The supermini marketplace is one of the biggest, and Audi's decision to enter it in 2010 with the A1 is something of a masterstroke, no other premium manufacturer having a genuine alternative to the mighty MINI. The Audi delivers some real sophistication to buyers looking for an upmarket car in a compact package.
A small, sophisticated supermini wearing a prestigious badge, the Audi A1 is as cool a runabout as you could ask for. It is offered in three- or five-door forms, Audi referring to the latter as a Sportback. The five-door is obviously the more practical of the pair, but while the cabin is impeccably built from the finest materials it's a bit tight for adults in the back. The boot is on the small side too, but it's an improvement on the MINI and respectable enough when compared to mainstream supermini rivals.
Engine choices include 1.2- and 1.4-litre TFSI petrol units and a pair of diesels of 1.6- and 2.0-litre capacity, with a fairly even split in the classifieds between the 86hp 1.2-litre TFSI and the 105hp 1.6 TDI turbodiesel. Both are good to drive, the diesel making more sense if you cover greater distances. Economy and emissions are good on all, the A1 new enough to feature emissions and fuel-saving equipment like stop-start to switch the engine off when it would otherwise be idling in traffic.
The trim lines follow the Audi norm, with a standard model, Sport and S line, the latter two getting more assertive styling and firmer suspension. There's an automatic transmission too, offered with either the 1.4 TFSI engine or the lower power 1.6 TDI unit. Many cars come with desirable two-tone bodywork, with the roofline in a contrasting colour.
If you're after a sportier A1 there's the S1 in both three-door and Sportback form, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and featuring a quattro four-wheel drive system - don't expect to find many in the used listings, as it's an expensive indulgence.
Unless you're racking up big mileages the 1.2 TFSI petrol model is as good a choice as you could ask make, though we'd avoid the more expensive Sport trim or larger alloy wheel choices as they only upset the ride quality around town. The five-door Sportback makes more sense, too.
Audi A1 1.2 TFSI (2011 figures)
Engine: 1,197c four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Maximum speed: 180km/h
0-100km/h: 11.7 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5.1 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: *****
- Premium car quality, small car dimensions
- Fun and stylish
- Rear legroom tight
- Boot not huge
- Firm suspension on Sport and S line models
Live in the city and want a premium small car? Then look no further. Beautifully built and sensibly specified, the Audi A1 might not be particularly spacious, but it's big on plenty of other qualities that make it a real winner.