Review

Audi A1 hatchback (2018 - ) review

The Audi A1 is a premium hatchback that competes head-on with the Mini. As well as a premium badge, it offers sharp styling, a sporty drive and a (for the most part) posh-looking interior.

Words by: First published: 20th November 2018
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.8
As the most affordable and attainable car Audi makes, the A1 is a very appealing prospect. That’s also helped in no small part by sharp looks, decent practicality, nimble handling, punchy engines and impressive economy. It’s not cheap, there could be more standard kit and the interior quality might not be quite what you expect from an Audi. But overall, this is a good little car that fashion-conscious buyers will be very happy with.

Pros

  • Sharp looks
  • Fun to drive
  • Decent practicality

Cons

  • Some questionable interior plastics
  • Could be more standard kit
  • Not cheap

Interested in buying an Audi A1?

How good does it look? 5/5

With the original A1, the desirable four-ringed badge was relied upon to make up for the car’s otherwise rather humdrum looks, but that’s certainly not the case with the latest car. Rounded edges have been replaced by sharp angles and bold creases, and the large air intakes also lend a fair bit of visual aggression.

Even the entry-level SE version comes with full LED headlights and rear lights, plus alloy wheels, and the wheels get bigger and bigger as you progress up the range. Sport versions have a few more bits of sparkly exterior trim, while S line cars are given a beefier treatment for the bumpers and side sills, as well as a roof spoiler and even more sparkly bits.

For the ultimate in sparkliness, you can go for either the S line Style Edition or S line Contrast Edition, which bring all sorts of extra styling touches including darkened headlight lenses, rear privacy glass and contrasting colours for the roof and door mirror housings. The sportiest version, the S line Competition, comes with racy red brake calipers.

What's the interior like? 3/5

Like the rest of Audi’s latest cars, the dashboard is dominated by the touchscreen. It’s an 8.8-inch item as standard, but all the cars we’ve encountered so far have been fitted with the optional Technology Pack, which trades this in for an even fancier 10.1-inch screen. It’s not the most intuitive system of its type, and using it on the move can be a little distracting, but it all works well enough and the sharp graphics look absolutely fab.

It’s also a bit of a mixed bag on quality. There’s lots of plush-feeling bits and bobs on display, but a few of the supplementary panels – like those on the lower part of the dash and on the doors – look and feel a bit cheaper than you might expect. If there’s one thing you can usually depend on Audi for, it’s quality and attention-to-detail, so you might find the A1’s cabin a wee bit disappointing on that score.

Otherwise, the ergonomics are pretty good and it’s easy to find a comfy driving position, although the large pillars either side of the small rear window can cause some blind spots in your over-the-shoulder visibility.

How practical is it? 4/5

The previous A1 was a tiny car and, as such, was a bit cramped inside, but the latest one is bigger and better on that score. There’s enough headroom and legroom in the rear seats for a brace of six foot adults to sit comfortably, although the cabin is too narrow for a third, and things are made even less comfortable by the wide transmission tunnel in the middle of the floor.

The boot is a very respectable size at 335 litres, and not only is that enough for quite a few bags of shopping, it’s way more than you get in a Mini. You also get a split-folding rear seat as standard that boosts cargo volume to 1090 litres, and although the seats don’t fold perfectly flat, they’re really not far off.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

If you choose your A1 in SE or Sport trim, you get the car’s ‘Dynamic’ suspension setup as standard. And even though it’s the most relaxed setup available, you’ll still find it quite a playful car to drive. The steering is quick and responsive, which immediately gives the car quite a pointy feel, and if you pick up the pace through corners, you’ll be rewarded with strong grip and impressive suppression of body lean, meaning there’s plenty of fun to be had behind the wheel. Importantly, this doesn’t come at the expense of comfort.

There is a firm edge to the ride, so you do feel a fair bit of the surface beneath you, but it’s forgiving enough to keep life civilised for you and your passengers. The S line car comes with a sportier suspension setup, which we haven’t had the chance to try yet. But, if it transpires the extra sportiness does ruin the ride, at least you can choose to delete this setup as a no-cost option and revert back to the softer setup.

The most powerful version of the A1, the 200 horsepower 40 TFSI, comes with an adaptive suspension as standard. Even in its comfier setting, it doesn’t ride as smoothly as the basic car, and when you select the sportier mode, things become quite a bit harsher, and it’ll be too harsh for a lot of people. It does tighten up the handling a fraction, but we still think the more basic (not to mention, much cheaper) setup is the way to go for most people.

How powerful is it? 4/5

Early A1s will come with a choice of four engines, all turbocharged petrols. There’s a pair of 1.0-litre three-cylinder units with 95- or 116 horsepower (badged 25 TFSI and 30 TFSI, respectively), a 1.5 four-cylinder with 150 horsepower (35 TFSI) and a 2.0-litre with 200 horsepower (40 TFSI).

We haven’t tried the most basic one yet, but we reckon the 116 horsepower one will be as much as most people will need. It pulls perkily from pretty low down on the rev range, allowing you to get around easily and pretty briskly, and it’s pretty quiet, too. The only slight black mark against it comes in the form of vibrations that make their way through the pedals and gearstick. These aren’t an issue with the 1.5, meaning it’s a generally more refined engine, and it adds a nice dose of extra urge, too, so we’d recommend making the upgrade if you can afford to. Both these engines have a six-speed manual gearbox, and can also be had with a twin-clutch automatic, but we see very little wrong with the slick-shifting manual.

The range-topping 2.0-litre – which comes with w twin-clutch as standard – is undeniably brisk and very flexible, but it doesn’t feel as fast as you might expect given its hefty power output. It certainly doesn’t feel like the hot hatch that it probably should.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

The A1 may be the most affordable Audi there is, but even when compared to the most premium of premium small cars, it’s not a cheap car. The base price is a fair chunk more than the equivalent Mini’s, although with both cars, you’ll probably spend a bunch more money on optional extras. From then on, though, things get a lot better for the A1.

It’s a good bit more efficient than the Mini, which means more miles out of a tank of fuel and lower tax bills, and it’ll hold its value every bit as well as the Mini, if not better, meaning you’ll get a decent chunk of cash back when you sell it on. So, although you’ll pay handsomely to get your hands on an A1, it is a sound financial investment.

How reliable is it? 3/5

Take a look at Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and you might be a little concerned, as Audi sits in a very lowly position in the manufacturer rankings. However, the A1 isn’t included in the study as an individual model, so at least this car – or rather, previous versions of it – hasn’t contributed to that disappointing performance. What’s more, the A1 owner reviews on our website are extremely positive about the car’s reliability, so that should provide some peace of mind. A fairly run-of-the-mill three-year, 60,000-mile warranty comes as standard, but you can extend this for an extra fee if you wish.

How safe is it? 4/5

All versions of the A1 come with the same basic roster of standard safety kit, and it’s reasonably comprehensive. You have six airbags (front, side and curtain), plus a suite of electronic traction aids including stability control, along with hill hold assist (to stop you rolling backwards during hill starts), a speed limiter and lane departure warning.

Importantly, the standard roster also includes an emergency city braking system that slams on the anchors automatically if you fail to respond to a warning about an impending collision with another car, a pedestrian or cyclist. And, if a smash can’t be avoided, the car calls the emergency services automatically.

The options list contains more safety kit, including a rear parking camera, a parking assist system and automatic high beam assist. You can also specify adaptive speed assist, which automatically speeds up – or slows down – the car to keep you a safe distance from the car in front. And, if the car is fitted with automatic gearbox as well, it can move along in traffic without the driver needing to touch the pedals. The car hasn’t yet been tested by Euro NCAP.

How much equipment do I get? 3/5

Entry-level SE trim comes with a half-decent amount of kit including manual air-conditioning, electric front and rear windows, electric door mirrors, a leather multi-function steering wheel and the 8.8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with voice control, Bluetooth and DAB.

Many buyers will consider the upgrade to Sport trim well worth the extra cash, though, because as well as the extra styling enhancements, it also brings cruise control and rear parking sensors.

The upgrade to S line trim brings more aesthetic touches inside and out, but doesn’t add much in the way of luxury kit; part-leatherette upholstery and LED interior lighting, and that’s about it. On top of the basic trim structure, there are more versions based on the S line. With the S line Contrast Edition and S line Style Edition, the extra bits and bobs are, again, pretty much purely aesthetic. With the S line Competition version (which is a standalone trim that only comes with the most powerful 200 horsepower 40 TFSI engine) the main addition is the adaptive suspension.

Interestingly, you can only have built-in sat-nav if you specify the optional (and expensive) Technology Pack, but all versions come with smartphone mirroring, allowing you to use your phone’s navigation functionality through the car’s screen. Other optional extras include dual-zone climate control and heated front seats, but considering the car’s high price, it’s perhaps a little mean that these aren’t standard on one of the higher trims.

Why buy? 4/5

Probably because you like the thought of an Audi badge, and you want the most affordable way into a car that wears it. Or maybe you’re attracted by the car’s sharp looks and desirable image. Whatever the case, you’re likely to be very happy with your A1.

Interested in buying an Audi A1?