Good: perky yet refined engine, stylish inside and out as ever.
Not so good: not cheap, the reaction you'll get whenever you tell anyone it's a 1.0-litre.
We've already reviewed the facelifted Audi A1 on these pages, in 1.4 TDI S line guise, and it was found to move the A1 formula on a step with a great new low capacity diesel engine that manages to be nippy, economical and refined all at the same time. However, it costs from €23,390 and as we keep banging on about, diesel cars are best-suited to regular long journeys at higher speed. So if most of your driving is at a relatively sedate pace or predominantly in town, a diesel engine isn't the best option - regardless of how great that 1.4-litre unit performs in such an environment.
Fear not, as Audi has another new engine up its sleeves, just for you. It's a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol unit of just 1.0-litre capacity. Wait! Come back! Seriously, it's worth hearing this out, as, without trying to ruin the ending, Audi has pulled off a master stroke.
Let's look at the bare figures first. At 5,000rpm this engine produces 95hp while peak torque of 160Nm is available from just 1,500- to 3,500rpm. Not exciting figures perhaps, but hardly embarrassing, especially when you learn that this version of the new Audi A1 weighs as little as 1,035kg - some 65kg less than the 1.4 TDI version and over 100kg less than the lightest MINI. Consequently there's a low emissions figure of 97g/km for low road tax, and official fuel consumption of 4.2 litres /100km (67.3mpg). Those are the figures for the manual model - the S tronic automatic version we are reviewing here is officially a little less efficient, but still great by any measure. The thing is, only a saintly Saint will get close to those figures, as the car goads you into extracting every last ounce of performance out of it. For reference, we averaged 7.4 litres/100km (over 38mpg) in a week that involved plenty of motorway driving along with some urban dashing about. And a blast in the mountains that we couldn't resist.
In fairness, when the 'ultra' model is fitted with the S tronic automatic transmission (a dual-clutch seven-speed unit) it does its best to make the car efficient, changing up early and softening out the throttle response. Thing is, it's so slovenly to respond by default that I ended up tapping the lever back into Sport mode every time I got into the car. That makes it more satisfying to drive and it's an absolute hoot in manual mode, even without steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. That three-cylinder engine sounds great when the revs flare in each down change, making you feel like you're driving a junior hot hatch.
The optional 17-inch alloys (16-inch is standard in SE grade) on low profile tyres detract from comfort a little, but who cares, right? They look great. Direct steering combines with easy to modulate brakes to make sure the A1 is fun to drive, even if you're just popping to the shops. There you'll discover that, like the MINI, the A1 is not the most practical supermini money can buy. Its boot volume of 270 litres betters the latest MINI by just 59 litres, though the five-door Sportback model is a little more spacious. The three-door gets a more raked rear window to better show off its contrast finish roof rails, but go for the Sportback if you regularly carry passengers of any size in the back.
In fairness, the perky new 1.0-litre engine is best suited to the three-door model. Buy it because it's fun.