Entry-level A1s have a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, producing 94bhp. They’re quick enough around town, but can struggle a bit on the motorway – so if your lifestyle regularly requires longer journeys, we’d advise you to opt for one of the 1.4-litre petrols instead. The 148bhp is quickest, but the 123bhp version is plenty nippy enough and pulls strongly from low revs.
There’s only one diesel in the line-up; it’s a 1.6-litre unit and it has enough of shove at low revs, so you rarely need to work it hard.
The 1.0-litre petrol and the diesel get a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the two 1.4 petrols get a six-speed ’box. All of these engines are also available with Audi’s seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission.
The range-topper is the 228bhp 2.0-litre S1, which gets four-wheel drive and comes only with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s as rapid as you’d expect – it’s able to get from rest to 62mph in less than six seconds, in fact.
Audi A1 Hatchback ride comfort
You need to be careful here. The A1 comes with a wide range of wheel sizes and each of the three regular trim levels (SE, Sport and S line) brings a different suspension set-up.
You get 15in wheels and the softest suspension on entry-level SE trim – and this combination provides a generally comfortable ride. Step up to Sport and you jump to 16in wheels and a stiffer suspension set-up, while S line goes firmer again and moves to 17in wheels. Fortunately, you can choose the SE’s suspension as a no-cost option on either Sport or S line editions – as long as you stick with 16 or 17in wheels (it’s not compatible with the optional 18in alloys).
The S1 gets its own bespoke suspension, including adjustable shock absorbers. It’s undeniably firm, although perhaps a little more acceptable than Sport or S line editions given the car’s extra focus on performance.
Audi A1 Hatchback handling
The A1’s firm suspension helps to keep the car well controlled when cornering; you’re unlikely to complain much about body lean, regardless of which version you choose. There's plenty of fun to be had, too; the steering is accurate, so even though it doesn’t do a perfect job of communicating what the front wheels are doing, you always feel confident when cornering quickly. The A1 is also better balanced than its closest rivals the Mini, as its front tyres hold their grip for longer through bends. The steering is also light enough to make parking easy.
Meanwhile, the range-topping S1 hangs on astonishingly well in corners; you’ll be doing silly speeds before the car becomes unstuck when thrown in to a corner. Again, though, the steering isn't perfect; in this respect, the S1 can’t match its best (and much cheaper) hot hatchback rivals such as the Ford Fiesta ST.
Audi A1 Hatchback refinement
Some of the A1’s engines are noisier than others. Choose the 1.0-litre petrol and try to work it hard - as you’re likely to need to – and you’ll hear a raspy three-cylinder warble as the revs rise. The 1.6 diesel is worse again; it’s gruff even when it’s idling, and this turns into an unpleasant clatter as you work it harder. It doesn’t calm down much once it’s warmed up, either.
Fortunately the 1.4-litre petrol has a calmer character, regardless of whether you’re going for the 123bhp option or the 148bhp version, which shuts down half of its four cylinders when you’re cruising at a steady speed to save fuel.
You’ll hear more road and suspension noise as you go further up the range to versions with larger wheels and the more extreme suspension set-ups; however, the A1 does a better job of keeping these in check than many other small cars. There’s a bit of wind noise from around the door mirrors when you’re cruising at motorway speeds, but it’s no worse than you’ll find in many rivals.
All of the manual gearboxes have a slick enough shift, and the optional S tronic automatic ’box changes gear quickly and smoothly; the only time you may find it a bit jerky is during low-speed manoeuvres, such as parking.
The S1, meanwhile, is more bullish altogether about its performance potential. The exhaust note from its potent 2.0-litre engine is more gravelly – but then, it is a hot hatch, so that’s as it should be, and it’s never so loud that it becomes genuinely tiresome.
This three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine has a respectable 94bhp, and while it’s comfortable enough for urban use, it can feel a little underpowered if you’re trying to make brisk progress on faster roads. It is efficient, with CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km, although our experience of three-cylinder engines would suggest that its real-world economy figure is likely to be less impressive. This engine comes with a five-speed manual gearbox or an optional seven-speed automatic.
Our pick 1.4 TFSI 125
This four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine has plenty of low-rev shove, so it always feels capable of making the A1 go pretty swiftly if needed. It’s also smooth and refined. It shouldn’t use much fuel, either; in fact, it achieved an impressive 46.9mpg in our True MPG tests. Acceptably low CO2 emissions mean it doesn’t cost much in tax as well. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a seven-speed automatic available as an option.
1.6 TDI 116
The sole diesel option in the Audi A1 range has enough power and low-down shove to make the car feel brisk – and you shouldn’t have to work it too hard to maintain normal progress. That’s lucky, though, because this engine is also gruff and noisy. Like the entry-level petrol, it is available with a five-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox.
1.4 TFSI 150
The more powerful of the two 1.4-litre petrol engines has 148bhp and clever technology that can deactivate half its cylinders when they’re not needed to save fuel. It’s a smooth and refined engine, and is more than capable of hustling the A1 and A1 Sportback along rapidly. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a seven-speed automatic available as an option. Unfortunately, this engine is available only in S line and Black Edition versions of the A1, which we wouldn’t recommend.
2.0 TFSI 231
With 228bhp on tap, the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine gives the Audi S1 outrageous performance for such a small car; it can catapult this four-wheel-drive hot hatch from 0-62mph in less than six seconds. It has a fairly rorty exhaust note, but it’s never noisy to the point of being genuinely tiresome. A six-speed manual is the only gearbox available with this engine.