The Audi A1 is the entry level model into the Audi range and promises a premium car experience within the compact dimensions of a small hatchback. The A1 has recently been given a small facelift, some new engines, some changes to the suspension and steering, new colours, new alloy wheel designs and some more equipment. With prices starting at €20,800, the A1 slots firmly into the premium small car class, where image and kerb appeal are the currency of sale. Has the A1 still got it?
Watch my video review of the Audi A1 or scroll down to read a review:
No worries there for the A1. It has the presence on the road of a larger car and the classic, handsome shape that announces the arrival of a car from a premium German carmaker. Exterior updates for 2015 are very subtle – there’s a new wider, flatter single frame grille, new bumpers and new lights, but it’s a mature and stylish look for the A1. There is still the option to customise the A1 by changing the colour of the roof arch, and there are new alloy wheel designs and new colours to choose from.
But it’s in the cabin where the A1 really shows that it’s a cut above the rest. It’s really just a distilled down version of the cabins from bigger Audis, so that means lots of really good high quality plastics, neat design touches like circular vents and an oval shaped rear view mirror, and just a simple, clean layout that is very sophisticated.
The A1 is available as a 3 door or a 5 door Sportback model. The 3 door is slightly compromised because it has just two designated seats in the back (there are 3 in the five door). Depending on who is driving, the legroom could get tight in the rear and the sloping roof eats into headroom for taller passengers. But the boot is the same size in both the 3 and 5 door and at 270 litres, it’s a reasonable size for a small car, with a removable false floor for extra practicality.
The big news for the new A1 range is the addition of two new three cylinder engines, one petrol and one diesel. My test car had the new 1.0 litre TFSI turbocharged petrol unit with 95bhp. It’s extremely refined, efficient and quiet on the move. For a small petrol engine it never feels out of its depth across motorways, rural roads and urban driving and it feels quick with a 0-100km/h sprint time of 10.9 seconds. This engine is available with a five speed manual or a seven speed S tronic automatic transmission, and my test car had the automatic gearbox. It’s a dual clutch system so the gear changes are slick and smooth.
There’s also an even more efficient new three cylinder 1.4TDI diesel for the A1 with 90bhp, and the old 1.4 litre petrol engines (125bhp and 150bhp) and 1.6 diesel (116bhp) have been revised to make them more efficient. But really one of the new three cylinder units should suit most people’s needs and will keep the costs down too.
The A1 has ‘big car’ refinement on the road and is very hushed at speed, even on the motorway. The ride is on the firmer side, but it’s not uncomfortable. The A1 handles well with good grip and the steering is precise and quick to respond to inputs. For me, the A1 is just let down by a lack of feedback from the steering that stops it from being a truly fun car to drive; it’s more of a comfortable, refined and predictable one.
The new 1.0TFSI 95 has emissions of just 97g CO2/km when mated to a manual gearbox so you will pay just €180 to tax it per year. The official economy for this engine is just over 67mpg.
There are three trim levels: an entry level model, SE and S Line. Standard equipment is very good, including air con, electric windows and mirrors, alloys, MMI infotainment system and a trip computer. But if you go up to SE you get additional rear parking sensors, and a few interior and exterior changes like bigger alloys, sports seats, a centre armrest and LED rear lights. S Line is the sporty one with 17” alloy wheels, sport suspension, special S Line bumpers and rear spoiler, Audi Drive Select on some engines, front fog lights and xenon headlights.
All models get Audi’s MMI infotainment system. It comes with a very cool monitor that pops out of the dash and allows you to flick through vehicle settings, radio channels, any media attached and displays all your contacts from your smartphone so you can make and receive calls easily through the Bluetooth connection. It’s very easy to operate on the move with the help of well-labelled shortcut buttons, a multifunction steering wheel (standard) and voice activation.
The Audi A1 is a well-equipped small car with kerb appeal and ‘big car’ maturity, and with customisation options and an engine line-up that ticks the efficiency and power boxes, there should be an A1 to suit all tastes. With the A1, Audi has managed to package all the attributes of a premium car – the classy looks, the high quality interior, the sophisticated drive, along with the efficiency that small car buyers want – and what you’re left with is a very desirable small car.
Model tested: Audi A1 1.0TFSI 95 SE S tronic
Price (OTR): €25,350 (A1 range starts at RRP €20,800)
Engine: 1.0 litre, three cylinder turbocharged petrol
0-100km/h: 10.9 seconds
Economy: 64.2mpg (4.4l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 102g/km
Tax band: A3 (€190 per year)