Audi A1 Sportback review

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A1 Sportback driving front three-quarter
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11 Dec 2015 14:18 | Last updated: 20 Nov 2018 22:57

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It’s a tough job, branding. A strong brand helps sell cars, and the more cars sold, the more money is made. Ka-ching. But if the reason people are buying those cars is because of a brand’s prestige, then dilute it at your peril; you risk chinking away its charms and, suddenly, things can look a bit sticky. Less ka-ching.

BMW manages this balancing act rather well by offering bespoke brands: Roll-Royce at one end and Mini at the other; with its core brand filling the gaping gap in between.

Audi, on the other hand, is happy to call a spade a spade and stick its name on a broader spectrum of cars, including, back in 2010, its smallest car to date, the Audi A1. This wore the famous four rings proudly, and to make sure there was no brand dilution, it was bestowed with cutesy looks and an interior so upmarket that the Queen could’ve held court in it. Sure, underneath it was based on the Volkswagen Polo, but to those admiring it from afar, or to you inside, there was no question: the A1 was a pukka Audi.

Time to test that theory once again, then. This is the second generation of the A1, and once again it’s based on Polo underpinnings. This time, though, the cars it has to compete with are stronger than ever, from cousin Polo to its arch nemesis, the Mini 5dr. Even cheaper offerings, such as our favourite small car, the Seat Ibiza, and the current Ford Fiesta, make compelling propositions, too.

So, is the A1 still upmarket enough to justify spending a premium on it? Read on to find out, and afterwards head to our New Car Buying page to check out what stonking deals we have on all new small cars.

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There are 12 trims available for the A1 hatchback. Click to see details.See all versions
S Line Competition
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S Line Contrast Edition
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S Line Style Edition
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SE
Entry-level SE trim is pretty sparse. Highlights include LED headlights, electric windows, automatic lights and wipers, manual air conditioning and 15in alloy wheels. You do get a sensible infotain...View trim
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Sport Nav
This is our preferred trim level. It adds Bluetooth, sat-nav, a leather-covered steering wheel, sports seats (including lumbar adjustment) and aluminium interior highlights to SE’s kit roster. You...View trim
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£17,071
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SE
Entry-level SE trim is pretty sparse. Highlights include LED headlights, electric windows, automatic lights and wipers, manual air conditioning and 15in alloy wheels. You do get a sensible infotain...View trim
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S Line Nav
One of the most extreme of the A1’s regular trim levels, S line brings sports-focused styling modifications rather than a much longer standard equipment list. You get a bodykit, 17in alloy wheels...View trim
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Sport
This is our recommendation, because it adds 16in alloy wheels (which don’t ruin the ride), cruise control and rear parking sensors, plus it opens up more option choices. It’s worth thinking about a...View trim
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Black Edition Nav
Based on S line, this even pricier trim adds Alcantara sports seats, climate control and plenty of bespoke styling touches. The cheaper trims make far more sense financially, though...View trim
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S Line
S line is basically about bigger (17in) alloy wheels and more aggressive looks, as well as sports suspension that might (we haven’t tried it yet) harm the ride...View trim
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£21,348
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S1 Nav
The fastest A1 comes with plenty of standard equipment, including a sporty-looking bodykit, xenon headlights, aluminium flourishes on the door mirrors, part-leather sports seats, climate control an...View trim
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S1 Competition Nav
Essentially, this adds more visual styling details to the regular S1. It's not worth the extra, in our view...View trim
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