What is it?
It’s a new version of Audi’s accomplished small car that’s wearing an outdoorsy outfit. SUVs and their butch looks are all the rage nowadays, but squeezing something bulky through city streets and wasting hours trying to find a suitable parking spot isn’t fun by anyone’s standards.
That's why an adventurous-looking version of the pocket-size A1 makes sense. To give it the definitive SUV look, the Citycarver gets plastic body cladding around the wheel arches, front and rear protection plates under the bumpers plus a new front grille that’s the same hexagonal shape as an Audi Q model.
It also gets 50mm extra ride height for climbing kerbs but sadly no quattro four-wheel drive. There’s only one trim level and you get a choice of two petrol engines – a 1.0-litre with 114bhp or a more powerful 148bhp 1.5-litre.
The A1 Citycarver isn’t the first car to combine the benefits of a small car with the desirability of an SUV’s rugged looks, though. Some of you might remember the ‘ahead-of-its-time’ Rover Streetwise as something of an originator, while current alternatives include the Ford Fiesta Active and Kia XCeed. Both of those are cheaper to buy than the A1 Citycarver - so can it justify its price premium?
What's it like?
In truth, pretty much the same as the regular A1, and that’s not a bad thing. After spending a lot of time with the 114bhp 1.0-litre petrol (badged 30 TFSI), we feel it’s the best fit for the A1.
It’s a punchy engine that has enough low-down grunt to accelerate you up to city speeds in a trice, and also has the legs to cruise at motorway speeds without trouble. The automatic gearbox fitted to our test Citycarver had very little of the hesitation that some other Audi models with an automatic gearbox exhibit when you’re trying to set off in a hurry.
The A1 Citycarver weighs about 40kgs more than an equivalent A1 but that has no discernible effect on its performance. You’d be hard pushed to detect that the 0-62mph time is a few tenths slower than a regular A1 30 TFSI because the difference is less than the time it takes you to blink.
The extra ride height hasn’t made much difference to the ride quality, but that’s a positive because it was already among the class best alongside the VW Polo. All A1 Citycarvers thankfully miss out on the firm suspension fitted to S Line models of the regular A1, so most bumps and road imperfections are pleasingly smothered. Bigger bumps, such as sleeping policemen, are efficiently absorbed by the extra suspension travel, making the Citycarver more comfortable than a Mini.