With a choice of engine types and trim levels, the A1 seems to have everything you could ask for in a compact car. It boasts eye-catching good looks with neat streamlining and has quality features at every turn.
The goodGreat economy and some models are exempt from road tax
The badIt’s never going to be cheap, but it will have great lasting value
Audi A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport S tronic
Premium quality in a compact form – that perfectly sums up the Audi A1 Sportback.
Following on from the highly successful and multi award-winning A1 which was launched in 2010, the five-door version adds extra flexibility and ease of access.
And make no mistake, the A1 Sportback may well be the company’s smallest five-door model, but it is massive on style, quality and appeal.
The car looks great from all angles with its sweeping streamlined body, privacy glass, two-tone coloured door mirrors, front fog lights, twin tailpipes and smart alloys.
And that exceptionally high level of build quality is just as apparent once you take your seat behind the three spoke multi-function leather steering wheel.
First impressions are vital and the A1 Sportback oozes class with a very spacious cabin and a whole host of on-board wizardry to help make every journey as enjoyable as possible.
There are a choice of engines to select from and three trim levels too, but Audi believes the mid-range Sport specification will account for 60 per cent of sales, so that seemed the ideal model to put through its paces.
The petrol-powered 1.4 TFSI S tronic (122PS) in Sport trim has an entry price of £16,475, but the test model was £19,560 due to a number of optional extras such as a connectivity package and excellent sat nav system.
Audi’s stats show this particular model can reach from 0-62 in nine seconds with a top speed of 126mph.
It has emission figures of 122g/km and a combined fuel efficiency of 53.3mpg.
All controls and dials are perfectly positioned for ease of use and the number of creature comforts seems almost endless including start/stop technology, electric climate control, sports seats, sports suspension, Bluetooth connectivity, a brilliant music and media system, sat nav, a foldaway colour display screen, a driver’s information system and upgraded interior styling.
To be honest, the list just goes on and on.
Comfort levels are very high and there is ample room for two adult passengers in the rear seats.
The generously-sized boot can accommodate luggage requirements and the split-folding rear seats means transporting larger items is not an issue either.
So the A1 Sportback looks great, is packed with quality features, but how does it handle?
Well, when it comes to performance, the A1 Sportback is certainly no slouch.
The 1.4-litre petrol-powered engine delivers plenty of oomph and acceleration, and the seven-speed automatic transmission is impressively smooth.
You can use the steering wheel mounted paddles to change gear if desired.
In slow, built-up traffic the A1 Sportback weaved its way effortlessly through the crowds and that’s where the smooth stop/start system is a real bonus.
All-round visibility is good even though the oval-shaped rearview mirror is quite small and the car is a complete dream to park thanks to its compact size.
Then, out on the faster country lanes, the A1 Sportback bursts into life.
There seems to be an endless supply of power at your disposal which means overtaking slower moving lorries or tractors is no problem.
But for me, the most impressive factor was the car’s road-holding which was exceptional even on tight bends.
The cabin noise was virtually non-existent and the ride generally very good. It was a tad bouncy at times although the blame should probably be directed at the poor road surface rather than the car’s sharp suspension.
As one would expect from Audi, the A1 Sportback is fitted with a compressive list of first class safety specifications.
All in all, the A1 Sportback is a brilliant compact car.
Audi claims 70 per cent of A1 buyers came from a different brand and that poaching process could be seen in epic proportions once again with the Sportback model too.
Audi A1 1.6 TDI Sport
With an English Oxford dictionary definition that means excellent and first rate the A1 has plenty to live up to and thankfully for Audi it fits the big build up perfectly.
Despite being the smallest Audi of the modern era, the A1 introduces the compact car market to a premium brand and with outstanding efficiency, best-in-class residual values and its exceptional scope for personalisation, competitors will be sending their designers scurrying back to the drawing board.
First impressions are vital and the A1 succeeds on all counts. It boasts a very modern look with striking streamlining and an optional roof contrast line, eye-catching 17-inch bi-colour alloys, a single frame grille, very distinctive rear tail lights that stand out from the bodyline, body-coloured door mirrors with integrated indicators and plenty more. Basically the A1 has the personality to liven up any crowded car park.
And that quality and attention to fine detail continues as soon as you take your seat behind the wheel.
The black and titanium grey cloth sports seats offer plenty of support and immediately you know you are in for something a little bit special.
There is auto start/stop at your disposal and the three-spoke multi-function steering wheel is easily adjusted for height and reach.
The air vent sleeves are nicely trimmed in gloss black surrounds and there is aluminium trim on the controls, switches, glove compartment, door handles and door sills.
The model supplied for the test drive had an asking price of £15,675 but this was increased by a further £5k by the outstanding optional extras including a media style package, BOSE premium sound system, sat nav and much more besides.
So the A1 has the looks and the great spec – like most Audi models to be fair, but what about the handling and performance?
Once again, it doesn’t disappoint. Through busy streets, the A1 was both agile and very easy to manoeuvre and the driver really benefits from excellent all-round visibility.
Then, out on the faster roads, the 1.6-litre diesel-driven engine bursts into life moving effortlessly and smoothly through the five-speed manual transmission. Road-holding is excellent and the suspension copes aptly with our numerous potholed roads. Comfort levels are very good and there is room to carry four adults, although rear-seat passengers do not have a huge amount of headroom.
The boot is very generously-sized and can be further enhanced thanks to split folding rear seats. Elsewhere, there are numerous smaller, useful storage compartments throughout the cabin.
As one would expect from Audi, the A1 has been kitted out with a very comprehensive list of safety features including anti-lock brakes with electronic stability programme, numerous airbags and loads more.
All in all, Audi has certainly made sure that true premium meets compact size for the very first time and when you consider the choice of engine styles and spec levels available, the A1 has all the showmanship and quality to live up to its big-name billing.