By Tom Swain
Audi’s A1 has been on sale since 2010, and has sold pretty well in the time since. It offers premium brand allure in a supermini package, and the draw of those four silver rings can’t be overstated. It’s a new option for trendy Mini owners, and even those drivers looking to move beyond the ubiquity of a Ford Fiesta.
The A1 is available with a choice of four trim levels, and a range of petrol and diesel engines. Prices start at £13,640 for base SE spec, rising to £22,190 for a Black Edition.
But how does a mid-spec example stand up? As tested, this 1.4 TFSI Sport comes with 122bhp and some nice dynamics. It corners well, reacts to bumps with ease, and doesn’t make too much fuss under hard acceleration. The benchmark sprint to 60mph comes up in a brisk 8.9 seconds, and the speedometer halts at a reported 126mph.
In Sport trim, the dual-clutch S Tronic gearbox is a cost option, but the standard 6-speed manual is a fine offering. Changes feel precise and smooth, and gears are well spaced for a decent range of driving.
The four-cylinder, 1.4 litre engine has a pleasingly aggressive note, and any acceleration feels quicker than it probably is. 122bhp seems pessimistic.
Over a 50 mile test run, economy hovered around 45mpg – without suitably varied test driving technique, however, 60mpg is eminently achievable. The car responds extremely well to careful acceleration and prudent deceleration, with 70mpg popping up on free-moving stretches of dual carriageway.
As with all turbocharged engines, the TFSI 4-cylinder unit suffers from turbo lag at motorway speeds. Moving out to the fast lane requires a downshift to bring the revs up to powerband, but the car feels planted and stable throughout.
Here are the burning questions though.
Is the A1 an attempt to get young buyers into the Audi ecosystem in order to move them up the model range? Almost certainly. Is the A1 a viable alternative in the premium supermini sector? Of course it is. Will the A1 continue to steal fans away from the other German brands? Probably.
But I don’t think it’s quite good-looking enough, not quite fashionable enough, to overtake the market. I’m sure sales of the A1 will continue to boost Audi coffers, but I’m not sure how many buyers will be dissuaded from sticking their money on the established competitors.
After all, the facelifted Ford Fiesta looks like an Aston Martin, the new Mercedes A-Class looks great, and the Mini is classic modern-retro.