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Audi A1 Sport S-line review

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    The A1 is quiet and comfortable - despite the S-Line's firmer suspension.

Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the Audi A1 Sport S-line.

Audi AI Sport S-Line 4
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  • Quality
  • Comfort
  • Performance
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  • Expensive
  • Small cabin
  • Poor driver visibility

For a nation that prides itself on wide open spaces, we buy a hell of a lot of city cars.

Fact is, though we have inklings of words like "mateship'' and "self-reliance'' that were used by or grandparents to describe the "bronzed Aussie'', Australians have in the past 50 years become marginalised by outside forces.

We are predominantly city dwellers and in that regard, now familiar with the same city constraints that affect Europe and North America.

So we're following a lot of their trends and choosing small cars - like Audi's special A1 - is just one.


Dumb question Number One is "Why buy an Audi A1 Sport for $45,000 when I could buy a Volkswagen Polo GTI - on which the A1 is based - for $28,000?'' I know it's dumb because I kept asking myself it.

The answer is they're not the same car. The Audi A1 is a very different drive - and should be for the $17,000 difference - and better equipped and, most importantly, people with more money than I don't want a Volkswagen.

The A1 Sport is well equipped but typifying top-end carmakers, has an expensive option list that contains many items I'd consider mandatory - like the contrasting colour of the roof arches ($720 extra, please) which is precisely the reason the A1 looks like an A1.

Metallic paint is an over-the-top $990, too. The S-Line adds a tad more class and for $1650 extra, you may as well have it.  Value? You'd have to have the cash.


In profile it's like a pregnant TT, something you'd design by wheeling the TT against one of those wave-shaped fairground mirrors and aligning it until you get a new, fatter silhouette. It's subjectively a pretty shape with a clam-shell bonnet, S-Line add-ons such as the bodykit's fat bumpers and roof spoiler and its wide dimensions that hide its shortness.

Of course, it's small and that, to a degree, interrupts its cabin space which is better for two adults and a couple of children. What makes it work is the same principle of the Fiat 500 - it's distinctive and the jelly-mold shape is a contemporary take on the angular lines of traditional small-car design.


Okay. This is the last time I'll mention Volkswagen. The A1 Sport gets the Volkswagen Polo GTI's base platform and drivetrain and that's all good.

It shares the Polo's 1.4-litre supercharged and turbocharged four-pot though thanks to an extra tweak, cranks out 4kW more at 136kW.

Torque remains at 250Nm and is available from 2000rpm through to 4500rpm.

The supercharger starts pumping at idle and is joined at 1500rpm by the turbo. The supercharger turns of at 3500rpm and the turbo sings out to the red line. Subsequently, the A1 gets to 100km/h from rest in 6.9 seconds - same as the Polo and interestingly, same as the Golf GTI - yet averages 5.9 L/100km.

It comes only as a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. Handling is spot on though on paper doesn't inspire. There's MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear which is standard fare in the small-car class, yet the execution by Audi is exceptional.


This is a five-star crash-rated car that gets all Audi's electronic safety aids, including a hill-start assist which is important because the dual-clutch auto has a tendency to roll back on inclines. There's also six airbags and rear park sensors but only a space-saver spare tyre.


It's surprisingly quick and will shock some fellow traffic light motorists. The stats say the supercharger starts the little engine cranking and the turbo finishes it off at the top end but there's no sense of transition - it's just like a hot 2-litre engine. The power's on tap but the S-tronic (nee DSG) dual-clutch box has annoying lag off the mark and will stumble and hunt for a cog if you aren't a predictable or smooth driver.

However, no argument about the speed that it sends in the next ratio. The A1's handling is very predictable and shows its tight chassis - far more composed than the Polo GTI - has a lot of potential for more grunt. Even the electric steering has sufficient feel to warrant a tick.

The A1 is also quiet and comfortable - despite the S-Line's firmer suspension - and has a practical and expansive boot, potential for seating two (small-stature) adults in the back seat and the agility and small turning circle to fit ay city car park.


Yes, it's expensive and even a Toyota Yaris will do similar things in tight situations. But the A1 is a quality production made for people that expect lots more from lots less.

Audi AI Sport S-Line


Price: $44,150
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited km, roadside assist
Resale: n/a Service Interval 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 5.9 l/100km; 139g/km CO2 
Equipment: six airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC.
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 136kW/250Nm 1.4-litre 4-cyl super/turbo-petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, front drive Body 3-door, 4 seats
Dimensions: 3954 (L); 1740mm (W); 1416mm (H); 2469mm (WB)
Weight: 1190kg Tyre size 215/40R17
Spare tyre: space-saver


BMW 120i Coupe - compare this car
Star rating: 3 stars out of 5
Price: $49,680 
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cyl petrol, 115kW/200Nm 
Transmission: 6-speed auto, rear drive 
Body: 2-door coupe THIRST: 7.6L/100km, CO2 182g/km 


Fiat Abarth Esseesse C - compare this car
Star rating: 3 stars out of 5
Price: $38,990
Engine: 1.4-litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 118kW/201Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, front drive BODY: 2-door convertible
Thirst: 6.5L/100km, CO2 155g/km 


Mini Cooper 1.6S - compare this care
Star rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Price: $43,050
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 135kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, front drive
Body: 2-door coupe
Thirst: 6.7L/100km, CO2 155g/km 


Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 3 comments

  • Good review. What I’d like to see is a review that lines up the Skoda Fabia RS against the Polo GTI against the A1 Sport.

    Apart from the looks getting better with price, and some of the options becoming standard, what else do you get?

    Jes the Hairy Cat of Sydney Posted on 28 November 2013 3:50pm
  • I think Neil has hit the nail on the head with regard to the differences between the A1 and the Polo GTI. As the proud owner of an A1 Ambition, I have occasionally been asked by my friends why it was that I chose to spend more money on a car that has less power than a Polo GTI. Well, having driven the Polo GTI on more than one occasion, I can definitely say that the steering in my A1 is far more responsive and precise, and there is a sure-footedness in the A1 that is noticeably superior to the Polo GTI. The Polo GTI is, of course, a great car for the money. But there are handling differences between the two cars, and this does lead me to believe that the A1 has been invested with a stiffer chassis and/or other improvements over the Polo GTI. This, combined with the beautiful design, quality, tactility, and equipment of the A1, creates a very enjoyable driving experience. One has to drive the two cars in order to understand the contrast. Unlike a number of other reviewers out on the internet who seemingly haven’t taken the time to do this, Neil’s astute observations show that he has indeed conducted a careful and considered review. Thank you Neil.

    Daniel Gullotta Posted on 11 February 2013 8:49pm
  • A couple of times the word “of” was used instead of “off”, i’m sure that “off” was the intended word.

    Jacob Wells of Tallangatta Posted on 22 November 2012 10:20am

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