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A bigger engine does not necessarily mean better in the most potent diesel-equipped Audi A1

Our Verdict

Audi A1 review hero lead

The Audi A1 is a stylish and competent supermini, if a little expensive - but does it have the edge over the Mini hatch, Seat Ibiza and Ford Fiesta?

Mark Tisshaw
19 February 2012

What is it?

The Audi A1 typifies the current market trend for ‘premium downsizing’, small cars offering many of the luxuries of their much larger siblings in a more compact package. But the premium downsizing trend in this latest version of the A1 only applies from the engine bay backwards, as over the front wheels sits a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine.

This 141bhp oil-burner is anything but downsized, and offers a set of big car performance figures as a result. It can crack 0-62mph in 8.2sec and reach a top speed of 135mph, but at the same time it offers small car economy figures of 68.9mpg and 108g/km.

What’s it like?

Great on paper, at least. Shame this doesn’t really transfer to an impressive drive. One of the great appeals of smaller-engined A1s is the way they blend peppy performance with agile handling. While the 2.0 TDI’s 236lb ft peak torque makes this A1 undeniably quick in a straight line, its significant trade-off is an increased kerb weight that harms the ride, handling and steering.

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At 1190kg, the A1 is 150kg heavier than the entry-level 1.2 TFSI petrol model, and it shows. The turn in is not as sharp, which makes the steering feel fairly lifeless.

The primary ride of A1s equipped with the firm Sport chassis settings (as our test car was) is known for being vertically agitated over bumps at motorway speeds, but this feeling is only amplified in the 2.0 TDI due to its extra weight. Thankfully, the secondary ride doesn’t suffer as badly, something partly helped by the 16in alloys of our test car.

Of course, the engine doesn’t impact on some of our favourite things about the A1. Interior quality is as good as ever, and the six-speed manual gearbox is as slick as they come. Economy well into the 50s is also easily achievable even when driven hard.

Should I buy one?

Only if you feel your A1 is getting left behind on your frequent drives on unrestricted sections on the Autobahn. The A1 2.0 TDI has such niche appeal, that’s it’s hard to think of any other scenario where you wouldn’t buy the 1.6 TDI instead.

Take away the Sport trim, and you can have a 1.6 TDI in SE spec from £14,480. Economy and CO2 are both better in this model, too, at 74.3mpg and 99g/km respectively. Choosing which diesel A1 to buy is as easy a decision as it sounds.

Audi A1 2.0 TDI Sport

Price: £17,945; Top speed: 135mph; 0-62mph: 8.2sec; Economy: 68.9mpg combined; CO2: 108g/km; Kerb weight: 1190kg; Engine: 4cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power: 141bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6spd manual

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Comments
51

22 February 2012

Curious... compared to this version of the A1, the Seat Ibiza 2.0 TDi FR seemed to get a slightly more favourable review back in 2010:

http://www.autocar.co.uk/www.autocar.co.uk/CarReviews/FirstDrives/Seat-Ibiza-2.0-TDI-CR-FR/247379/

I haven't driven either car myself, but both being VAG products with the same engine, similar set-up (FR vs Sport) etc., I can't imagine there would be a massive difference between the Ibiza and A1.

Given the choice between the two, I would probably go for the Audi purely for the fact that the residuals are likely to be better than the Seat, plus the list price is very close (£17,480 for the Ibiza vs £17,945 for the A1).

22 February 2012

141bhp and under 110g/co2 is pretty good.

22 February 2012

I would like to see the 170bhp version of this engine in the A1. It should achieve more or less the same economy figures as this one, but could frighten the 185bhp A1 in a straight line.

22 February 2012

I currently drive an A1 1.6TDI Sport which I love on the twisties, but find it a little lacking on motorways. Trying to keep pace with UK motorway traffic means I rarely get close to the published 74mpg. On my weekly journeys between Chester and Bournemouth the avg displayed is between 48 and 52 mpg on motorways, but once I get onto fast flowing A roads than can increase to a displayed 62mpg. I no longer think I am missing out now that I've read this road test though. I'll keep the better steering feel and handling.

"Why is http://www.nanoflowcell.com not getting more media attention? It could be the future... Now!"

22 February 2012

curiously slow given the power to weight - I suspect the 0-60 doesn't tell the full story.

22 February 2012

In view of the recent downsizing of engines this seems a backward step by Audi.The backward step in ride and handling just confirms it too.

23 February 2012

What is the difference between primary ride and secondary ride?

23 February 2012

Does the bigger engine with more torque really cause all of these issues?

Perhaps it just shows up the limitations in the floor plan and driveline design, which are easily masked with a smaller engine.

Audi's generally seem to work best when they have small engines.

23 February 2012

[quote Flash Harry]In view of the recent downsizing of engines this seems a backward step by Audi.The backward step in ride and handling just confirms it too.[/quote] Mine too. Almost as if the halo is slipping a bit.

23 February 2012

[quote Marv]I currently drive an A1 1.6TDI Sport which I love on the twisties, but find it a little lacking on motorways. Trying to keep pace with UK motorway traffic means I rarely get close to the published 74mpg. On my weekly journeys between Chester and Bournemouth the avg displayed is between 48 and 52 mpg on motorways, but once I get onto fast flowing A roads than can increase to a displayed 62mpg. I no longer think I am missing out now that I've read this road test though. I'll keep the better steering feel and handling[/quote]

What made you decide to choose the A1 out of interest? I don't know anyone with one so I was just interested to see why you chose it over for example the Polo, Ibiza or Fabia?

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