Audi A1 Sportback review | CAR Magazine

Audi A1 Sportback review: perfect for downsizers?

Published: 09 February 2023 Updated: 09 February 2023
Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)
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► Audi A1 review
► Premium supermini re-evaluated
► Still just a Polo in a Chanel dress? 

The second-generation A1 might well be the final iteration for the smallest Audi, and it’s been around for a while now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without appeal. Because although carmakers are getting out of the small car business in their droves right now, there’s plenty of demand from buyers looking to trade down on the back of spiralling PCP and leasing costs.

Based on the same MQB platform as the Polo with MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion-beam rear, it’s a safe pair of hands for your monthlies, with a grown-up persona and five-door-only sensibility. However it’s agreeably small in a streetscape dominated by ballooning SUVs and electric family wagons – at 4029mm long, it’ll squeeze into cramped parking bays passed over by most others.

In short, it’s right-sized for cities, good enough to get you across the country, and is packed with enough tech to keep down-traders amused.

Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)

What engines are available?

There are three turbocharged petrol engines, all with the new numeric naming logic that we’re still struggling with. The mid range 30 TFSI is a 1.0-litre triple with 114bhp/148lb ft that’s good for 58.9mpg/108g/km CO2 on the WLTP test cycle.

Two more variants are onoffer: the 25 TFSI is another three cylinder, this time with 94bhp, while the 35 TFSI upgrades to a 1.5-litre four with 148bhp. A choice of six-speed manual or dual-clutch gearboxes is also available, but the torsion beam rear suspension means all variants are front-drive.

What’s it like inside?

Like the Polo, Fabia and Ibiza that it shares its underpinnings with, the Audi A1 is roomy for a supermini – there’s decent room up-front, with plenty of adjustment for six-footers and five-footers alike, while the rear is okay for two, as long as you’re not expecting A6 levels of lounging room. Luggage space is a claimed 335 litres seats up, and 1090 litres with them folded, increases of 65 and 170 litres.

If anything even this underplays the extent to which the A1 instantly feels a mid-size kind of car, both in its width and the amount of space in the back – anyone who’s tried to get kids into the back of a three-door model will remember what a squash it was.

Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)

The cabin design is attractive, with a new touchscreen angled towards the driver, and a very architectural feel, and the seats are relatively low-set with good comfort and support. There’s an attempt to jazz things up with some quite lairy check designs on the seats and body colour highlights on some trim, but it’s definitely a mature/high-technology feel, and far more sober than, say, a Mini.

Some prominent plastics are surprisingly poor – the top of the door casings and the higher reaches of the centre console. It jars with the soft-touch squish of the dash top, and the pretty lavish technology.

What’s it like to drive?

The top of the range 1.5-litre engine is still an excellent all-round package: it’s still got that flat, linear feel, and if you’re in the mood, is surprisingly quick, with wheel scrabble and some torque steer in the wet. What’s more relevant to most is that the ride is compliant and well-damped.

The six-speed manual is a slick, short-shift effort that goes some way to making the drive more involving, while the automatic DSG might make life easier, but it robs the car much of its responsiveness.

Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)

But we’d actually pick the most powerful of the two three-cylinder engines. This 114bhp version has the familiar thrummy character of an inline three, a peppy feel with eager torque and, actually, enough pace for the daily commute, whether that’s scooting through town or cruising on the motorway.

It also benefits from around 45kg less mass over the nose than the four-cylinder model, and weighs fully 145kg less than the range-topper, owing in part to that car’s standard S-tronic gearbox. It steers and rides nicely, turns keenly and proved surprisingly engaging on a twisting mountain road. The A1 feels very happy in its skin with a three-cylinder under its bonnet.

What are the trim levels?

All models are available in Technik, Sport, S Line and Black Edition trims. Standard equipment across the range includes a 10.25-inch wide digital instrument cluster, 8.8-inch central touchscreen, multi-function steering wheel, LED front and rear lights, DAB radio, smartphone interface, voice control, electric heated mirrors, plus lane-departure warning, and Audi pre-sense with pedestrian/cyclist recognition.

Sport upgrades from 15- to 16-inch alloys, cloth sports seats, cruise control and rear parking sensors. S Line introduces 17-inch alloys, sports suspension (which can be deleted), bodykit and half cloth/half leatherette trim. For us, we also appreciate that you get a no-nonsense manual handbrake!

And the optional kit?

All sorts of stuff, but there are some key packages:

  • S line Style and Contrast upgrades Two separate packs. Add tints, some moody-looking dark-trim elements, a contrast roof and either twin-leather or Alcantara/leatherette upholstery. Pricing still TBC on these
  • The Technology Pack (£1650) Adds MMI Navigation Plus, Virtual Cockpit, wireless charging, and Audi Connect
  • The Comfort and Sound Pack (£995) Gets Bang & Olufsen 11-speaker stereo, parking sensors/camera, and heated front seats


The second-generation A1 still has plenty of appeal for those who want a premium experience in a supermini. It might look quite conventional than a Mini, but that makes it the perfect sober option for someone coming out of an A3 or Q3.

The range of personalisation options makes it a very stylish choice – it’s more like a Range Rover Evoque transposed to the supermini class than a same-again Mini or Fiat 500. And we like it for that, even if it’s now looking unlikely that Audi’s going to replace it.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s definitely a case of less is more with the A1, though, and avoid the most expensive 1.5-litre model. The most powerful three-cylinder with a manual gearbox and some stylish options would be our pick.

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Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)


Price when new: £19,760
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 999cc 12-valve three-cylinder turbo, 114bhp @ 5000-5500rpm, 148lb ft @ 2000-3500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 9.5sec 0-62mph, 126mph, , 58.9mpg, 108g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1105kg, steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4029/1740(excl mirrors)/1409mm


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  • Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)
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  • Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)
  • Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)
  • Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)
  • Audi A1 Sportback review (2023)