There’s no reason why a premium car has to be a large one, nor any good reason why a small one shouldn’t feature fancy technology. The original A1 wrapped all the good qualities of larger Audis in a nifty package that immediately became a hit, and although its successor grew a little larger around the waist, it embodies the same principles.
Engine choices are plentiful. At the top of the tree is a 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol (badged 40 TFSI) that’s paired exclusively to a smooth six-speed automatic gearbox. But more sensible options include the 148bhp 1.5-litre (35 TFSI), 113bhp 1.0-litre (30 TFSI) and entry-level 94bhp 1.0-litre (25 TFSI) turbo petrols.
However, it’s tech that really sets the A1 apart from other superminis, because even the base SE model (later known as Technik) has super-bright LED headlights and the sweeping indicators in the LED tail-lights you see on bigger Audis. There’s also a simplified, 10.25in digital cockpit, 15in alloys, a DAB radio, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and 8.8in touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Sport models gain 16in wheels, rear parking sensors and front sports seats. S Line comes in four different flavours. The standard version has 17in rims, sports suspension and some sportier exterior styling; S Line Contrast edition and S Line Style edition are mostly styling packages; while S Line Competition is the only way to get the most powerful 40 TFSI engine and adaptive dampers. These should be able to take the sting out of lumps and bumps on a really rough road when you select Comfort mode.
Vorsprung and Black Edition models top the range, upping the ante with 18in wheels and a wealth of additional equipment.
As long as you stick with the standard suspension set-up (called Dynamic) and don’t go for larger alloys, the A1 is one of the smoothest-riding small cars available. S Line models have sports suspension as standard, and some might find this a little too firm when in combination with 18in wheels. Ride quality may vary, then, but all A1s have predictable steering that allows you to accurately place the car on the road and are refined and good to drive. Mind you, those with the manual gearbox have a rather long gearshift action that’s not as slick as that of the cheaper Ford Fiesta.
Where the original A1 really fell short of the competition was for interior space, because while people up front were well catered for, rear accommodation was tight and the boot was small. But this current car is closely related to the latest Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, which are among the roomiest small hatchbacks around, so it’s no surprise to find that this A1 vastly improves on what went before.