If you’re looking for a sporty small hatchback with premium credentials, the Audi A1 is hard to beat. The second-generation A1’s chiselled good looks, luxuriously appointed cabin and generous levels of tech put it firmly into a class of its own, leaving just main rival the MINI hatch to nip at its heels.
Where the first-generation Audi A1 was rounded and friendly-looking, the latest iteration looks like it’s been spending its weekends in the gym with its sharp and sculptured body and a series of design elements that bolster its sporty image.
The A1’s wide grille is reminiscent of Audi’s halo R8 supercar, while its side profile nods to the A5 Coupé and the Q8 SUV. The A1 is firmly in premium territory, boasting the German quality of its bigger siblings in a small, handsome package that’s just a little bit more serious than its predecessor.
The latest iteration looks like it’s been spending its weekends in the gym
What’s it like to drive?
It will come as no surprise that the Audi A1 is perfect for getting around the city. Thanks to its size and light controls, it’s adept at navigating narrow traffic-clogged streets and getting into tight parking spaces.
Perhaps more surprising is how well it deals with country roads. Thanks to sporty handling and a surplus of grip, the baby Audi negotiates bends with minimal body lean. Unusually for a small car it’s also very quiet and smooth on the motorway, making those longer journeys as relaxing as they’d be in one of Audi’s larger stablemates.
Acceleration is on a par with other superminis, so while it won’t set your hair on fire there’s enough power for overtaking. When it comes to outright driving enjoyment, the A1 may not have quite as much ‘fun factor’ as the Ford Fiesta. The Audi more than makes up for it with its refined, ‘premium’ feel.
Thanks to sporty handling and a surplus of grip, the baby Audi negotiates bends with minimal body lean.
As with its sharper exterior, the latest Audi A1’s interior is quite a departure from its predecessor. Inside it‘s a different car, with lashings of digital technology and a rallying-inspired, driver-focused cockpit. The driving position is spot-on, the steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach, and sport seats – available in Sport trim – will hold you in place through the corners.
Chunky rear pillars restrict the rear view a tad. Apart from that all-round visibility is good. In Sport trim and above, rear parking sensors are fitted as standard. Parking shouldn’t present much of a problem, even for those who failed their driving tests on parallel parking.
All trims come with a digital dashboard and 8.8-inch infotainment screen that controls Audi's smartphone integration system, which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s a DAB radio and Bluetooth as well. Some cars come with the optional Technology Pack, which gives you a 10.1-inch screen and additional features, including built-in sat nav and wireless phone charging.
Interior quality mirrors the A1’s new, grown-up exterior. The cabin’s tactile soft-touch materials, high-quality switches and gloss black trim all combine to make the A1 very pleasant.
Unlike its predecessor, the latest A1 is only available as a five-door ‘Sportback’, which provides much more interior comfort than the old model. Front and rear seat leg and headroom are much improved, and even six-footers should be relatively comfortable in the back.
Interior storage is good, with a decent-sized glovebox and numerous door pockets providing space for phones and everyday road-trip goodies. Luggage space is also impressive, with the boot capable of swallowing at least 5 carry-on sized suitcases.
Folding rear seats give you more room for camping holidays or trips to the dump. The A1 also features a lower rear loading lip to make lifting heavy items into the boot less of a chore.
Running costs and reliability
The Audi A1 may be pricier than most of the competition, but it’s still cheaper than the 5-door MINI. Factor in its strong residual values – the A1 boasts the slowest predicted depreciation in its class representing good long-term value. All versions deliver good fuel economy, with the 30 TFSI model delivering 53.3mpg. C02 emissions are also relatively low, in line with the competition.
The previous A1 was a tried and tested performer and the new car is no different, so any reliability issues shouldn’t be much of a worry. As a Volkswagen Group product, the Audi A1 shares most of its engines and technology with the ultra-dependable VW Polo and SEAT Ibiza.
What cinch loves
We love the A1’s sharp looksand modern interior. It’s a great all-rounder, as happy in town as it is on country roads.It offers comfort and refinement you’d normally only find in a larger car.The Audi A1 is loaded with driver technology and safety features and has a top Euro NCAP crash test rating. Considering it’s wearing that Audi badge, the A1 offers good value and is affordable to run.
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We’re big fans of the Audi A1. It’s sporty, safe and stylish – and great to drive – while also being surprisingly cheap to run. It also offers levels of refinement that its rivals will be hard pressed to beat.
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