Audi’s new entry-level A1 is all grown-up. We’ve been road-testing the baby hatchback, now with attitude….
The outgoing Audi A1 was a little gem with its dinky looks, quality interior, premium finish and fun driving characteristics. The all-new model is more of the same, but improves in every area.
Sharing a platform with its impressive VW Group cousins, the Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, helps because both cars are right up there with the latest Ford Fiesta at the top of the supermini class.
The cute first-generation car’s curves have been replaced by sharper styling including three flat bonnet slits which apparently pay homage to the Sport quattro, Audi’s rally icon from 1984 – all giving the new A1 a much fresher, edgy look.
Lower, longer and wider, the A1 is a more sophisticated proposition combined with an aggressive, muscular stance.
Now only available as a five-door, the A1 Sportback is priced from £18,450 and is currently only available with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine with various power outputs ranging from 94bhp (badged 25 TSI) to 114bhp (30 TSI). A 148bhp four-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo (35 TFSI) and flagship 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo (40 TFSI) will follow.
Three main trim levels are offered – SE, Sport and S line, and there’s a choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed S Tronic automatic. SE models come with LED front and rear lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, an 8.8-inch touchscreen and 10.25-inch driver’s digital display, while all models also get autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and lane-departure warning.
Further editions will be added, including the S line Competition (reserved for the powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine) as well as S line Contrast and Style editions.
My 30 TFSI S Line test car had the technology pack ticked which means there’s a bigger 10.1-inch infotainment screen, MMI Navigation Plus and wireless phone charging.
The basic model costs £22,350, though all the options on mine nudged it to within a whisker of £30,000.
The premium interior is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Audi – the touchscreen is particularly impressive, offering the sharpest graphics you’ll find in this class. The only slight surprise was to find unusually hard plastics on the doors and below waist level.
That’s not the only surprise. Fire up the three-pot turbo, put the pedal to the metal and refinement isn’t quite what you’d expect from an Audi – both from the engine and the road. That said, take it easy or get up to cruising speed and everything settles down nicely.
All is forgiven thanks to the remarkably punchy little engine, capable of 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds (but seeming swifter) and a top speed of 126mph.
Emissions are a low 110g/km, while fuel economy is a claimed 58.9 mpg. Having driven it on motorways, A-roads and in town, I can assure you that 50mpg+ is very achievable, more if you resist the temptation to explore this car’s performance to the full.
The S tronic automatic gearbox is a joy, feeding in those gear changes with fantastic precision – all the more eager if you switch from the Efficiency or Auto driving modes, to Dynamic.
The ride is on the firm side, but it pays dividends when it comes to the A1’s handling which is engaging, offering agility and admirable body control with good grip.
It’s easy to drive in town too, not just because of its compact dimensions, but visibility is good and the steering is light.
The sports seats are comfortable and supportive, while there’s a much greater felling of space inside – especially at the back where there’s now plenty of room for adults. The boot is bigger too. Luggage space has increased by 65 litres to 335 litres and if you flip down the rear seats, there’s a useful 1,090 litres of loading area.
The new A1 hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP yet, but it’s packed with safety tech and we’d expect it to achieve a maximum five stars, just like its predecessor.
Finally, if personalisation is your thing, then there’s amble opportunity with the A1. For instance, my test car looked especially cool in Turbo Blue with contrasting Mythos black roof.
Verdict: The all-new Audi A1 Sportback has stepped up.to the plate. Fun-to-drive, practical, sharply-styled, spacious and eager, it’s quite simply the best premium supermini on the market.