2017 Audi A1 and S1 Review

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2017 Audi A1 and S1 Review

Overall Rating

0

4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

3 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

5 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProCharming and powerful engines; dash design; fun to drive.

  2. ConAuto braking not available.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Audi A1 Sportback 1.0 TFSI 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

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The Audi A1 applies the style and finish of a medium luxury car to a very small hatchback. There is an array of fuel-efficient, turbocharged engines, from the miserly but charming three-cylinder in the A1 1.0 TFSI to the fiery 2.0-litre in the all-wheel-drive S1 hot hatch. All steer nicely, and even the least powerful is good to drive.

What might bug me?

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Driving at 80km/h on the skinny space-saver spare wheel, until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

If you have chosen an S1, coming to grips with the tyre repair kit: the S1 doesn’t have a spare wheel of any kind.

Drivers born and bred on traditional automatic gearboxes may need to approach an auto A1’s dual-clutch gearbox with an open mind. The S-tronic transmission is essentially an automated manual gearbox – albeit a highly sophisticated one – and sometimes it won’t match the smoothness of a conventional automatic when starting from rest.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door hatchback only – Audi calls it a Sportback.

The Audi A1 drives its front wheels, and the Audi S1 drives all four wheels. Both are classed as light cars, higher priced.

What features does every Audi A1 and S1 have?

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Cruise control, and air-conditioning. Headlights that turn on automatically when it’s getting dark, and windscreen wipers that turn on automatically when it rains.

Rear parking sensors, which help you judge how far the bumper is from obstacles.

A multimedia system with an AM/FM radio, a CD player, a memory card slot, an auxiliary input socket and a 6.5-inch colour display. Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming.

A leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for the multimedia system.

Aluminium alloy wheels, which are usually lighter and better looking than the steel wheels with plastic covers found on some lower priced light cars. A tyre pressure monitor, which warns you if a tyre has lost air (this can give you extra time to get a slow puncture seen to).

Either a space-saver spare wheel and tyre (all A1s) or a puncture repair kit (the S1).

Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; one on the outer side of each front occupant to protect the upper body; and a curtain airbag on each side covering the front and rear side-windows.

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Every Audi A1 carries a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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The 1.0-litre petrol in the A1 1.0 TFSI uses the least fuel, consuming as little as 4.2 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).

This turbocharged three-cylinder engine is peppy for city driving, and has enough grunt for climbing hills and overtaking on the highway. Nevertheless, the main reason you might not choose it is simply that you want a bit more power, for more rapid overtaking and a sportier driving experience.

The turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder in the 1.4 TFSI Sport has about 25 per cent more urge, and the similar 1.8-litre in the 1.8 TFSI S Line has about 60 per cent more urge. (And even the 1.8 uses only 5.6 litres/100km on the test.)

The all-wheel-drive Audi S1 takes performance even more seriously, generating two and a half times as much thrust from its 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder as you can get from a 1.0 TFSI. It’s a jet.

All four engines have automatic stop-start systems, which save fuel in urban driving. They shut down when you stop, and start again when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away.

A five-speed manual gearbox is available in the A1 1.0 TFSI, and a six-speed manual is available in the 1.4 TFSI Sport. All three A1s are also available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which comes with paddle-shifters so that you can control it from the steering wheel. The S1 comes only as a six-speed manual.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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Stepping past the least costly A1, the 1.0 TFSI, and spending more for a 1.4 TFSI Sport gets you climate control air conditioning (which maintains a set temperature), and front seats with extra side support for brisk cornering. You also get the Audi Drive Select system, which lets you adjust how immediately or lazily the car responds to your pressure on the accelerator pedal (you can choose Comfort, Efficiency or Dynamic). Wheel diameter rises an inch to 16 inches, and the tyres have a lower profile (which sharpens the steering a bit).

Spending more again on a 1.8 TFSI S Line gets you very bright Xenon headlights and eye-catching (and long-lasting) LED daytime running lights. You get a better multimedia system, with a high-resolution display, integrated satellite navigation, twin memory card slots, voice control and a 20Gb hard disk for music storage. Wheel diameter rises again to 17 inches, the tyre profile shrinks further, and the suspension is firmer (for more stable handling).

In an S1, you get the very powerful 2.0-litre engine, all-wheel-drive, sport suspension that’s firmer again, and the ability to choose how firmly the car rides with the Drive Select system (via electronically adjustable dampers in the suspension).

An S1 also brings you a flat-bottom steering wheel, seats trimmed in a combination of cloth and leather, stainless steel covers for the control pedals, and a more powerful 10-speaker sound system with a sub-woofer. On the outside, various styling tweaks bring a sportier look, among them a different 17-inch wheel design.

On any A1 or the S1, a reversing camera can be ordered as an extra-cost option. Some features of the more expensive A1s can be added as options to the others (notably satellite navigation).

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The firm, sports suspension in the S1 – and to a lesser extent in the 1.8 TFSI S Line – makes the ride a bit less forgiving, particularly at low speeds and over sharp-edged bumps.

The 17-inch wheels and tyres that come standard on the A1 1.8 TFSI and S1 (and the optional 18-inch wheels) have a similar impact on ride comfort, in comparison with the 15- and 16-inch wheels worn by an A1 1.0 TFSI or 1.4 TSFI Sport, because the lower profile tyres have less rubber and air cushioning you from the road.

Paint on an A1 is an extra-cost item: metallic and pearl colours cost about $1000, and every available colour is metallic or pearl. On an S1 there are two solid colours available for no extra charge: Vegas Yellow and Brilliant Black.

How comfortable are the Audi A1 and S1?

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The reassuringly weighty thud as the driver’s door shuts when you climb in, and the front-seat comfort, smooth leather-clad steering wheel and overall ergonomics, mark the A1 and S1 as a class above the average light hatchback.

The dash and instruments are classically presented. Operating any of the minor controls, from the jet-engine air-conditioning vents to the knurled rollers on the steering wheel and the audio system knobs, is a tactile delight.

The A1 rides the average city or country road with absorbency, and shuts out tyre, wind and engine noise terrifically well. It takes a very bumpy road for suspension noise to become noticeable.

A1s with 17-inch wheels (or optional 18s), or sports suspension, trade a degree of ride smoothness for heightened handling, but the trade-off is well judged.

The S1, with its adjustable adaptive dampers and a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, manages a pleasing ride-handling compromise despite suspension that is firmer still.

What about safety in an Audi A1 or S1?

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The Audi A1 and S1 have stability control, six airbags, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, and a tyre pressure monitor as standard.

If you want a reversing camera and front parking sensors, you can add them at extra cost.

Autonomous emergency braking is not offered, either standard or as an option, in any A1 or S1. AEB systems warn you of obstacles in front of the car – typically another vehicle that has slowed suddenly – and apply the brakes automatically if you do not react.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Audi A1 five stars for safety, its maximum, in October 2012. The A1 achieved a perfect score in the pole test, and good results in the frontal offset and side impact tests, on its way to an overall score of 32.75 out of 37.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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Responsive – and communicative – steering makes the A1 feel sporty and agile from the first corner you turn into. The handling is secure and predictable rather than edgy or adjustable, which gives you great confidence.

The A1 remains composed and comfortable on bumpy roads. There’s a palpable sense of body rigidity, which clearly helps the suspension work when the going gets rough and allows you to carry pleasing pace.

The three-cylinder A1s are the most enthusiastic when turning in to corners. They’re sweet to drive, especially with the manual gearbox, and great fun, despite their modest power.

The manual gearbox is not a must, however, because the paddle gear-shifters in any auto A1 generate a quick response and give you good control of the engine when you want to drive with enthusiasm.

The 1.4 TFSI Sport and 1.8 TFSI S Line progressively step up the speed available – the extra power satisfies during day-to-day duty, on the highway, and for spirited driving.

The S1, with its well-sorted suspension, unfailing all-wheel-drive traction, rorty, hard-hitting engine and six-speed manual gearbox is an involving, rapid, thrilling little car.

How is life in the rear seats?

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Space is at a premium for back-seat occupants in the A1. The A1 is a bit narrower, with a significantly shorter wheelbase – by around 10cm – than alternatives such as the Mini Cooper five-door, Renault Clio and Peugeot 208, which directly affects the shoulder and leg room. For tall people, it’s a bit cramped back there.

There’s also a bit less headroom in the A1 than in the Mini, and the sparsely featured rear seat area has a drab, austere air.

Back seat occupants in the A1 are well isolated from tyre, wind and most suspension noise.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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Although there is little in it between the Audi A1, which has a 270 litre boot, and the main alternative, the Mini Cooper five-door, which has a 278 litre boot, the A1’s boot is a bit smaller than most of the other European light-hatch alternatives. For example, the Volkswagen Polo can carry 280 litres, the Renault Clio 300 litres and the Peugeot 208 311 litres.

With the 60-40 split rear seatbacks folded the Audi A1 can lug 920 litres of stuff.

Where does Audi make the A1 and S1?

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The Audi A1 and S1 are built in Belgium.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Auto emergency braking, which can brake the car automatically to prevent you from distractedly rear-ending another car in city traffic. AEB is available, either standard or as an option, in some cars of this size, among them the less costly Mazda 2 and Volkswagen Polo.

The ability to plug your smartphone into the car’s central colour display, and display and control apps from the display – via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The Polo offers this, for example.

The only direct premium light hatchback alternative to the Audi A1 is the Mini Cooper five-door. Mini offers a version with a turbo-diesel engine, which gives the Cooper outstanding fuel economy.

Other cars worth considering are the Renault Clio (which has a longer, five-year warranty) and the Peugeot 208. You could buy a mid- to high-specification Clio or 208 for a similar price to the least costly A1.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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Our reviewers like the A1 1.0 TFSI. What the turbo three-cylinder lacks in outright oomph compared with the bigger engines available, it makes up in character. And, for a car from a premium brand, the price of this version isn’t a huge stretch from highly specified versions of many more popular light hatchbacks.

Is Audi likely to update the A1 or S1 soon?

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The current generation Audi A1 went on sale in December 2010, in three-door 1.4 TFSI form with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine. The more powerful 1.4 TFSI Sport version arrived in mid-2011. The five-door A1 Sportback went on sale in mid-2012, and the three-door was phased out. The S1 arrived in February 2014.

Audi facelifted the A1 Sportback in June 2015, introducing the 1.0-litre three-cylinder and the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engines, and adding extra equipment.

An all-new Audi A1 is likely to arrive in 2018. This second-generation model, which has been seen undergoing testing in prototype form, is expected to be slightly bigger than the current car.