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7.7.2010 Audi A1 1.6 TDI SE review

Audi A1 1.6 TDI SE review

Though it breaks no new ground technically, Audi's A1 supermini, on sale in November, is keenly anticipated. That's because it provides Audi style and quality in a small car. All versions were happier on main roads than around town. Six-speed gearboxes were notchier than five-speeders.

Audi UK has decided, wisely in my opinion, not to sell the 89bhp 99g/km model here, but there are suggestions that tweaks to this 103bhp version will see it achieve the magic sub-100g by November. Tough rivals: Alfa Romeo MiTo, Mini and Citroen DS3.

Review by Russell Bray for WhatGreenCar.com


Rather lacklustre. Turbo-diesel 103bhp 1.6 litre also found in the Seat Ibiza, VW Polo and Audi A3 but doesn't seem as happy here. There's too much diesel 'rattle' at tick-over for a premium badged car and it's rasping at higher revs. Audi claims 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds and 118mph top speed. Official combined fuel figure is 70mpg. Car managed 52mpg on test route. CO2 rating is 105g/km. I also tried the 89bhp 99g/km 1.6 TDI, which will not be coming to the UK, but compared to the 86bhp Renault Clio I drove to the airport it felt flat and unwilling though the official figures show the Audi slightly quicker.


Audi's engineers claim the A1 is faster round their test track and through a slalom – not made available to the media – than cars like the Mini or Citroen's DS3 but with lazier steering it certainly doesn't feel it. Fat tyres on big wheels (7.5J x17in) mean on rails cornering stability and little or no reaction to throttle on or off. A 1.2 litre TFSI petrol on narrower tyres and 16in rims was a much sweeter drive with a better ride and more driver involvement.


Big front grille and angled lights with wave shape daytime running LEDs make the A1 instantly identifiable as Audi's smallest new car, and if not four huge rings make sure you are in no doubt. Industry followers will know the car is largely based on the impressive latest VW Polo. Split colour door mirrors disguise their size while optional contrasting colour roof arches add drama. Car looks narrow in white, best in blue, with red a good compromise. Silver is always safe though. Length 3954mm. Width 1740mm.


Audi A1

Audi's big selling point as usual and if you spend enough on the options you can almost create a mini A8 limousine, though four-wheel drive isn't an option. 'Honey I shrunk the A4/A6' etc is a likely comment.

Pedals, steering wheel and seat relationships are okay but you can't escape the feeling Audi shrank a big car rather than developing a small one. Front seat passengers will wonder where to put their hand if they don't want to get in the way when the driver goes for gear lever or handbrake.


Official figures: Urban 60.1mpg, extra-urban (some out of town motoring) 78.5mpg, combined 70.6mpg. My real world test driving saw 52mpg around town and country cruising. Carbon dioxide emissions of 105g put this A1 SE model into band B where road tax is £20. Insurance grouping is not yet available. Warranty covers three years/60,000 miles.


This early in the A1's life, it does not satisfy a specially developed super-economy version of the new three-door hatchback. But Piezo injectors, capable of six separate injections per cycle, and special engine coatings to reduce frictional losses help fuel economy together with 'better breathing' through four valves per cylinder. The turbocharger has variable geometry to maximise the spread of power. A start-stop system reduces fuel consumption in heavy traffic, and the gear change indicator suggests early up-shifts for preoccupied drivers. CO2 emissions of 105g/km are likely to come down by November, when it will be launched in the UK, and a WhatGreenCar rating will be calculated when official emissions data are available.


Standard kit on the A1 will include alloy wheels, remote central locking, air conditioning, electric front windows and mirrors and a six-speaker single CD audio system with MP3 player connection. Sport models get bigger wheels, sports suspension, sports seats, Bluetooth phone connection and dashboard information system. Options include satellite navigation for £1150, leather seats for £2535, electric sunroof for £875, cruise control for £230 and rear parking sensors for £300.


Audi A1

Model tested: Audi A1 1.6 TDI SE
Body-style: Three-door hatchback
Engine/CO2: 103bhp 1.6 litre turbo diesel / 105 gCO2/km
Trim grades: SE, Sport, S Line

On-road price: 3-dr models from £13,145. Test car: £14,180
Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles
In the showroom: November
Review rating: 3.5 stars

Posted by:
Russell Bray

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