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Driven: Audi A1 Citycarver. Image by Audi UK.

Driven: Audi A1 Citycarver
Want a crossover-inspired supermini with an odd name? No? Oh. Well, here’s the A1 Citycarver, nonetheless.

   



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Audi A1 Citycarver

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Good points: it's a perfectly pleasant little B-segment hatchback...

Not so good: ...but then so's the cheaper, regular A1

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi A1 Citycarver 30 TFSI S tronic
Price: A1 range from £19,495; Citycarver 30 TFSI from £23,625, car as tested £28,080; or, Citycarver 30 TFSI S tronic from £326.32pcm across 48-month/10,000-mile per annum contract with 10 per cent deposit and limited-time Audi deposit contribution of £500, optional final payment of £11,417 (6.1% APR representative example)
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover-supermini
CO2 emissions: 146g/km (VED Band 131-150: £215 in year one, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 46.3mpg
Top speed: 123mph
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Power: 116hp at 5,000-5,500rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 2,000-3,500rpm
Boot space: 335-1,090 litres

Our view:

This is one of those cars that struggles by being put into context. Driven in isolation, the Audi A1 Citycarver 30 TFSI is exactly what you'd expect of the upmarket German marque: comfortable, classy, competent. Thoroughly likeable, actually. We spent a highly amenable week with it and did 333 miles (neat), the Audi's glorious little three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol motor and reasonably slick (it's occasionally hesitant and slow-witted) seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox serving up a very reasonable 46.9mpg overall, with a best of 52.3mpg on a local A-road run. The chunky styling on the outside looks good, the cabin is well-appointed, the driving experience is all very polished. In truth, while it did nothing truly memorable in the course of our time with it, neither did it do anything that was glaringly grotesque, either. So the Citycarver's a hit, right?

Well... no, not really. Because, when you do put it into the all-important framework of context, we can't quite fathom out what the dickens it is supposed to be. For starters, that name. We understand why Audi called it this instead of allroad, because there's no quattro AWD involved here and there never will be. So, despite the fact the Citycarver has 35mm taller suspension and actually is 40mm loftier overall than a regular A1, it doesn't really have the off-road chops to go with its black wheel-arch spats, beefier side sills and silver detailing everywhere. But Citycarver. City. Carver. Come on, guys; honestly? Pound gives you ten that this model will officially become the A1 CC in the not-too-distant, if it continues in production for any great length of time.

Right, but if it's 40mm taller, it must feel different to an A1 from behind the wheel? And again, our answer here would have to be 'no'. In terms of cabin finishing, there's precisely nothing in the Citycarver that reminds you that it's a Citycarver and not a mere A1, and unless you drove the two small Audis back-to-back then we're ready to bet you won't sense it has a higher seating position, either. It feels like... it feels like... well, it feels like a small car, y'know? Of course, you pay more for all of this, um, 'differentiation' compared to an A1. True, it's £825 cheaper than an S line with the same engine and gearbox, a model which is about equivalent on spec to the Citycarver, but you can have less expensive trims of the regular A1, in the form of the Technik and the Sport, that would allow you more affordable ownership of Audi's supermini if you so desired. Yet £23,000 is about as 'cheap' as the Citycarver ever gets.

It's also remarkably similar to drive to the A1. You'd expect the taller, presumably softer suspension to improve the Citycarver's ride to a notable degree, but nope, that never materialises. It doesn't ride poorly, naturally, but it also doesn't offer any degree of bump absorption or body control that the A1 can't provide. And, in truth, it does lean a touch more in the corners, so it's not even quite as much 'fun' as the regular A1 (which is hardly Fiesta-rivalling in terms of its dynamics anyway) to hustle down the right roads.

In short, unless you really, really, really adore the way the Citycarver looks - and we do actually like the distinctive styling on the jacked-up A1's bodywork, although not enough to overcome our concerns about the model as a whole - then we just cannot see why you'd buy this particular Audi. It has no extra off-road ability, save for additional ground clearance. It doesn't look different in the cabin. It doesn't feel different to sit in or drive. And we cannot be alone in our confusion, because hardly any other manufacturer bothers with this strange micro-niche of car these days. Ford soldiers on with the only comparable rival (see below), but where others have dallied with the formula with varying degrees of, ah, success in the past - see the Hyundai i20 Active and Kia Picanto X-Line for details - what most manufacturers reason nowadays is that if people want to sit higher in their B-segment hatchbacks, they'll buy B-segment full-on crossovers instead. The A1 Citycarver therefore looks even more baffling when you realise Audi has cottoned onto this very tenet as it is and has the compact Q2 in its portfolio already.

So, with a couple of options fitted to it (the £1,695 Technology Pack, the £1,150 Comfort and Sound Pack, the £695 Plus Pack and £575-worth of metallic paint), we can think of far, far better ways for you to spend £28,000, or even £326 per month on a PCP deal, than this A1 Citycarver 30 TFSI S tronic. Nice though the car is, it simply feels like it is way too late to the crossover party, and way too irrelevant as a result. Context rather ruins it.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta Active: there's only one other manufacturer that does this rugged-looking city car thing at the moment and that's Ford with the Fiesta Active. Same outcome; just buy a 'plain' Fiesta instead.

Mazda MX-30: if you want to be really different at this level, buy yourself an electric Mazda crossover with rear-hinged back doors like an RX-8 and a dashboard made out of cork. God love this Japanese marque, eh?

Volkswagen T-Cross: the standard answer to the question 'can my small hatchback ride a bit higher, please?' comes in the form of this Volkswagen Group product instead. Still not the most vertiginous of driving positions in the T-Cross, but it makes more sense than the Citycarver all the same.


Matt Robinson - 3 Aug 2020



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2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.

2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi A1 Citycarver UK test. Image by Audi UK.








 

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