The Audi A1 – all you expect from Audi, in a smaller shell

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With orders of the new Audi A1 expected to reach customers before the year-end, there are savings to be had on the outgoing model. To test what you get for your money, I drive a last-gen A1 for Rosedale, part of the Lookers family.

Reasonably priced and reasonably sized, at one point you could argue that many of the superminis on the road were opted for because they’re cheap to run and easy to manoeuvre.

However, similar to the increased interest in SUV models at the moment, the supermini sector also began to grow and churn out models that would appeal to a different crowd and challenge expectations of what a city car can do.

That’s where the A1 comes in

The Audi A1 does just that, as a car that demonstrates what can be done by taking the supermini template and giving it a bit more budget.

Launched in 2009, the A1 quickly caught on and European sales have been solid since 2011.

Audi has taken the hugely popular supermini template and blended it with their ‘big car’ reputation, styling out the interior and adding a number of features that you’d usually find in models further up the range.

I tested the 5-door Audi A1 Sportback in ‘S line Nav’ trim, that features a sportier body kit and satnav as standard.

The S line has appeal

Small hatchbacks in a 5-door guise can sometimes lose the compact design that the smaller 3-door versions have, but the A1 Sportback looks sleek rather than stretched, and no less athletic in S line.

Although the standard model isn’t dull, the S line is an appealing getup for the A1 and will satisfy a taste for sporty trims without having to pay the premium on the performance-spec Audi S1.

The key features are its 17-inch alloys and body kit, and in the manufacturer’s Glacier White paint they’re brilliantly emphasised.

On the move

The last-gen A1 model has engine options ranging from the plucky 1.0-litre, up to the Audi S1’s potent 2.0-litre petrol.

An Audi A1 sitting beneath a bridge

With 227bhp, however, the latter of those will probably be exclusively suited to those browsing the performance end of the market. Most will be satisfied with the smaller engines on offer.

The model I drove held the middle ground – the 1.4-litre petrol with optional ‘S tronic’ gearbox, Audi’s automatic transmission.

Even with the S line’s firmer suspension, it still moved about smoothly and comfortably. It also has the ‘solid’ feel that comes with the larger Audi models, backing up the A1’s five-star NCAP safety rating.

And unlike some automatics, the S tronic gearbox manages the changes without any juddering or uncertainty over what gear to select.

The 1.4-litre petrol offers flexibility

While it’s capable of a sensible drive and decent mpg score, it’s also ready to get itself about with a bit more urgency when needed.

The turbocharged 1.4-litre unit gets underway with little delay and has more than enough pull for drivers not needing the raw power of the S1.

Manual gearchanges were managed well, too. The flappy paddles were fitted to the back of the wheel rather than the steering column, allowing for gear changing on the turn.

And when you’re higher up the rev counter, the gearbox gives a satisfying kickback – a welcome touch, considering automatics often smooth the transition between gears.

Typical Audi appeal

There might be other hatchbacks that can give a more dynamic drive, but the A1 has the Audi look and feel that you won’t find elsewhere in the class.

A Glacier White Audi A1, with the S line's bodykit and 17-inch alloys

The balance of leather and metallic detailing – along with an uncomplicated and comprehensive media system – make up a typically Audi interior. And with a few extras on the outside, the A1 S line has even more draw.

If you’re considering a higher spec hatchback, but want to avoid a hefty price tag, the last-gen Audi A1 Sportback S line should be on your radar. As an outgoing model, prices on nearly new and used A1s should also drop.

If you’re set on a brand-new motor, however, the new A1 Sportback will reach the forecourt before the end of the year. Watch the video below for more on the latest model, or find our offers here.


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