The Audi A1 and BMW 1 Series are the brand’s smallest cars. If you’re looking for a small hatchback that offers a sporty edge and a premium interior, it’s hard to ignore these two German rivals.
But which is better suited to you? Read our comparison review to help you make an informed decision.
Like all used Audi models in its lineup, the A1 looks like its recently undergone a course of steroids.
The latest A1 is a muscly and sharp-angled small hatchback – taking design cues from Audi’s flagship supercar; the R8. This is a trend that all Audis have adopted lately, and it certainly makes them appear more aggressive on the road.
The latest BMW 1 Series is also a mean-looking car, which is a good thing now it's lost the bug-eyed look its ancestors had.
Older versions were available with either three or five doors, but models from 2019 are now only available with five doors – like the new Volkswagen Golf.
What are they like to drive?
When it comes to the road, both cars offer a sporty feel, with direct, sharp steering and a lightness one only gets from a small hatchback.
The A1 is more at home in a city environment because of its compact size, but it still tackles a country road with ease – especially in sporty S1 trim. It’s got plenty of power from a range of petrol engines, and it’s very economical too.
The used BMW 1 Series, like the A1, is a fun little car to chuck around a country road, though it’s also very civilised and comfortable on even slightly rougher surfaces.
Later models switched from rear- to front-wheel drive (more powerful models are four-wheel drive), which hasn’t changed how it drives all that much, but the more powerful versions are great at putting the power down.
Interior and technology
Inside, the Audi A1 features a very clean and simple interior, which is something the brand has excelled at for decades.
Despite its simple nature, the A1 still has lots of tech packed into its small package.
It’s safe to say the A1 is very well kitted-out for a car of its class and price, so you are unlikely to want any more than what's already given to you.
As interiors go, the 1 Series is very similar. It too has all the smartphone connectivity you’d hope for in a modern car, as well as the option to go full race car (sort of) and get sports seats fitted in the top-spec M135i.
It’s pretty safe to say that whichever car you choose, you’ll be pleased with the cabin.
The materials are finished to a really high standard and the seats are comfortable – which is a luxury in a small car.
Bootspace and practicality
Inside, the Audi A1 is very practical – it's got loads of cubbyholes as well as a decent-sized glovebox.
The boot has a 335-litre capacity, which is more than enough for your weekly food shop or a few smaller suitcases.
This space grows to 1,090 litres if you fold the rear seats down, which is a nice little bonus.
The BMW 1 Series has a slightly larger boot at 380 litres, which means you can squeeze a few more items in there.
But being a bigger car, it would come as no surprise that it has more storage options.
Moving closer to the front, you’ll find comfortable rear seats that have enough space for most people.
You may struggle if over six feet tall, but small hatchbacks are never usually kind to the giants among us.
Read our in-depth car reviews
Safety and reliability
Being modern cars, there's very little that can go wrong when it comes to reliability.
Both BMW and Audi take pride in their work and have been building and designing cars for decades.
The engines and parts they use are very sturdy and will keep the car running for many years to come.
The same goes for safety – both hatchbacks scored a full five stars following their most recent Euro NCAP crash testing.
Boot space: 335 litres
BMW 1 Series
Boot space: 380 litres
Verdict: Audi A1 vs BMW 1 Series: which should you buy?
After reading our comparison, we’re sure you’ve come to your own conclusion on which car is better suited to you. But if you need a little nudge, our quick verdict may help you.
The Audi A1 is a car that suits those living in a city or small town, or someone who simply doesn’t want/need a larger hatchback.
It’s not as small as a traditional city car, but it’s still slight. It’s great on a country road and handles motorways just fine.
However, if you’re someone who wants a bigger, slightly more powerful hatchback, then the 1 Series is for you.
It handles great, is good on fuel, and is a hoot to drive around a tight British B-road.
Plus, it has a larger boot than the A1, if that’s important to you.