Driving

Audi A1 Sportback review

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

In this review

Driving

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Audi A1 hatchback performance

The only engine in the range is the rather meaninglessly badged 30 TSI; it’s a number that bears no relation to either its 1.0-litre capacity or its 114bhp power output. But it’s a frisky little thing, with a turbocharger layering on a generous amount of shove from around 2000rpm, twinned with a keenness to keep pulling all the way to its 6000rpm-plus limiter.

That makes it a flexible performer, so you don’t have to change gears continually to keep pace with traffic, but with a claimed 0-62mph time of 9.5sec, there are quicker small cars out there. If a bit more poke is your thing, take your pick from the Mini Cooper 1.5, Polo 1.4 TSI and Ibiza 1.5 TSI.

Audi A1 hatchback ride

When it comes to the small car fraternity, a smooth and controlled ride tends to be a rarity. Luckily, the A1 is in that rarefied group, along with the closely related Polo. Around town, the version we’ve tried, with 16in wheels and standard (Dynamic) suspension, pattered over most abrasions with a good degree of isolation, and even the nastiest of bumps were unable to ruffle its feathers. It’s a wholly calmer experience than in the Mini 5dr, which rarely stops jostling.

It’s the same story on the motorway. Where the Mini struggles to settle, the A1 fidgets only on particularly corrugated sections and in the main proves itself to be one of the calmest-riding cars in the class.

Good damping control over the likes of speed bumps and long-wave dips and crests completes the package. It’s not as hunkered down on the road as the Mini, or even the Ibiza for that matter, but it remains composed enough to stop you bouncing out of your seat if the going gets choppy.

One point to note is that we haven’t yet tried the S line trim. This comes with bigger 17in alloy wheels and stiffer sports suspension, which will inevitably firm things up. We’ll let you know how much once we’ve driven one.

A1 Sportback rear three-quarter

Audi A1 hatchback handling

The A1 is a tidy car to drive, in a similar vein to the Polo. Its steering is nicely judged, feeling light enough around town with enough weight thrown in, backed up by the accuracy to allow you to place the nose where you want once you’ve picked up the pace on a meandering A-road.

If the road tightens and you maintain that pace, you’ll find some inherent body lean, but this is comparatively limited and doesn’t seem to affect the strong grip on offer. In fact, the A1 hangs on determinedly, and when you reach its limit of adhesion, it lets go progressively, gently running wide at the front. Simply back off and it’ll tighten its line accordingly.

Is it the best in class? No; for something truly entertaining, we’d recommend you get yourself behind the wheel of a Fiesta or Ibiza. But compared with the Mini, which is often perceived to be a sporty little number, the A1 is a noticeably better balanced and more predictable steer.

Audi A1 hatchback refinement

The A1 does a fine job of delivering peace and quiet on the move. Let’s start with its three-cylinder petrol engine. This isn’t quite as muted as the Mini Cooper’s 1.5-litre unit and the Ford Fiesta’s 1.0 Ecoboost, but it’s hardly boisterous, and what noise it does make is pretty tuneful. You can feel some vibrations through the controls, but that’s not unusual with three-cylinder engines, and they’re not excessive.

At 70mph in top gear, you’ll be hard pressed to hear the engine at all, and although you can hear some road and wind noise, both are hushed enough not to irk on a long drive. Again, it’s pretty similar to the Polo, while proving quieter than rivals such as the Mini.

The manual version is pretty easy to drive smoothly once you’ve acclimatised to its clutch and throttle responses; the brakes aren’t too sharp, either. The gearshift action is rather long, and it doesn’t match the deft slickness of the Fiesta’s manual ’box. We haven’t yet had a go in a car with a dual-clutch automatic, but historically in VW Group products, these can be a tad jerky at slow speeds.

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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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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
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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
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