Review: Audi A1

A premium compact car with a stunning sporty exterior

10 Jul 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Precise and safe handling

  • Suprisingly roomy

  • Hard-wearing and reliable

Cons

  • Small boot

  • Occasional electrical hiccups

  • Pricey supermini

Our expert rating

The Audi A1 is a German-made supermini which is still relatively new on the scene. It made its debut at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. The Sportback, five-door, version, was launched a year later.

The A1 lived up to the high expectation Audi has set over the years. It's a premium compact car with a stunning sporty exterior.

Rear of an Audi A1 in white

Performance

The A1 is swift and nimble. Many used examples are available with the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, which shifts very quickly, comfortably and with no detectable interruption to the flow of power.

Operated automatically or manually, the S tronic gearbox adds another layer of pleasure to what is an already fun car to drive. The A1 also sets new efficiency standards. For instance, the average fuel consumption of the 120bhp 1.4 TFSI engine is 54.3mpg.

Engine for the Audi A1

Ride and handling

Behind the wheel, the agile chassis and generally responsive engines make for a very satisfying drive. The steering is ultra-direct and, thanks to excellent weight distribution and good electronic stabilisation gadgetry, the handling is precise and safe.

Interior space

The interior of the A1 is surprisingly roomy with a clean, clear control layout. Modern materials and colours emphasise the car’s youthful character. The only drawback is the boot. It is small, and it backs up what Audi originally said at launch about its target market being young, urban and lifestyle-oriented. If you fit that demographic, then the A1 could be the car for you.

Front of the Audi A1 cabin

What to know before you buy

In its short life the Audi A1 has proved hard-wearing, and reliable. However, electrical hiccups can occasionally cause warning lights to become visible for no good reason. The Bluetooth system can also play up, and the boot lock can rattle – but none of these issues are deal-breakers.

Diesel engine models have a timing belt that needs to be replaced every five years. So bear this in mind if you’re looking into buying a 2010 model. If you can find an A1 that has had this work done early, then go for it. If you’re sorting this out yourself, it may cost over £800 at a main Audi dealer.

It is actually worth bargaining to get this replaced before you buy if you’re shopping at a used-car dealership.

Side view of the Audi A1 in white

Alternative cars

The A1’s most obvious adversary is the Mini, although the Mini’s boot is even smaller than the Audi’s. The Fiat 500 is very popular, too, and appeals to the same market as the A1 but it’s a three-door only and doesn’t have the solidity of the German hatchback. The Alfa Romeo MiTo is another worthy opponent. Even though it comes with Italian flair and Latin sex appeal it isn’t nearly as well bolted together inside or out.

Audi A1 and Mini Cooper - alternative car

Overall verdict

You may suspect that Audi’s success with the A1 is down to its sheer good looks, but in fact it’s far more to do with the brand’s reputation for attention to detail and quality. It might not be the cheapest used supermini, or have the biggest boot, but Audis are always strong performers in every way - and that will balance the books.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall