Audi A1 review: premium small hatch still impresses
The Audi A1 is a luxurious and sporty-looking small hatch that gives the MINI a run for its money
The Audi A1 still maintains a strong, stylish appearance, and with its wide grille similar to that of the R8 supercar, the luxurious supermini looks distinctly sporty. The reality is less exciting on the road, because although the A1 handles very competently and rides well, it doesn’t have the sporty responses of its key rival the MINI. It wins back ground when it comes to refinement though, as the A1 is almost as hushed and relaxed to ride in as a Mercedes C-Class.
The interior design looks very upmarket-Audi too, but closer inspection reveals very similar materials used to the much cheaper VW Polo. Engine choice is limited, but performance is satisfactory, and with only a roomy five-door body available it’s practical too.
About the Audi A1
The second-generation Audi A1 is now only available as a five-door hatchback, which Audi refers to as a Sportback, while the higher-riding Citycarver model with its SUV-lite styling was discontinued back in 2021. Powertrain and trim options have been pared back over time, too, as Audi shifts its focus to production of larger, more premium models.
The A1 line-up now begins with the Sport specification, followed by S line and Black Edition versions, with the previous entry-level Technik and the top-of-the-range Vorsprung trim no longer available.
Sport variants give you 16-inch 10-spoke turbine style alloys, matt black exterior accents, rear parking sensors, front sport seats and cruise control, while S line upgrades to 17-inch 5-spoke alloys, lowered firmer suspension and an exterior styling pack. The Black Edition adds 18-inch alloys and black exterior trim including a contrast roof.
Engine options for the A1 include a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder unit with 94bhp, badged 25 TFSI and available with either five-speed manual, or seven-speed S tronic auto transmission. Then there's the 108bhp 30 TFSI, offered with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed S tronic auto. The 35 TFSI introduces a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 148bhp mated to the seven-speed auto transmission. The old S Line Competition version with a 204bhp 2.0-litre unit, badged 40 TFSI is not longer offered.
Given its high pricing, the Audi A1 has always been attempting to carve out a niche as ‘the’ premium supermini, it seems. It has the less practical MINI line-up to contend with of course, but its biggest problem may be the sheer quality and desirability of its Volkswagen Group stablemate the VW Polo, which offers similar tech and build quality, for a lot less cash. Other possible rivals in the style-led small car market include the Peugeot 208 and the Fiat 500, but neither feels as grown-up or premium as the Audi A1.
Used and nearly new
Audi launched the second-generation A1 in 2018, so you shouldn't have too much trouble in sourcing a decent used example. Although it's the smallest model in the German manufacturer's lineup, the A1 still benefits from the brand's smart, sophisticated image, which means second-hand prices remain pretty buoyant. You'll certainly pay more for an A1 compared to most of its rivals, but you should get a decent chunk of that back if you choose to eventually sell the car on.
Audi A1 history
Audi A1 Mk1: 2010-2018
The Audi A1 was launched in the UK in 2010 as a three-door hatchback model, with the five-door Sportback version following a year later. As a premium small car the A1 was pitched to compete with the classy MINI hatch, offering sharp styling, a first-rate interior and build quality to rival more expensive machinery.
Under the skin, though, the A1 used the same basic architecture as its VW Polo, Skoda Fabia and SEAT Ibiza cousins, which meant it didn't really offer up as much driving fun as the MINI. That wasn't really the point of the A1, however, and its small car luxury feel helped to win over buyers.
Audi offered a range of trim levels for the 1st-gen A1, so you should have plenty of choice when it comes to deciding which model to go for: entry SE still offers a good level of kit, although mid-range Sport and the popular S line specification include appealing features such as sports seats, bigger wheels and improved on-board tech. Read our full Mk1 Audi A1 buyer’s guide here…
For an alternative review of the Audi A1, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Audi A1 is a luxurious and sporty-looking small hatch that gives the MINI a run for its money
- 2Engines, performance and driveA smooth ride, with crisp handling and exceptional refinement make the Audi A1 a pleasure to drive
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe Audi A1’s day-to-day running costs should be no more than rivals, and it may keep its value better, too
- 4Interior, design and technologyExcellent design is backed up with superior tech, but the cabin plastics could be nicer
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceFive-door practicality and a roomy cabin make the A1 a very family-friendly option
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe Audi A1 offers a comprehensive safety package, while reliability should be strong, too