Audi A1 vs Mini Hatch vs Volkswagen Polo

Three-cylinder engines are frugal, fun and all the rage. Can the new offerings in the Audi A1 and VW Polo steal the Mini Cooper's thunder?

Words By What Car? team

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Audi A1, Mini Cooper and VW Polo

Our verdict

We wouldn't try to talk you out of buying any one of these cars. However, the Audi A1 gets the nod for its tidy handling, fine driving position, effortlessly classy interior and that brilliant 1.0-litre turbo engine. It’s also usefully cheaper than its two rivals to own over three years, whether you’re buying outright or signing up to a monthly PCP agreement.

True, the much faster 1.4-litre turbo version of the A1 is only a few hundred pounds more expensive at the outset, so is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for bigger thrills. But the 1.4 is more expensive to fuel and insure, so this entry-level 1.0 TFSI model ticks just about every box if running costs are a concern.

'The 1.4-litre turbo A1 is worth considering if you’re looking for thrills'

The Mini isn’t far off the pace. This Cooper version is easily the pick of the five-door range because it doesn’t cost that much more than the entry-level One, yet is usefully quicker and comes with more standard luxuries. In fact, if it weren’t for the A1’s better resale values, more comfortable driving position and superior fuel economy the Mini may well have won this test.

That leaves the VW Polo. It’s the cheapest to buy initially, the biggest inside, the most refined and is refreshingly unpretentious. However, we’d say that until this 1.0-litre engine becomes available in lesser trims, the much cheaper 1.2 SE model is a better bet – particularly if you’re a private buyer. True, it isn’t as economical, but it’ll cost you less on every other front, and is just as good to drive.

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1st – Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI 95 Sport

For Great driving position; sweet engine; low fuel and finance costs

Against Cramped rear space; not as fast or as flexible as the Mini

Verdict An ideal blend of low running costs, high-end feel and fun handling

Read the full Audi A1 review

2nd – Mini Cooper 5dr Pepper Pack

For Strong performance; practical boot; agile handling

Against So-so economy; road noise; priciest

Verdict Great fun, but it makes the A1 look cheap

Read the full Mini hatchback review

3rd – Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95 Bluemotion 5dr

For Spacious interior; refinement; comfortable ride

Against Short of grip; flat seats; SE trim is better value

Verdict Engine is spot on, Bluemotion trim less so

Read the full VW Polo review

Specifications: Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI 95 Sport

Engine size 1.0-litre, turbo, petrol

List price Β£17,125

Target Price Β£16,221

Power 94bhp

Torque 118lb ft

0-62mph 10.9sec

Top speed 116mph

Fuel economy 53.4mpg

CO2 emissions 97g/km

Specifications: Mini Cooper 5dr Pepper Pack

Engine size 1.5-litre, turbo, petrol

List price Β£17,565

Target Price Β£16,546

Power 134bhp

Torque 162lb ft

0-62mph 8.9sec

Top speed 129mph

Fuel economy 42.6mpg

CO2 emissions 109g/km

Specifications: Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95 Bluemotion 5dr

Engine size 1.0-litre, turbo, petrol

List price Β£15,635

Target Price Β£14,182

Power 94bhp

Torque 118lb ft

0-62mph 10.5sec

Top speed 119mph

Fuel economy 56.5mpg

CO2 emissions 94g/km

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