The A1 is available with a range of turbo engines – a 1.2 and two 1.4-litre petrol units, plus 1.6 and 2.0 diesels. The 1.2 is best as a town car and the 1.6 diesel could be punchier, but the 1.4s and 2.0 diesel are fast and flexible, and make excellent cruisers. They all have a long top gear to keep the revs down – and the economy up – at higher speeds. The 1.4 is available with a twin-clutch automatic gearbox.
There are three trim levels, each one bringing firmer suspension and bigger wheels as you step up the range. The standard car is firm-ish, and while Sport models are edgier, they’re still comfortable. S line models take things too far, though. True, the A1 isn’t as alert in corners as a Mini, but it's still fun to drive.
The A1 is the quietest premium supermini there is. The diesel engines can rattle when pulling away, but the petrols are always smooth and quiet, and you’re well insulated from wind and road noise. An engine stop-start system is standard across the range and it works quickly and unobtrusively.
The price of the entry-level car is attractive, and although the prices increase steeply as you progress up the range, resale values are among the best in the class: this is an extremely desirable little car. Efficient engines help towards excellent fuel consumption figures and low CO2 emissions, which keep running costs low.
This might be the smallest, cheapest Audi, but it's far from a poor relation. There are squishy plastics in all the right areas, and the more durable stuff is largely out of sight. Even the switches and dials look and feel expensive. According to our latest reliability survey with Warranty Direct, Audis don't always live up to their prestige image, so we can only hope that the A1 will perform better than the older models.
Audi has a terrific record for theft prevention, winning our security award four years running up to 2009. In terms of safety, the A1 has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and goes far beyond the basics of six airbags and stability control. It also has an electronic differential to help you safely round corners if you enter a bit too quickly, while automatic headlight beam adjustment is among the options. Security kit is impressive.
Firm, supportive seats, lots of adjustment and an orderly dashboard with big, clear instruments – yes, this is a pure Audi. The windows aren’t very deep, but there's still plenty of glass area giving a good view out. A central control unit and screen give access to many of the car's functions, and it's easy to get used to.
This isn’t the A1’s forte. While there’s plenty of space up front and the boot is a decent size and shape, the rear seats are best for children due to the dramatically sloping roofline. The rear seatbacks are almost vertical, so may be uncomfortable on long journeys.
There are SE, Sport and S line trims, offering not only different levels of equipment, but also firmer suspension and bigger wheels as you progress up through the range, so you need to order carefully. SE models have alloys, air-con and a CD player, but you’re better off spending the extra on Sport, which adds Bluetooth, sports seats, and leather and aluminium trim. S line has part-leather upholstery and a bodykit. There are also plenty of personalisation options on all versions.
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For buyers who want a fun yet civilised premium supermini, the Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport is an absolutely superb choice. It’s dripping with quality and it’s a cracking ownership prospect.