+ Premium badge
+ Numerous specification choices
+ A refined driving experience
- Limited rear passenger space
- Sport suspension is stiff
- Infotainment is dated now
Verdict: The Audi A1 has all the qualities you'd expect from the premium brand, but choosing the correct specification and engine can make all the difference.
Used Audi A1 (2010-2018) review: the five-minute read
The Audi A1 saw the premium German brand expanding downwards to the compact supermini class in an effort to steal sales away from popular alternatives like the Mini. This first-generation didn't cheapen the Audi name either, as sitting inside shows that many of the same quality features and materials had trickled down.
The A1 was available as a stylish three-door and a more practical five-door hatchback to maximise its potential. The latter is the only one worth considering if you ever plan on having passengers in the rear. Not only do the rear doors make access more straightforward, but the A1 Sportback, as it was called, offered three seats across the rear while the three-door A1 provided only two. It's worth noting that the passenger space in the back wasn't all that generous, but it is manageable.
Buyers at the time could also choose from an array of different specifications and colour options. Similar to Mini, Audi offered contrasting roof colours and vibrant interior upholstery options, including painted air vent surrounds. Trim levels included SE, Sport, S line, Black Edition on more recent models, and there was also an S1 that had higher performance, making it the hot hatch of the range.
The A1 doesn't match the Mini for sheer driving fun, but what it lacks in on-road thrills it makes up for in quality, and the Audi is a car that behaves how one would expect a premium hatchback to perform. Light steering and ample levels of grip, even without the quattro all-wheel drive, mean the Audi always feels like a safe pair of hands and is proficient at racking up the motorway miles with ease.
Its small footprint means that the A1 is a real boon around town, with no parking space proving too small for it to be able to squeeze into. Later models also were available with parking sensors as part of an optional package, with other features including Bose surround sound system and heated front seats.
The Audi also has one of the larger boots in its class, comfortably out-performing the Mini thanks to a 270-litre capacity. That can also increase to 920 litres when the rear seats are folded down. The only versions with less are those with the quattro all-wheel-drive transmission, as it takes away 60 litres of volume due to its layout.
Even though it is a small car, the A1 is safe. When it went through the Euro NCAP crash test in 2010, it scored a full five-star rating. In particular, it received 90 percent for adult occupant protection, 79 percent for child occupant protection and 86 percent for safety assistance systems.
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Used Audi A1 (2010-2018) interior and infotainment
One of the more pleasing aspects of the A1's interior is that Audi delved into its own parts bin, so all the switches and buttons have a premium feel. Some vivid interior upholstery options were available with the A1, though most buyers went for sensible darker interiors. Colour-coded air vent surrounds added a more tolerable splash of vibrancy inside.
The SE model adopted more of a comfort approach that included regular front seats and a round steering wheel, while Audi's standard suspension setup underpinned it. The latter was replaced by a firmer suspension in the Sport and S line cars and sports seats in the front, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel provided a different look inside. A small digital display between the analogue rev counter and speedometer provides various trip computer information. On the limited-run A1 quattro, the tachometer was painted red.
The A1 arrived when infotainment systems were still transitioning from a dot-matrix radio and the pop-up colour display. Audi's MMI system remains pretty basic, all versions contained DAB radio, but Bluetooth only came as standard on the Sport model. An optional Sound Pack added an upgraded Bose sound system and sat nav came with the Technology Pack.
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Used Audi A1 (2010-2018) practicality and boot space
Both three- and five-door body styles were available with the Audi A1, the latter being referred to as the A1 Sportback. Not only did the Sportback's rear doors make it easier for passengers in the rear, but it also featured three seats versus only two in the three-door.
An adjustable driver's seat and steering column make finding a suitable driving position relatively easy, although the overall space in the front isn't all that generous. This is a small car after all.
Space for two cupholders and some small oddments aft of the gear selector is handy and the door bins are sufficient to carry a small drinks bottle. Physical controls for the climate settings enable adjustment without looking away from the road.
The A1 has a similar clamshell tailgate design like the larger Audi Q5 and it measures in at a generous (for the segment) 270 litres. For comparison, the Mini Hatch has a boot that can swallow just 211 litres, while more mainstream styling hatchbacks offer more such as the 285-litre boot in the Peugeot 208.
The rear seats can fold down when you need to fit larger items into the A1, boosting cargo volume to 920 litres. One thing to watch out for is that the sportier S1 has a quattro all-wheel-drive transmission, which reduces the boot space by 60 litres.
Used Audi A1 (2010-2018) engines
If you prefer a smoother and more refined driving experience, it's worth seeking out the petrol engines available with the Audi A1 range. Initially, Audi offered the A1 with a 1.2-litre TFSI that had an output of 85bhp. This engine was then superseded by a 1.0-litre that produced 94bhp to provide the A1 with brisk enough performance and is ideally suited for urban and city driving.
A 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine originally had an output of 120bhp, later increasing to 123bhp and is faster off the mark, accelerating from 0-62mph in a modest 8.8 seconds. This engine is better-suited to motorway work, partly because it was fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, whereas the smaller 1.0-litre engine only got a five-speed transmission. It also had cylinder-on-demand technology that shuts off two of its four cylinders to save fuel.
Audi also turned up the wick with a pair of sportier models. The S1 arrived in 2014 and featured a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a 228bhp and 370Nm output. A six-speed manual gearbox and quattro all-wheel-drive transmission dispatched power to all four wheels and could accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds. The pre-runner to this was the super-limited A1 quattro. Also powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, its 252bhp output gave it a top speed of 152mph. It is the rarest of all A1 models as only 333 examples were ever produced.
Things are a little less exciting on the diesel side, where a 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI was first offered with a five-speed manual. A 2.0-litre TDI produced 141bhp and had a better-suited six-speed manual transmission. Following the A1's mid-life update, the diesel offering was slimmed down to a 114bhp 1.6-litre TDI that came with a five-speed manual or seven-speed S tronic automatic. Considering the A1's compact size, diesel engines don't have to work especially hard to pull it along, meaning they benefit from lower Co2 emissions and can be pretty economical over longer journeys.
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Used Audi A1 (2010-2018) driving
If you prefer to stick with a smaller car but want the same quality and finesse that a larger one offers, you might like the Audi A1. It is a mature package worthy of the four-ring badge and is more refined than rivals such as the Mini Hatch and posh DS 3, though it's not quite as engaging to drive. That's partly down to the engines, which are more sensible than fun. However, the sporty S1 does go some way to rectifying that and has plenty of performance for a compact hatchback.
For a more comfortable ride, then it's worth avoiding the Sport and S line trims as these receive a firmer suspension setup that can make the ride less forgiving, especially on bumpier roads or if you're continuously crossing speed humps. The smaller wheels on the SE grade also help to improve overall comfort and refinement.
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