Looking for a small car with a premium look and feel, plus that all-important badge appeal? If so, the evergreen Audi A1 should be on your shopping list.
It’s now been with us for a few years and it’s built up a strong following – and now there’s another good reason to own one.
It’s available with an impressive new small engine which is all about extracting the maximum performance and economy.
The rise of three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines has been one of the biggest growth areas of recent years – and the 1.0-litre unit in the A1 is one of the best available.
I tested the entry level A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI SE with a basic price of £15,150, but inflated to more than £20,000 thanks to a raft of optional extras including Black Milano leather seats and “Floret silver interior elements in contrast colour”… whatever they are.
The Sportback is visually similar to the regular hatchback, except that it has five doors and a slightly higher roof line.
The A1 has aged well, and though it’s not as quirky as some rivals, including the Fiat 500 and MINI, it is a grown-up small car with a premium look and feel.
Inside especially, it’s comfortable and plush with a well laid out dashboard, complete with a 6.5-inch infotainment system, which also benefits from Audi’s rotary controller below in the centre console.
There are also 15-inch alloys, DAB, air conditioning and fully electric windows, while further up the trim levels there are Alcantara sports seats, xenon headlights, rear diffuser and roof spoiler, plus automatic lights and wipers.
Push the Start button and it’s immediately obvious that the A1 Sportback is very refined, with just a hint of a thrum from the engine, but overall sound-proofing is impressive.
With light steering and compact proportions, it’s ideal for driving in the city, but it’s also happy stretching its legs on A roads and motorways.
The punchy little engine gives the A1 the feel of a pocket rocket, capable of 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds (though it seems brisker) and a top speed of 116mph.
It’s frugal too. In theory it’s capable of 67.3mpg, though in the real world it’s closer to 50mpg, with CO2 emissions below the magic 100g/km level (97) which means it’s tax-free too.
The A1 is also fun to drive with sharp handling and surprisingly well controlled body lean in corners. The gearbox is slick and the clutch has a light action – just as it should be.
The A1 Sportback is comfortable and spacious up front, while rear seat legroom is average and taller passengers may struggle for head space.
It gained a maximum five-star crash safety rating the last time it was tested by Euro NCAP, and it’s well equipped with a full complement of airbags.
Verdict: The A1 Sportback is pretty much all you’d expect from a baby Audi. A premium small car choice, with its extra doors, increased passenger space and zippy engine, it makes serious sense for small families and other car owners downsizing or just getting a first step on the Audi ladder.