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 that piles on a generous amount of shove from around 2000rpm and a real 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
Among those models in the small car fraternity, a smooth and controlled ride is something of a rarity. Fortunately, the A1 and closely related Polo are among a rarefied group that carry it off. Around town the Sport version we’ve tried – fitted with 16in wheels and standard (Dynamic) suspension – sauntered over urban pockmarks with a good degree of isolation, and even the nastiest 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 only fidgets on particularly corrugated sections and in the main, proves itself to be one of the calmest-riding cars in the class.
The package is completed by good damping control over speed bumps and long-wave dips and crests. It doesn't feel quite 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.
Audi A1 hatchback handling
The A1 is a tidy car to drive, in a similar vein to the Polo. Its steering is nicely judged and feels light around town, with enough weight thrown in at higher speeds. Those virtues are backed up with the accuracy to allow you to place the nose where you want on a meandering A-road.
If the road tightens and you maintain a spirited pace you’ll find a slight tendency for the car to lean in corners, but this is comparatively minor 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, running wide gently 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 noticeably better balanced and a 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. It isn’t quite as muted as the Mini Cooper’s 1.5-litre and the Ford Fiesta’s 1.0 Ecoboost, but is hardly boisterous and what noise it does make is pretty tuneful. You can feel a little vibration through the controls, but they're not excessive and three-cylinder engines tend to be prone to a little mechanical buzz.
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 in this regard, and proves to be a quieter cruiser than other rivals such as the Mini.
The manual version is pretty easy to drive smoothly, once you’ve acclimatised to a need for plenty of revs to overcome the slight risk of stalling as you pull away. The brakes aren’t overly sharp, and the gearshift action is rather long compared to the deft slickness of the Fiesta’s manual gearbox. We haven’t yet tried an A1 with a dual-clutch automatic 'box, but we've known them to be a tad jerky at slow speeds in other VW Group models.