The A1 Sportback is both compact and expensive but that’s no surprise as it is aimed squarely at the premium buyer. The A1 is built on the VW group’s small car platform and measures just over 4 metres long (4029mm). It is slightly longer, wider though not as tall as a MINI and is slightly smaller than a VW Polo.
Outside the A1 looks like a conventional hatchback and it is only when viewed head-on that it looks more premium. Audi’s new split grille and bumper styling is sharp and is meant to make onlookers think of Quattros of old. In sporty S Line trim and in bright blue with a black roof my test A1 really looks quite good. Alloys range in size from 15 inch to 18 and in a compact car easily fill out the arches well. Squint at it, especially in a dull colour and the A1 could be any little hatchback.
Inside the cabin there is seating for up to five but four adults will fit. The fit and finish is premium with flush surfacing and impressive displays with an 8 inch centre and optional virtual cockpit 10 inch driver’s display – but it has to be impressive as my test car with a few options costs over €40,000! The boot isn’t lined with gold leaf (it should be for the money) and is quite modest but if you fold the seats down you will be able to get a large chunk of your surfboard in the car. there is the right amount of touch buttons and physical buttons for the ventilation and the cabin feels positively Germanic. My S Line had lots of toys and a great B&O sound system with sub woofer but, and you may laugh, a reversing camera was noticeably absent. I know its a tiny car but you get used to a camera and it allows more precise parking.
My S Line has a 30 TFSI badge on the back that I had to explain more than once to people I’d meet does not mean its a three litre – that would be fun though! Under the bonnet is a happy little 1 litre three-cylinder with a modest 116hp. Audi has fitted TFSI petrol engines only to A1 as diesels do not sell well in this size class. The 30 is the entry point with 116hp and 200nm of torque, the 35 is a 1.5 with 150hp/250nm and the range topping engine is the 40 that is a 2 litre with 197hp and 320nm. Manual and S Tronic auto are available too. 0-100km/h take from 9.5 seconds to 6.5 seconds in the 40. Three grades feature starting with Attraction from 225,450 on the road, SE is mid grade from €27550 OTR and the S Line is the sharpest looking range topper from €34,800.
On the road the A1 is fidgety on poor surfaces but still fun and engaging to drive (my car was on 17 inch alloys). The 116hp may be the smallest engine but when you drive with enthusiasm it feels like a warm hatch. At speed it is not the quietest cabin and the choppy ride can upset passengers more so than the driver – I had fun! The Drive Select button allows a certain amount of electronic setting up of the car (dynamic etc.) but is best left in Auto mode. Level 2 automation and a host of driver safety aids are available too. The 1 litre is very frugal despite being driven with gusto at times.