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Driven: Audi A1 Sportback. Image by Audi UK.

Driven: Audi A1 Sportback
Seven days with the most premium of superminis. And surely the most expensive...


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Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI S line

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: stylish appearance, quality cabin, smooth drivetrain, pleasant manners, glittering technology options

Not so good: the expense of it, too much tyre roar, not that quick or exciting, tight rear-seat space, the daft boot badging queries you'll have to fend off, did we mention the expense?

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI S line S tronic
Price: A1 range from 17,735; 30 TFSI S line S tronic from 23,180, car as tested 29,930
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 110g/km (VED Band 101-110: 150 in year one, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 58.9mpg
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
Power: 116hp at 5,000-5,500rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 2,000-3,500rpm
Boot space: 270-920 litres

Our view:

The Audi A1 has been kind of automatically set up as one of the automotive world's 'straddlers' - which is not meant to sound as rude as it does, by the way. What we mean is it's ostensibly a supermini, a car for the B-segment. But its prestige badge means it has to be the costliest supermini of all and one where you start almost considering it as an alternative to mainstream C-segment hatches, such is the expense of the thing (we'll come back to this presently).

The danger with this 'betwixt-and-between' tactic, though, is that you've got to offer something tangible, over and above the more affordable competitors, to make your product stand out as something extra-special. And, for all the things we like about the A1 Mk2, we're not entirely sure it's worth the significant price premium. But there is much to commend. First up, it undeniably looks great; when the original press pictures of it were released, we weren't hugely convinced by the Quattro Sport-aping triple-vents in the nose and the riot of creases everywhere, but once you're in the presence of a Turbo Blue solid (575) example with the contrast Mythos Black metallic roof (425), you realise it's a cracking-looking thing. Although it's a shame its optional five-spoke 17-inch alloys (250) weren't in the white finish that's available, as the A1 looks even better in that particular warpaint.

The interior is, as ever with an Audi, one of the best in its class and probably better than the cabins of vehicles several classes above it. But again, to have it at is angular, show-stopping best, you need to splash the cash - so the black front Sport seats with Alcantara and leatherette upholstery are 600. All models enjoy a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster but to gain the upgraded Virtual Cockpit (with added functionality) and the big centre screen for the infotainment, buyers will need to fork out 1,650 for the Technology and 995 for the Comfort and Sound Packs. Keyless entry and go is another 400. Dual-zone climate control is 450, a Luggage Compartment Pack (in a relatively small, 270-litre space) is 50, a space-saver spare another 125, a front-centre armrest 150, LED Ambient Lighting is 150, a Storage Pack is 125... you can see how things tot up. And no amount of interior finishing excellence is going to make up for the fact the rear seats in the Sportback are rather, um, cosy, to say the least.

To drive, the A1 is as expected. It offers clean, unfussy grip, despite the fact it's not a quattro AWD machine, and it has slightly too light steering, a ride that borders on the firm and too much tyre noise from its big rubber clothing the aesthetically pleasing alloys. Nevertheless, it's a very urbane and immensely grown-up car to drive, providing big-vehicle manners in most situations and proffering up that spectacular ease-of-use from mile one that makes all Audis, from small to the most grandiose, so familiar and comforting from the minute you clamber aboard. And yet, also just that tiny bit dull. It handles gamely, the A1 Sportback, but there's nothing more to be had from its chassis than that.

Nice engine, though. The Volkswagen Group doesn't make many, if any, duffers in terms of powerplants and the 1.0-litre TFSI triple is no exception to this rule. Paired to the excellent S tronic dual-clutch auto, performance is fine, albeit not exactly rasping. A 0-62mph time that's only a few fractions beneath the ten-second marker gives an idea on how precisely how leisurely the A1 can feel behind the wheel, although we will admit that the noise of it is superb, the engine's completely free of aggravating vibrations and harshness, and we managed to coerce almost 45mpg from it on a regular, two-lane country A-road; so 50mpg-plus on a steady motorway run is not beyond the realms of possibility.

What will grate, though, is that ridiculous boot badging that Audi has foisted on all its cars. We're not going to bang on and on about the two-digit system Ingolstadt cooked up by Ingolstadt in a moment of madness in 2017, as enough has been written about the confusion it creates already, but you'll find that you're increasingly more ratty as you have to tell yet another innocent bystander (maybe it was the sixth... or was it the seventh?) that, no, it's not a 3.0-litre Audi A1; far from it, indeed.

Despite all this, the A1 Mk2 is a likeable bit of kit and there's plenty of latent talent in there to exploit for any hotter models to come; a new S1 can't be out of the question, for instance, despite Audi apparently saying quattro can't be fitted to this platform. Nevertheless, a 200hp-plus variant of the A1 would make those gaps in the A1's visage much more rational.

But, as we've kept alluding to throughout the piece, the A1's biggest problem is its robust pricing. It starts at less than 18k, which is reasonably competitive if not exactly cheap, but our test car should have been just beyond 23,000 'basic' - and yet it rocked in at nearly 30 grand with its options, many of which you'll want to be ticking come ordering time. And that's just preposterous, strong PCP deals with low pcm payments or no: a 30,000 supermini with 116hp, cramped rear seats and a small boot is asking too much, no matter how good it looks inside or out. Cripes, you could have the remarkable i30 N Performance and two-thousand quid change instead.

Which leaves us cool on the A1, an automotive 'straddler' (stop sniggering!) that misses its mark. Other cars which blur the lines between defined boundaries of the marketplace are either great value for money, or absolutely vast within to make up for their inflated windscreen sticker, or just plain great to drive. The Audi A1 Sportback is none of these things; it's very, very nice, but it doesn't feel appreciably and demonstrably better than many other superminis that are out there, which are available for much less cash. Shame.


Audi A3 Sportback: do you know how much A3 you can get for 30 large? We'll tell you - a 35 TFSI (150hp) S line S tronic, for 28,845. Sans options, obvs, but it's much bigger inside.

Ford Fiesta: Audi's problem is that the mainstream brands, like Ford, are pushing their products more upmarket but are keeping the values low regardless. Ignore the overpriced Vignale and the Fiesta is better than an A1.

Volkswagen Polo: obvious choice, really, as it's the other premium, grown-up supermini in the class, and the Volkswagen feels like a cleverer piece of packaging and it doesn't cost anything like as much as the Audi.

Matt Robinson - 8 Jan 2019    - Audi road tests
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2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.

2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi A1 30 TFSI S line. Image by Audi UK.


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