Audi A1 1.6 TDI review

Audi’s A1 proves you don’t have to buy a big car to enjoy luxury, style, quality and technology. If you are going to downsize this is the way to do it. And though this model has only three doors you can have a five-door Sportback version if you prefer. Some small cars struggle on motorways but the A1 is a comfortable and happy long distance cruiser. A bigger boot than its main class rival - the rather sportier to drive Mini - is an advantage.

Review by Russell Bray

PERFORMANCE

If you are looking for the best fuel consumption overall and the lowest carbon dioxide emissions in Audi’s A1 range, that means going for the 1598cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. It’s not as smooth as the petrol engines which are better suited to lower mileage drivers, but it can achieve 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds and UK motorway cruising is relaxed as the car is capable of 124mph flat out. Maximum power of 114bhp arrives at 3,500rpm but there’s a good slug of torque (184 lb ft) from just 1,500rpm which copes well with the car’s 1,150kg kerb weight. It’s no rocket but you rarely feel you need more in day to day driving conditions. The five gear ratios are well chosen but you can miss gears out at times for an easier life.

HANDLING

The A1 is only six inches longer than a Mini, but is one of those cars that feels bigger than it is. Because it also feels extremely solid and tips the scales at 1,150kg it feels safe, predictable and adult when cornering, rather than flightly and more agile such as a Citroen DS3. The steering is responsive enough though and drive select options let you change the car’s behaviour from fuel saving efficiency to dynamic for sporty driving - or just leave it in auto and the car will respond to how you drive it. The engine delivers a strong spread of power and on damp roads the torque of the relatively diesel engine can spin the front wheels. In S Line form as tested the A1 feels sporty but the suspension is very firm, and running on 17-inch alloy wheels the car judders over patchwork quilt surfaces.

BODY STYLE

Unmistakably an Audi, the A1 is sophisticated looking car, especially with its S Line body kit and even wore its optional Nano Grey metallic paint (£390) with style. The attractive daytime running lights increase the car’s street presence – which is the idea in more ways than one. Latest models have the facelifted flatter and wider single frame grille, new bumpers, new alloy wheel designs and a choice of new colours.The A1’s extra 152mm length over its main style rival, the Mini, has been used to good effect to deliver more rear seat legroom and a larger boot. It’s not as big as a Citroen DS3’s but you should be able to squeeze in 270 litres of squashy bags compared to 210 litres for the Mini. Rear seat access is not easy and even lifting items off the back seat can be difficult unless you fold the big front seats. Front space is good and once ensconced in the rear you have more space than in a Mini but headroom is marginal. The rear seats split and fold, but not completely flat, giving a 920 litre capacity, but be careful how you load as items will slide forward under heavy braking. If you need more space you will have to opt for the five-door Sportback version. A space saver spare wheel is optional, with a puncture repair kit is standard. Length 3973mm. Width 1740mm.

COMFORT & CONTROLS

Audi A1 interior

Great seats, a great driving position and clear instruments set the tone for the A1’s cabin. We liked the test car’s mainly black and chrome cabin but lighter touches can be chosen. The five-speed manual gear change has a positive action and a solid, well engineered feel. The extra cost, leather bound, multi-function steering wheel is trendily flat-bottomed and is good to use with a fat rim. An optional hill hold assist function (£65) meant it was rarely necessary to use the handbrake to make a hill start. The gear change has a long but positive action. Heater and radio controls are restfully lit in red at night, so it’s a pity the main dials aren’t too, rather than white. On a long night time journey I turned the brightness down. There’s plenty of electronics on board to tame any potential skids on slippery surfaces, improve control under braking and even put the brakes from low town speeds on if you don’t see an obstacle ahead. Tyre pressures are continually monitored but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visually check tyre conditions. SE trim includes automatic stop-start system, alloy wheels, a touch screen and digital radio. Sport ups the ante with bigger wheels, sports suspension, sports seats and Bluetooth phone connectivity. S Line adds 17-inch wheels, exterior body kit and LED interior lights.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

The 1.6 litre, Euro 6 emissions compliant turbo-diesel engine is capable of 80.7 MPG on the official combined fuel consumption test. With CO2 emissions below 100 g/km the A1 1.6 TDI is placed into tax band A under the current regulations, which means there is nothing to pay. During a week’s driving with highly varied motoring conditions, the car averaged 53.6 MPG to 63.6 MPG. The Audi comes with a three year/60,000 mile warranty and comes in at insurance group 19.

GREEN CREDENTIALS

The very efficient, direct-injection engine’s automatic stop-start worked well in city traffic and with frictional reduction improvements to the 1.6 litre diesel engine have reduced the CO2 emissions from 99 g/km to 92 g/km. The piston rings, oil pump and cylinder barrels are coated with DLC (diamond-like coating) to reduce friction and save fuel. The car also has energy recuperation under braking or decelerating using the electrical system to store power to reduce the load on the generator when accelerating. The car’s shape has been streamlined to save fuel when cruising. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 27.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Press cars are festooned with kit to show what owners with bulging wallets can buy. The entry level SE spec includes a good spread of standard equipment, including automatic fuel saving engine stop-start, digital radio and a 6.5-inch touch screen. S Line adds bigger alloys, a body kit and LED interior lights. The test car also had a £650 comfort pack that includes rear parking sensors, cruise control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic lights and wipers, driver’s information system and automatic activation and deactivation of main beam headlights when sensors detect leading or oncoming traffic. It already included cruise control, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and sensors for parking (at the rear), headlights and wipers. I was keener on the £1,495 technology pack which includes detailed satellite navigation and a 40GB hard drive for storing music etc. Backing up the miniature limousine feeling was an opening panoramic glass roof with blind for £695, electronic climate control £205, heated front seats £215 and Audi sound system £255. Little surprise then it tipped the scales at £23,930.

MODEL SUMMARY

Audi A1 rear

Model tested: Audi A1 1.6 TDI S Line
Body-style: Three-door hatchback supermini
Engine - CO2: 114bhp 1,598cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel - 92 g/km CO2
Trim grades: SE, Sport, S line

On-road price: From £19,400;. Price as tested £23,930
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 STARS

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Russell Bray

Author:Russell Bray
Date Updated:27th Aug 2015

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