Audi’s second go at the A1 hatchback is still the most affordable way into an Audi, and as the company's 'gateway' model to lifelong Audi ownership, first impressions count a lot.
What is the Audi A1?
Nearly 10 years after the original Audi A1 made its debut, this new car arrives on the premium small hatchback scene to do battle with relatively few others. The Mini Cooper comes closest to the A1's price, size and intent, while the Volkswagen Polo could be considered a rival on size and Euro heritage grounds - though definitely not on price.
It may remain as Audi’s smallest car, but it’s been doing a lot of growing up since we last saw its predecessor. It’s now 56 millimetres longer overall but packs a 94mm longer wheelbase which has allowed Audi to increase the size of the interior through clever packaging.
Not only is it larger than before, it also will feature more technology. Each A1 receives an 8.8-inch touchscreen controlling the a new infotainment system, but in addition will come equipped with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster.
Further to its physical enhancements, where the previous A1 earned its reputation for being cute and small, this car features distinctive sporty styling and far more angular lines making it look far meaner in its demeanour than before.
The new A1 range is more expensive at the entry level than previously, but it also comes better equipped. Unlike its predecessor it’ll only come in five-door guise, and manual transmissions are dropped from the range altogether.
Kicking off a three-strong range, the 30 TFSI costs $32,350, jumping to the $35,290 35 TFSI mid-ranger and topping out with the $46,450 A1 40 TFSI performance halo.
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At launch we spent time in all three variants, but let’s concentrate on the $35,350 35 TFSI which is expected to make up the bulk of A1 sales here.
Key highlights you can expect to find on the A1 35 TFSI are a comprehensive suite of safety equipment including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, six airbags and front and rear sensors and a parking camera. The A1 has achieved a 5-star safety rating, thanks in part to these additions. Audi has also spruced up the looks and connectivity with a lighting package, wireless smartphone charging, smartphone mirroring for Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and digital radio.
A few option packages exist for the A1 too, with the car we drove on launch featuring the $2990 Style package which brings LED headlights with rear dynamic indicators, colour LED interior lighting, and 18-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels, and it also had a $3200 Technik package which introduces Audi’s 'virtual cockpit' electronic instrument panel, an upgraded sound system and wireless Apple CarPlay.
What is it like to live with?
Much like the current-gen Volkswagen Polo that swelled to Mk5 Golf proportions when it made its debut last year, the Audi A1 has similarly expanded creating a much more comfortable, roomier interior environment.
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Jumping into the front seat, it’s very easy to get comfortable even if you’re taller than most. The huge headroom on offer combines with a flexible steering wheel adjustment to provide a commanding driving position, even in such a diminutively sized car.
On first impression the interior shows that Audi still has it, in terms of interior dash design. Much of the infotainment is directed towards the driver and the clear crisp lines of the dash fit very well within Audi’s vision for this car to be a style icon.
Many of the materials are sturdy and feel of quality, which we’d expect to hold up well to years of use. Where things could be improved though, is the firm plastic door cards and glovebox lid which aren’t quite so nice to the touch. It’s the same story in the second row, though the harder plastics at least don't feel especially scratchy or unpleasant.
Speaking of the back, there’s a decent amount of space on offer. Headroom is abundant, and you’ll have room for your legs in behind the front seats. We wouldn’t call legroom generous, but we do wonder just how Audi has been able to supply the space on offer – packaging genius!
Audi’s infotainment system is simple to use with quick shortcuts for the most common requests, and USB-A and USB-C ports and wireless charge tech in the centre console ensure it’s up to current technology trends.
Audi seems to have come a long way in cabin packaging and ambiance, with a definite improvement in both. Not only is the cabin larger, the light, interior lighting and comfort of the seats are greatly enhanced too.
Storage wise, the A1 gets two cupholders plus an additional small can holder, a cubby forward of the new-design shifter, a small centre console for valuables and sizeable plastic-lined door pockets.
The boot is 65 litres larger than before, totalling 335 litres of space which was more than enough for a number of overnight bags and backpacks.
What is it like to drive?
Slide into the hot seat of the Audi A1 35 TFSI and you’ll quickly come to realise the experience on the whole is nice.
It’s not especially grin-inducing, but for ticking boxes, the A1 35 TFSI does the job very well.
It’s powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that outputs 110kW and 250Nm, and the S tronic seven-speed gearbox is as smooth as we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen Group products. It’s ability to intuitively change gears leading up a hill and switch between gears imperceptibly is well noted.
Power is modest, yet overtaking is no great challenge and the powertrain pulls smoothly throughout its rev range.
The ride experience is very comfortable over a number of bumpy country roads, and freeway imperfections were easily ironed out. That said, there's a fair amount of road noise when travelling on coarse-chip surfaces that we didn’t expect from a premium car.
Steering is light and accurate, the car’s small stature is easy to place within a corner and the seats themselves are a comfortable place to spend extended periods of time.
Is it worth the money?
Although it's more expensive than its predecessor, the new Audi A1 is a much more impressive car than it has ever been.
Everything from its updated technology, to its roomier size and much improved looks – which you can customise to your heart’s content – is a vast improvement and will please its intended customers.
Running an A1 will cost $1480 for servicing over three years, or $1990 for five years, both costs that are able to be financed. Audi’s standard warranty runs for three years with no kilometre limitation.
One thing to note though is the fact that it doesn’t feel like the more you spend, the better it gets. We’d much rather go for the more affordable 30 TFSI that gets an engine that is neither better or worse, and tick the option boxes that best apply.
As its most affordable model, the Audi A1 is well representative of the brand and does its stablemates justice to kick off Audi’s range of vehicles.
Pros: Great space for its size, abundance of tech features, comfortable drive experience
Cons: Cheaper plastic surfaces, road and wind noise, price rise over predecessor
Rating: 4/5 stars