- Limited engine range, petrol only
- Likeable entry-level 1.0-litre
- More power for those who want it
Audi A1 Sportback power comes from four turbocharged petrol engines – no diesel, hybrid or electric versions are available. A choice of six-speed manual or dual-clutch S Tronic automatic gearboxes is also available.
Kicking things off is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with either 95hp (called 25 TFSI) or 116hp (30 TFSI).
Performance data is currently only available for the 30 TFSI – expected to be the best seller – which boasts 200Nm of torque and cracks 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds (the auto is a tenth quicker).
In fact, this car with a manual transmission is our pick of the range. The three-cylinder engine isn’t particularly exciting, but there’s still plenty of performance for everything from urban to motorway driving, and there’s a likeably eager, flexible feel to the way it delivers its modest performance.
The three-cylinder engine is also around 45kg lighter than a four-cylinder equivalent, which not only helps to offset some of the performance deficit, but contributes to the nimble handling.
The light, easy manual gear change underlines the peppy feel – the S Tronic automatic does a fine job, but it adds weight and cost and removes a little driver involvement.
Overall, this is a nicely balanced car, with enthusiastic performance, nimble handling and comfortable suspension.
Audi A1 four-cylinder engines
You can also pick a 1.5-litre four-cylinder motor (35 TFSI) with 150hp, and the range-topping 40 TFSI, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder boasting 200hp.
Somehow, progressing through the range results in diminishing returns: the 1.5-litre 35 TFSI is more powerful, but its performance is delivered in a rather flat, monotone manner.
The range-topping 40 TFSI is most disappointing of all, failing to deliver the excitement that a 200hp supermini should, but suffering some of the drawbacks we’ve come to expect, with harsher suspension (which can be deselected in the UK), steering corruption and wheelspin under heavier acceleration in lower gears.
Performance isn’t the 40 TFSI’s only USP, however – it’s also the only model to come with the new S Line Competition trim, which we’ll go into in our Equipment section.
Is there a 2018 Audi S1 Sportback?
The official line from Audi is that it has no plans to reprise its Ford Fiesta ST rivalling, Quattro-equipped hot hatch this time around.
- Pleasant to drive but not exciting
- 30 TFSI nimble and easy to drive
- Other small cars are more engaging
As small cars go, the A1 majors on refinement over sharp handling. This is a grown up, high-quality small car, rather than a sporty tearaway.
Consequently, the A1 isn’t particularly engaging to drive. The steering gives a reasonable sense of confidence in how much grip the front tyres have, while the brakes are suitably confidence inspiring, too
The A1’s roadholding revolves much more around safety than excitement, however.
A MINI is a much more satisfying small car to drive, goading you to drive a little faster, where you’d be more encouraged to dawdle around in the Audi.
Considering it is a compact car, this isn’t a particularly easy car to park. While the controls are light and easy to balance, the enormous rear pillars make manoeuvring far more demanding than it should be.
Bear this all in mind, and the A1 is a capable but bland car to drive – those who love driving will be better served by the MINI 5dr.
- Solid and built to last
- Quality doesn’t live up to price in places
- Striking design, but not the most usable
It was the interior that made the original Audi A1 stand out and it’s the same story with the second-generation model. With sharp contours across the dash, plus a large-screen touchscreen media system and plenty of interesting materials available, the A1 is surprisingly high-tech inside.
While the touchscreen media system looks upmarket for a car in this class – especially if you go for the upgraded system available, this isn’t the easiest system to use, with sometimes confusing onscreen displays. This is exacerbated by the fact you have to prod the screen to change many settings – something that can be distracting while driving.
Thankfully the digital dials can display much of what is on the media system screen and you can tweak a number of settings through the wheel. You may have to pay a hefty amount more to get the Technology Pack which features the slickest A1 tech, but Audi’s smallest car is a sophisticated machine for a car of this size.
Unusually, the digital dials that replace the conventional analogue speedometer and rev counter are standard, and there are several different displays available, depending upon which information you want to prioritise. Tech fans, this could be the car for you.
Sadly, while the tech makes the A1 feel upmarket, some of the materials don’t back up this claim, even some of the more prominent bits, such as the top of the doors.
Likewise, it took a lot of adjustment to find a comfortable driving position in our car and we didn’t find the flat seats particularly supportive.
- Smooth enough suspension
- Standard seats not very supportive
- Lots of seat adjustment possible
Considering just how small it is, Audi A1 comfort is impressive; very little wind noise gets into the cabin at speed, with the smallest petrol engine proving virtually inaudible. In fact, it’s so quiet that the 1.0-litre petrol unit is barely noticeable even at maximum engine speed. That’s impressive for a car in this class.
Sadly, a reasonable amount of tyre and road noise does make itself heard at speed, detracting from the mini-luxury car impression somewhat.
The suspension in Sport models is reasonably smooth mostly, though can get caught out by rough tarmac, failing to isolate occupants from the road surface as well as you’d hope.
The seats, meanwhile, even in Sport versions that gains more supportive seats over base SE models, are relatively flat and could do with greater lumbar support. If you’re considering the A1, it’s definitely worth spending some time behind the wheel to make sure you can get comfortable.
S Line models, meanwhile, get more supportive sports seats and should hold you in place better. Heated seats, on the other hand, are available on all A1s, whichever trim you go for.