- 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.
Will there be an Audi S1 this time?
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.