Ahead of the new Audi A1 launch later this year, you can get yourself a decent saving on the current model. I test an ’18 plate A1, to find out what you get for your money
At one time a fair few of the superminis on the road were reasonably priced, reasonably sized motors that your grandparents probably drove around in, because they were cheap to run and a dream to manoeuvre into the parking bays at their local supermarket.
Similar to what’s happening at the other end of the spectrum with the boom in SUV models, the supermini sector is also expanding, with new models pitched at the high-end motorist helping to defy expectations of what a small city cruiser can do.
One of these is the Audi A1. Although it only launched in 2009, the A1 shot to popularity and European sales have been pretty much constant since 2011.
Building on what was already a hugely popular car type – not least for practicality and affordability – Audi created something that would appeal to those looking for a smaller car, but one that comes with a number of ‘big car’ features.
I drove the 5-door Audi A1 Sportback in the ‘S line Nav’ trim that comes with a number of upgrades as standard, including a sportier body kit and satnav.
As a fan of sportier trims, the S line appeals
Often, small hatchbacks in 5-door form can lose the smart looks that a 3-door has, but the A1 Sportback looks balanced rather than bloated, and looks no less sporty in the S line getup.
The standard A1 isn’t a boring car, but if you’re wanting something a bit more appealing without forking out for the performance-spec Audi S1, the S line will more than do the job.
The 17-inch alloys and body kit are the standout features, and in Glacier White – to use the official lingo – it looks pretty special.
A1 on the A1
There’s an engine for most needs, ranging from a 1.0-litre up to the Audi S1’s 2.0-litre petrol.
At 227bhp, the latter of those is probably appealing to the thrill-seeking end of the market. The crowd that is less concerned with how easily the car slides into supermarket bays, as much as how quick it’ll get you there.
Most, however, will find what they want with the smaller engines. I went down the middle with the 1.4-litre petrol, and the optional ‘S tronic’ gearbox – Audi speak for automatic.
And considering the firmer suspension that comes with the S line, it’s still able to move through the motions smoothly without giving an uncompromising ride. It also has the ‘solid’ feel you get with larger Audi models, creating a very real sense of security that’s backed up by a five-star NCAP safety rating.
Unlike some automatics, the A1’s S tronic gearbox also manages to go through the changes without being unsure of what gear it wants to be in and does so without jerking or revving loudly as it drops a level.
The rear spoiler warrants a bit of put-your-foot-down fun
Whilst also being able to drive sensibly, and give a decent return on mpg, the A1 also has another side.
That sportier and firmer suspension setup – coupled with the 17-inch alloys and rear spoiler – is surely reason enough to give it some beans. In line with the legal limits, of course.
The turbocharged 1.4-litre gets itself up to speed with no delay and gives more than enough poke for drivers not needing something as raw as the S1.
And the flappy paddles also work very well – they’re fitted to the back of the wheel and rotate with it, allowing for manual gearchanges mid-turn.
When you’re higher in the revs, the gearbox also gives a bit of kickback – a nice touch considering automatic ‘boxes tend to remove the novelty of shifting up and down by smoothening the transition.
It comes down to looks
Although there are other hatchbacks that can offer a more fluid and sporty drive, the A1’s main draw has to be the signature Audi looks and feel.
It’s definitely still a fun car to drive, no doubt, but where it really excels is in the level of luxury that it gives, and that’s something that no rivals come close to.
The A1’s interior is just as cushy as you’d want it to be, with a nice balance of leather and metallic detailing that leave no doubt it belongs in an Audi, and a media system that is comprehensive without being complicated.
And then obviously, there’s the looks. In S line, especially, the A1 has all of the usual Audi appeal, with a few extras such as the upgraded bumpers and rear spoiler that help add to its draw.
If you’re after a higher spec A1, but want to avoid paying for the priciest models, you’d do well to nab one of these.
For more on the Audi A1 Sportback, including vehicle spec and current offers, have a look at www.lookers.co.uk/audi/new-cars/audi-a1-sportback/