Move over Mini – the new Audi A1 is finally here. It only took them 10 years to catch up with BMW's success story. You have to wonder why it took so long for the A1 to come to market. This isn’t anything like as radical as the old aluminium A2. It’s basically a reskinned Polo with better engines and a posher cabin.What’s under the Audi A1's bonnet?
There are three engines: an 85bhp 1.2 petrol turbo, 120bhp 1.4 petrol turbo and a 104bhp turbodiesel, likely to be the biggest seller. We’ve already been impressed by the 1.4 petrol in the Golf and installed in the much lighter A1, it delivers 0-62mph in 8.9sec.
This is the version we drove today, a Mini Cooper rival and more warm- than hot hatch.
The new 2010 Audi A1 feels spritely but never quick and the optional seven-speed dual clutch ‘box fitted to out car probably helped mask some of the sensation of speed. It also made a bit of worn-bearing din around town and struggled to take up the drive smoothly when we jumped on the power for a smart getaway at traffic lights. What about the quality? This is an Audi after all. What’s the A1 like inside?
Step out of an A4 or a TT into the A1 and you’d be hard pressed to find anything to suggest you’re in a car that costs half as much. Think Boxster and 911: they’ve got the same quality feel – and share many components – but one costs twice as much as the other.
The A1’s dash and door casings are covered in soft-touch plastics and every switch feels as good as it looks.Premium small car? Premium price?
The new Audi A1 range starts at just over £13k for the basic 1.2SE and rises to nearly £20k for a 1.6 TDi S-Line with navigation, LED lights and a few other trinkets.
Even the most basic car comes fairly well equipped. SE spec means air conditioning, sports steering wheel, 16-inch alloys and a brace of airbags; Sport adds more heavily bolstered seats, 17s and stiffer suspension, while S-Line means leather seats and various bits of aluminium trim.An S-Line Audi... does that mean juddering ride?
Judging by our experience on the horrendous roads of Berlin, it means you’ll have to put up with the usual S-Line concrete-tyres ride quality, yes. The A1 in this guise really doesn’t like potholes and transverse ridges or anything other than nice smooth tarmac. The upside of course is good body control on smooth roads.So is the new Audi A1 better than the Mini?
It’s a more rounded car, that’s for sure. It’s much roomier in the back seats and the cabin feels substantially more expensive. But it doesn’t quite have that same cheekiness when it comes to dynamics. The steering is quick but can’t quite match the Mini for immediacy.
The A1 is fun to drive, to a point. It’s no more entertaining than a Fiesta and certainly far less comfortable than the honest Polo on which it’s based (at least in S-line spec).
If it’s proper hot hatch thrills you’re after, you’re going to have to wait for the sporty S1, or better still, just stop putting off the inevitable and buy a Renault Clio 200. If, on the other hand, you want a fun small car that feels special to sit in and you’re bored of the Mini, this is your car.Verdict
It’s hard to see the Audi A1 being anything other than a runaway success. There’s nothing revolutionary about it but it looks good and is beautifully put together and promises Mini-beating residuals and great economy.
We've now driven the boggo, entry-level Audi A1: the 1.2 TFSI SE at £13k. Click here
to see our first drive review of the cheapest Audi A1 on regular suspension.>> New Audi A1: hit or miss? Click 'Add your comment' and sound off