What are you driving?
I'm driving the smallest Audi. Once upon a time, that would have meant driving the A2, which was a technically advanced, ultra-light, ultra-aerodynamic car that made the engineer within you practically weep with joy. That was 20 years ago, though, so now driving the smallest Audi means driving this A1, which is rather less technically exciting.
Underneath, the A1 shares its MQB-A0 platform with the likes of the Volkswagen Polo, the SEAT Ibiza, the VW T-Cross and many other Volkswagen Group products. That's no bad thing though as the MQB-A0 platform is both technically advanced (so you get the latest driver aids and touchscreen tech) and makes for a roomy, practical car. In fact, this little A1 is barely any less practical than the larger Audi A3 in real terms. Makes you wonder why people bother trading up.
Outside, the A1's styling is much blockier and more overtly square, than before, while inside the cabin is broader and more luxurious. The engine range is, for now, restricted to a single choice - this 116hp 1.0-litre TFSI petrol three-cylinder unit.
Name its best bits
That lack of engine choice is no bad thing, to be honest, as even if Audi offered any other engines for the A1, we'd probably still tell you to just get this one. The little three-cylinder unit is arguably the best single engine that the entire Volkswagen Group builds at the moment, and it manages to feel more powerful than you expect, while simultaneously being more frugal than you could hope. As high as 50mpg is easily achieved in real world conditions, yet it pulls strongly through all its gears, and never sounds anything less than thoroughly enthusiastic when you rev it. It's a gem, basically.
The A1 also looks uncommonly handsome, although to be fair, whether you notice that depends on the specification and paint colour. Go for something bright like the car pictured and the A1's really rather appealing lines are shown off to good effect. From the forward-raked C-pillar to the little 'Quattro nostrils' in the leading edge of the bonnet (designed to evoke memories of the original Audi rally cars of the '80s), this is a seriously handsome little car.
It's also good to drive. Note that I say good, rather than great. If it's great you want, go get a Fiesta. The A1 does have steering that majors on weight and precision, if not feel, though and it never feels anything less than confident and planted.
The cabin is typical of Audi - a little plain in places (and occasionally too quick to give away its more affordable origins), but it looks nice, and is built in a manner that has makers of bank vaults looking around for 'help wanted' ads. It's roomy, too, as noted above.
Anything that bugs you?
Only one thing, but it's a big thing. The price tag. The A1's base price of €24k is pretty stiff already for a small car, but our options-in test car - an SE, remember, not the more desirable S line - rang up the Ingolstadt till to the matter of €35,325. Exqueeze me? Baking powder? How fecking much? If you're spending that much money on a small hatchback supermini, it had better be dipped in gold or filled with a lifetime's supply of the chocolate of your choice, otherwise it's just not worth it. You could save at least €10,000 by buying all the same bits with a Polo badge and have essentially the same driving experience.
And why have you given it this rating?
It is very hard indeed to see the value in buying an Audi this small, yet still paying this much. You really are spending too much, proportionally, on the badge at this level. That said, the A1 is really very good looking, pleasant to drive and beautifully made, so we can at least see why people love them.
What do the rest of the team think?
You have to ignore the price tag of the test car in reality, which is why I think Neil was a little hard on the A1 in terms of its overall star rating. Remember, this Audi's biggest rival is the MINI and I reckon I'd have the Audi over it all things being equal. The A1 drives almost as well now, has a much more appealing design, is spacious, well-made, refined and its 1.0-litre engine is superb. Think of it as a baby Audi rather than a posh Polo.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor
There's plenty to like about the A1; its styling is more appealing than its predecessor's and it has among the most modern interiors for the segment. But that segment has improved overall, meaning a high-spec SEAT Ibiza or Volkswagen Polo is almost as nice, and cheaper. That aside, the A1 feels like a high-quality product and that 1.0-litre petrol engine is a peach.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor