The new Audi A1 has gained more visual character in the form of design details above the grille inspired by the crazy Audi Sport quattro S1 rally car; the A1 doesn’t quite have the same performance, but still it’s fun to drive.
In an effort to differentiate the A1 from other products in the Volkswagen Group that share the same platform, Audi designers have incorporated styling details from the fire-breathing S1 quattro rally car from the 1980s in the form of the vents above the front grille. So does the A1 have any of the genes of the S1 quattro?
The A1’s styling gains character primarily due to its front air vents, and overall the visual appearance is more interesting than the previous model. The interior is also the normal Audi quality environment.
Our test car had a 3-cylinder, 1-litre petrol engine mated to a7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission and front-wheel drive.
The A1 is a small car, so it should be fun to drive. However this isn’t always the case with Volkswagen Group cars. The secret is having an engine with sufficient power. Thankfully the 116PS petrol engine meets this brief (although the performance is good rather than outstanding), and the result is that the A1 is fun to drive. This is helped by the 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, which, in the A1, doesn’t have the huge delay from standstill that has been a feature of other Audis that we’ve recently tested.
Selecting Dynamic drive mode helps with the eagerness (other modes are available, namely efficiency, auto and individual).
The A1’s steering, and its sporty steering wheel, helps with the fun, and the handling is reasonably agile – although the front-wheel drive platform isn’t quite a match for the 1980s S1 quattro’s all-wheel drive layout in terms of traction. The A1’s ride is also generally good – although it’s slightly on the firm side, and this becomes particularly evident on potholed roads (ie. virtually every road in Greater Manchester).
Although the A1 is designed to be a car primarily for local driving, it can also cope perfectly well with motorways, although at these speeds there is some road noise.
The infomedia system works well, with a large touchscreen and clear mapping. You can type an address into the satnav, or you can spell the destination with your finger. You can also easily zoom in and out of the map.
A very good bit of news is that the A1 has conventional switches for the heating and ventilation. Having recently driven too many cars with these controls hidden within the touchscreen, this is a very welcome feature.
The lane departure warning system has to be switched off every time you start the car to save it annoying you, and this is done by pressing a button on the left-hand stalk on the steering column.
The official combined fuel economy for the AudiA1 Sportback 30 TFSI 116PS S line S tronic is 46.3 – 48.7 mpg based on the new, more realistic WLTP test, with CO2 emissions of 110 g/km. We achieved 58.1mpg at 70mph on the motorway, and 63.2mpg at 50-60mph.Overall after a week with the car we averaged 45.7mpg, which is very close to the official figure.
The AudiA1 Sportback 30 TFSI 116PS S line S troniccosts £22,350. Our test car also had the options of 17″ 5-spoke alloy wheels (£250), Adaptive Speed assist (£300), Advanced key (£400), Storage Pack (£125), LED Ambient lighting pack (£150), Technology Pack (£1,650), Comfort and Sound Pack (£995), Space-saving spare wheel (£125), Luggage Compartment Pack (£50), Windscreen with grey tinted sunshield (£65), Front centre armrest (£150), Contrast Pack 2 (£250), Audi pre-sense basic (£190) and Dual-zone electric climate control (£450). The total price of our test car was £29,930.
The Audi A1 is available with four petrol engines and manual or S tronic transmissions. Trim levels are SE, Sport and S line.
The Audi A1 takes styling inspiration from the (very short-lived) 1980s Audi quattro S1 Group B rally car. If you’re expecting similar levels of performance from the A1 then you’re going to be disappointed, but out of the three recent Audis that we’ve reviewed (the A6, Q3 and A1), this is the most fun. There’s no excess of power, but the performance-efficiency balance is good. For a car that’s based on the same platform as other Volkswagen Group vehicles, this is one of the best to drive, but of course it should be, because you’re paying a price premium. There’s not much wrong with the Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI 116PS S line S tronic, and it gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.