LED Interior Lighting, Rain Sensors for the Windscreen Wipers, ad a built in sun blind into the windscreen.

My car on the road, cost nearly £21000, but Audi have not cut any corners in the design and build of this stunning A1, when you drive it, you feel very special indeed.

275not599 2 November 2010

Re: Audi A1 1.6 TDI Sport

May I shatter the Earth by saying I don't think super-quality materials are that important in an inexpensive car? I have just rented a Chevy Aveo for 10 days and I wouldn't be surprised if it's at or near the bottom of the class in materials quality. But I didn't spend my time caressing the surfaces, or pushing sexy little dimples into the soft-touch panels (OK there weren't any). But it didn't rattle or squeak and it wasn't flimsy.

25 years ago a car like a Citroen AX had a tupperware interior that fell apart within 10 years, but cars today are much, much better built than they used to be. I wouldn't be surprised if the Aveo's interior was in fine condition after 10 years. I would rather see more money spent on engineering, especially addressing NVH and ride.