Audi A1 1.0 TFSI SE
List price £14,530
Target Price £14,149
The cheapest version of Audi's cheapest car
List price £14,075
Target Price £13,366
More powerful than the A1, but is it a better buy?
Our favourite Mini hatchback is the Cooper, but with a starting price of well over £15,000, it isn’t exactly a cheap runaround.
Thankfully, the One version brings Mini ownership to a slightly less well-heeled audience, because not only is it a sizeable £1550 cheaper than its sportier sibling, it also attracts lower insurance premiums – a key consideration for young drivers.
Is it a better buy than the entry-level Audi A1, though? This boasts a similarly premium image, fine driving manners and one of the smartest interiors of any small hatchback.
What are they like to drive?
Both cars use small, turbocharged engines, but the Mini’s pumps out a fair bit more power and torque, so it’s unsurprisingly the nippier of the two. Put your foot down and speed builds quickly no matter which gear you’re in, and while you do notice one or two flat spots in the power delivery as the revs rise, this doesn’t spoil the experience much at all.
The A1’s engine needs more revs to achieve the same turn of pace, and even when pushed hard it ultimately loses ground to its rival. True, the A1’s sharper, more predictable throttle responses make it easier to drive at low speeds, but the Mini’s engine is more refined; it’s quieter and you feel less vibration through the soles of your feet.
Sadly, this doesn’t mean the Mini is a hushed cruiser, because you have to put up with up a lot more road noise than in the A1 – especially over coarse surfaces – while its upright windscreen generates more wind noise.
It’s also a shame about the Mini’s notchy six-speed manual gearbox. Try to rush it and you’ll sometimes find it hard to engage the right gear, whereas the A1’s five-speed 'box is lighter, smoother and more precise.
At least the One delivers on the sort of playful handling that Mini has become famous for. Chuck the car into a bend at moderate speeds and it turns in keenly, responding to the quick – if unnecessarily heavy – steering. That said, the A1 impresses even more through the corners; it changes direction more eagerly, grips harder and stays better balanced as you approach its grip limits. You also get a better sense of connection with the road through the steering, which allows you to place the car more accurately through bends.
The A1’s sporty suspension makes for a slightly choppy ride. Things never border on harsh or crashy, but you’re aware of bumps passing beneath the car. The Mini isn’t exactly a limo, but it is slightly more forgiving, and stays more settled and composed on the motorway.
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