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Audi’s accomplished small car gets a roughty-toughty makeover turning it into a mini SUV
30 October 2019
Audi A1 Citycarver 2019

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?

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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.

A slight drawback of the extra travel of the Citycarver's suspension is that there's more body lean in corners than in the regular A1, but it's still an accomplished car to drive overall. You’ll enjoy its tenacious grip and accurate, direct steering, which lets you place the car on the road with confidence. And, even though the steering transmits little info as to exactly what the front wheels are doing, it’s at least light enough to make city maneuvers super easy.

Inside, there is nothing that tells you you’re driving a Citycarver compared to a regular A1, apart from a slightly raised driving position. You also get the same responsive, easy-to-use touchscreen infotainment system as the regular A1; it's much better than the system you'll find in a Ford Fiesta Active. 

Passenger space is good by class standards, so, even if you’re over six-feet tall, you’ll fit in the front of the Citycarver comfortably. It’s not quite as spacious for tall passengers in the back, but still offers more room than a Mini. You also get a boot that's decent in both shape and size, but that ultimately can’t match a Honda Jazz for outright luggage capacity.

Should I buy one?

If you took one look at the pictures and said to yourself ‘I love how this looks’, you’ll be pretty pleased with your A1 Citycarver. It’s decent to drive, spacious enough for most needs, reasonably comfy and has a well-built interior. 

However, from an objective point of view there is little real-world benefit of the body cladding, while the absence of quattro four-wheel drive makes the extra ride height a little redundant. So, really, you’re paying about £2000 more for not much added ability. Ultimately, the Fiesta Active is better value, while a VW T-Roc costs pretty much the same, yet has a more pronounced SUV stance and a higher driving position. 

Boyan Marinov

Audi A1 Citycarver specification

Where Hamburg, Germany Price £23,580 On sale now Engine 3 cyls in-line, turbocharged, petrol Power 113bhp at 5000-5500rpm Torque 147lb ft at 2000-3500rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1170kg Top speed 123mph 0-62mph 9.9sec Fuel economy 46.3mpg CO2 117g/km Rivals Ford Fiesta Active, Kia XCeed

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Comments
15

31 October 2019

Helloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

31 October 2019
I does look quite good, quite a handsome thing, but I don't see the point over the standard car although if cheaply replaceable, which I doubt, the cladding over the arches would be good for protecting the bodywork from bollards and pillars in tight car parks.

31 October 2019
si73 wrote:

I does look quite good, quite a handsome thing, but I don't see the point over the standard car although if cheaply replaceable, which I doubt, the cladding over the arches would be good for protecting the bodywork from bollards and pillars in tight car parks.

Talk to GLA drivers who like the combination of higher ride height  and small body for getting  around  cities. It's part of the problem with motoring  journalism - it's rare that they think about or talk to ordinary  drivers.

31 October 2019
SamVimes1972 wrote:

si73 wrote:

I does look quite good, quite a handsome thing, but I don't see the point over the standard car although if cheaply replaceable, which I doubt, the cladding over the arches would be good for protecting the bodywork from bollards and pillars in tight car parks.

Talk to GLA drivers who like the combination of higher ride height  and small body for getting  around  cities. It's part of the problem with motoring  journalism - it's rare that they think about or talk to ordinary  drivers.

Yeah but they kind of imply there is not much too the raised ride height unlike the t-roc which has a higher driving position which aids access and view out.
Seemed like a miss in that respect.

31 October 2019
si73 wrote:
SamVimes1972 wrote:

si73 wrote:

I does look quite good, quite a handsome thing, but I don't see the point over the standard car although if cheaply replaceable, which I doubt, the cladding over the arches would be good for protecting the bodywork from bollards and pillars in tight car parks.

Talk to GLA drivers who like the combination of higher ride height  and small body for getting  around  cities. It's part of the problem with motoring  journalism - it's rare that they think about or talk to ordinary  drivers.

Yeah but they kind of imply there is not much too the raised ride height unlike the t-roc which has a higher driving position which aids access and view out. Seemed like a miss in that respect.

The GLA rides 50mm higher  than the A Class so the ride height  is positioned  perfectly  for that market segment.

31 October 2019

More room and a lot lot cheaper. Mega reliable too...

31 October 2019
Thekrankis wrote:

More room and a lot lot cheaper. Mega reliable too...

Sure, if you are Honest John's core demographic. The rest of the world is going  to buy cars like the A1 and the Mini.

bol

31 October 2019

I can only assume that the name doesn't sound so bloody stupid in Germany. Perhaps in the UK they should call it Stadtschnitzer. Much better. 

31 October 2019

The review hasn't told us much about Audi's glorious plastics? Is that because they are becoming less common in new Audi's? So they skip over that but...

31 October 2019

I had an A1 S-line on hire earlier this year.

Nice enough (apart from the stupid lane-assist) but the volume control is on the centre console in front of the gear lever, nowhere near where you would expect to find it. It took a while finding that in the dark at Malaga airport!

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