When my Audi A1 arrived in autumn 2011, I had high expectations. It had been on sale for just less than a year by then, but had already won numerous accolades – including our Car of the Year award.
My A1 was a 1.4 TFSI Sport: the same spec as our award winner. That meant a quiet, relatively frugal and punchy 121bhp petrol engine, mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
Sport trim is well specified, with six airbags, ESP, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, a multi-function steering wheel and sports seats with adjustable lumbar support all standard, but I wanted to add a few options. By far the best was the £1375 Technology Pack, which includes sat-nav with a 6.5-inch screen, MMI central controller and a 40GB hard drive.
The sat-nav was straightforward to use; it shows your nearest fuel stations, supermarkets, golf courses and everything between. The only issue I had was navigating Bath in night mode; the 3D images of the city's historical buildings got in the way of my on-screen route.
Half of the A1's hard drive is set aside for the Jukebox music function, so once I'd copied music over to it I could listen to my favourite tunes without faffing about with CDs or even the MP3 player connection in the glovebox. The additional tweeters and subwoofer (£255) also made the tunes tone-perfect.
Both the Jukebox and sat-nav can be operated with voice recognition. It worked well, only occasionally struggling with my Home Counties twang.
Sport trim also comes with slightly firmer-than-standard suspension and 16-inch alloys. That may sound like a recipe for a rock-hard ride, but not so. Bar a few clangs that shuddered into the cabin when hitting deep potholes, the A1's ride was comfortable enough. The only complaints came when the winter tyres were fitted (£792 all in). They provided a bit of extra grip on the couple of icy days we had in the South last winter, but the ride was noticeably worse.
The A1 is an upmarket supermini, so shouldn't have been the ideal motorway car, especially with a relatively small petrol engine up front. Yet it didn't take too much effort to keep up with the traffic on my 100-mile commute, and I managed to eke out 46.9mpg over 14,000 miles. That's a little way off the government figure of 53.5mpg but identical to What Car? True MPG's 46.9mpg, so I'm pretty pleased with my efforts.
The little A1 also fares well on space. Some superminis struggle to seat more than two adults in comfort, but there's enough headroom in the rear for even tall adults. The boot also did me proud. At 270 litres, it's average for a supermini, but it's well shaped and was adequate for my food shopping and holiday needs.
So why, if I'm gushing with praise about the A1, haven't I given it a maximum five-star rating?
Well, just three weeks and 1500 miles after we got the car, a rattle developed. It sounded like it was coming from the front passenger footwell and could be heard when pulling away from a standstill. So I called my local dealer, Audi Oxford (01865 566034), to book in the car.
The dealership was a 25-minute drive from home, but they insisted I took the A1 to be assessed first. A technician thought the gearbox housing was the issue, so I booked the car in for three weeks later when a complimentary courtesy car was available.
After I dropped off the car I didn't hear back from the garage for nearly 24 hours – so I rang them. It turned out that one of the engine mounts was rattling, and they discovered that the front nearside outer CV boot was leaking grease. The parts were ordered and were due the next day.
Two days and two phone calls later, the original work had been completed but another rattle had been discovered. The passenger door window seal (which was twisted when I first got the A1) had to be changed, and the new part would take up to 10 days to arrive. However, I had no idea it had arrived until I called a month later.
To be fair, when I complained to the dealership they apologised and gave me a free oil top-up. Yet it's unacceptable to have three such issues on a car that's barely two months old.
It's a shame, because the A1 was otherwise an excellent car. It suited my lifestyle and, although it's pricey to buy compared with other superminis, running costs are reasonably low.
Price when new £15,670
Price now (new) £15,890
Extras Technology Pack £1375; metallic paint £510; climate control (includes light and rain sensors) £330; rear parking sensors £305; and Audi sound system £255
Total price new £18,445
Current part-ex value £14,400
Overall fuel economy 46.9mpg
Worst fuel economy 29.5mpg
Best fuel economy 63.4mpg
True MPG 46.9mpg
Official fuel economy 53.5mpg
CO2 (g/km)/tax liability 124/15%
Contract hire £244
Cost per mile 40p
Insurance group/quote 15/£501
Servicing and repairs
Repairs Engine mount, new outer CV boot and door window seal – all under warranty
Rosie's Audi A1 on video
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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