The Audi A1 is certainly worth a look if you’re searching for a tiny, easy-to-drive vehicle without sacrificing quality. It’s similar to a Fabergé egg in that it’s small and valuable, but the initial costs can be high, even if the running costs are low.
It’s the most upscale little vehicle on the market, but models like the Volkswagen Polo and Seat Ibiza come close, and the Ford Fiesta Vignale isn’t far behind.
The A1 has a stunning appearance. Take, for example, the intake-heavy front end. Although many black plastic grilles lead nowhere, they give the Audi A1 a sportier appearance than a MINI hatchback or VW Polo. It looks much better if you choose a top-of-the-line model with massive alloy wheels and a striking two-tone paint job.
That’s not to suggest you have to spend a lot of money to acquire a good cabin in your Audi A1. On the contrary, every vehicle comes with a dual-screen infotainment system and plenty of posh-feeling plastics, making it seem more premium than other tiny hatchbacks. However, a few trimmings, particularly on the doors, bring the side down a notch.
The Audi A1 is also a lot roomier than your typical little family car. There’s enough headroom in the front, lots of seat adjustability to help you get comfortable, and enough space in the rear for two more persons to travel without feeling cramped. The boot is also very spacious compared to alternatives, so you can easily fit several items of baggage or even a set of golf clubs in there, and there’s enough for a bike if you fold the seats down.
However, you’re unlikely to use your Audi A1 to transport bulky goods to and from the dump. Instead, you’ll probably be rushing to and from town during rush hour, with the A1’s tiny size, light controls, and good visibility making it easy to park in the tight gaps.
The three-cylinder 20 TFSI petrol engine is the one to choose if you spend a lot of time in town. However, a variety of progressively powerful 30, 35, and 40 four-cylinder variants are better suited for long travels and extended highway drives. They’re all reasonably smooth and economical, although it’s a pity the Audi A1 doesn’t come with a fuel-efficient diesel engine for extended cross-country drives.
The Audi A1 optional automatic transmission takes the sting out of long excursions, although it may be jerky at low speeds when it comes to longer trips. The usual manual gears are simple to use, but even with the slickest six-speed transmission, the Audi A1 isn’t as much joy to drive along a quiet country road as the Ford Fiesta or MINI hatchback.
Is it worth it
The main flaw with the new Audi A1 is that it doesn’t drive as crisply and engagingly as it should. Does it make a difference? Probably not for 95% of purchasers. Even for the 5% that do care, it’s difficult to sustain caring after seeing the cabin design, packing, colour and trim choices, and so on. This is a highly sought-after compact hatchback.
But first, let’s go back to driving. Audi redesigned the A4 a few years ago, emphasising comfort, and the result was the most excellent A4 ever, a vehicle that seemed perfectly tailored to its target market. There was a potential to do something similar here to spice up the A1 experience. Unfortunately, Audi elected not to do so instead of equipping the vehicle with shoddy road manners. However, it is not a deal-breaker. The A1 shines as a visual item and is well worth the money.