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Audi A1 2020 review

The A1 is back, and makes a statement with a new-but-still-distinctly-Audi look.
EXPERT RATING
8
The A1 is a car with three distinct personalities - do any of them hit the mark? We went to the second-generation model's Australian launch to find out.

After the last one hung around for a little too long, the A1 is back, bringing new life to an unloved market segment.

Seriously, when was the last time you spared a thought for the premium end of the small hatch segment? When the Mini Cooper was last updated? Maybe when the last generation of A1 launched nine years ago?

But if this new A1 doesn’t have you paying attention nothing will. What’s more, Audi is launching into this nice space with a fully-fledged range of variants and a slew of visual options to appeal to the widest range of buyers it can.

So, should you consider one? Has Audi smashed it out of the park on price for its three-engine range? And, what’s up with that triple barrelled snout?

We went to the launch of the 2020 A1 range to find the answers to these questions and more.

Audi A1 2020: 30 TFSI
Safety rating
Engine Type1.0L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency5.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$32,350

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The A1 comes in three variants, distinguished by their engines. We’ve found it also slots them neatly into potential buyer classes, and we’ll explain as we go along.

Kicking off the range wearing an MSRP of $32,350 is the 30 TFSI. Now the cheapest Audi you can buy, it comes packed with an eco-conscious 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch auto, 16-inch alloys, an 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.25-inch digital dash (no A1 comes with analog dials), DAB+ digital radio, front and rear parking sensors, cloth seat trim, and a turn-key ignition.

  • The mid-grade 35 TFSI ($35,290) Offers a balance of spec and price. The mid-grade 35 TFSI ($35,290) Offers a balance of spec and price.
  • The 35 TFSI is able to be specified with a more comprehensive list of option packages. The 35 TFSI is able to be specified with a more comprehensive list of option packages.

This is great spec, especially for a premium car, and surprising for Audi’s most affordable model. Another way of looking at it, is that you can get a lot of the same spec from a mid-grade VW Polo ($24,990), but it doesn’t look near as good as the A1, and Audi says it expects this car to draw a lot of buyers out of non-premium options.

Importantly, it should be drawing buyers from the not-quite as well equipped entry-level Mini Cooper ($34,000).

Next rung in the A1 range is the mid-grade 35 TFSI ($35,290). Offering a balance of spec and price, on the face of it, the 35 only offers buyers a few extra tidbits for a little extra cash.

  • The 40 TFSI is the top-grade A1, and takes a significant jump from the rest of the range in terms of price. The 40 TFSI is the top-grade A1, and takes a significant jump from the rest of the range in terms of price.
  • Don’t you think the A1 is a good looker? I do, and in the flesh, it manages to look even better. Don’t you think the A1 is a good looker? I do, and in the flesh, it manages to look even better.

You get 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and push-start, ambient interior lighting, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, armrest centre console, and a wireless phone charging bay. On top of that, the 35 TFSI is able to be specified with a more comprehensive list of option packages.

The 40 TFSI is the top-grade A1, and takes a significant jump from the rest of the range in terms of price at $46,450. The 40 TFSI has a more powerful 2.0-litre engine, and increases the specification to include 18-inch alloy wheels, S-Line pack which significantly ups the visual ante, dual-zone climate control, adaptive suspension, heated and auto-folding rear vision mirrors, Audi’s fully-fledged 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dash, built-in sat-nav and internet connectivity, as well as wireless CarPlay via a larger 10.1-inch screen.

It’s true the 40 TFSI is expensive, easily beyond $50k once you add a few options, but it stands in place of the discontinued S1 hot hatch.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

Don’t you think the A1 is a good looker? I do, and in the flesh, it manages to look even better.

Even the base car is quaint, with its stout dimensions and subtle lines. It’s clear the brand is making a solid effort to deviate from the phrase “all Audis look the same” which is definitely one you’ve heard before.

New design elements include the strong, more squared-off wheelarches, thick and angular C-pillar, and new more complicated front.

All A1s now have a reversing camera as well as front and rear parking sensors. All A1s now have a reversing camera as well as front and rear parking sensors.

The triple barrel snout, which at first seems a little… Hyundai Kona-esque, is actually there to reference the S1 Quattro rally car which put Audi back on the map in the ‘80s.

The LED light clusters round off the A1’s distinctive face, but somehow bring the whole thing together for a distinctive Audi look.

Fresh, but not wild. We like it.

Inside is full of nice touches and surfaces. It comes off as a bit of a polygonal assault, but the strong design theme and driver-centric design are a fresh futuristic breath.

Either the 8.8-inch or 10.1-inch multimedia screens are stunning in their resolution, fidelity, and graphics, really cementing the media system as the heart of the dash.

the strong design theme and driver-centric design are a fresh futuristic breath. (40 TFSI pictured) the strong design theme and driver-centric design are a fresh futuristic breath. (40 TFSI pictured)

That’s saying a lot, too, because there are plenty of other wow moments, like the slick digital dash elements, vented passenger dash insert and the way the design spills into the door cards. You can add ambient lighting onto it further up the range.

A few weak points are easily noted, however. Having a turnkey on the base spec 30 TFSI is decidedly not 'premium' and the complete lack of an electric handbrake makes the centre console area a little clumsy. The plastics around the lower third of the dash are Polo quality, which is good for a car this size, while not quite oozing luxury.

The seats themselves are comfortable, no matter which grade you pick, but the only way to get leather is to opt for the S-Line interior package, only available on the top-grade 40 TFSI ($1100).

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The new A1’s wheelbase has been stretched out by 94mm which doesn’t sound like much, but makes a world of difference when it comes to this car’s floorplan.

There’s way more space than you’d expect just by looking at the outside, which becomes evident the moment you put yourself in the driver’s seat.

My 182cm tall frame had leagues of headroom, legroom, and arm-flailing space, and I was struck by how adjustable the seating position was, featuring a low seat and a broad-reaching telescopic adjust for the steering column.

There’s way more space than you’d expect just by looking at the outside. (40 TFSI pictured) There’s way more space than you’d expect just by looking at the outside. (40 TFSI pictured)

Storage is abundant too, with a massive bin under the climate controls, and three variably-sized cupholders in the centre console. It’s a bit annoying you’ll have to spec up to the 35 TFSI to get a tiny centre console box, the main use of which is as an elbow rest for the driver and front passenger.

Full marks for large bottle holders in the doors (for a car this size), too, and the addition of USB C outlets will keep tech-heads very happy. Wireless charging on the 35 TFSI and wireless CarPlay on the 40 TFSI are impressive inclusions (all without a subscription...) and the screens are bright and easy to reach thanks to the new driver-centric dash.

The back seat offers a genuinely surprising amount of room, with an inch or two of airspace for my knees behind my own driving position and enough headroom for me, but perhaps nobody taller.

The boot is even better again. It has 335-litres (VDA) of space. The boot is even better again. It has 335-litres (VDA) of space.

All the seats sit really low to the floor. While this leads to a sporty driving position, it also brings up questions about the fitting of child seats or clambering in and out.

As if all of those dimensions weren’t improved enough, the boot is even better again. It has 335-litres (VDA) of space which is a whopping 65 litres more than the outgoing car. That’s more boot space than a Toyota Corolla or a Mazda CX-3 - for a bit of context.

There’s a catch though. The A1 has no spare wheel, with all variants shipping with an inflator kit, and the brand says there will be no all-wheel drive versions, preferring instead to make the most of the deep boot.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

Each of the three A1 trim levels is defined by its engine.

The base engine in the 30 TFSI is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol. It produces a city-car appropriate 85kW/200Nm.

Next up is the 35 TFSI which offers a bit more power, good for buyers who will use the freeway a bit more often. It’s the most recent engine here, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo which produces 110kW/250Nm. It’s worth noting this engine is fitted with an emissions-reducing petrol particulate filter (PPF) in Europe, but this component had to be removed for the Australian version as our lax fuel standards could have caused problems.

The 35 TFSI has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo which produces 110kW/250Nm. The 35 TFSI has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo which produces 110kW/250Nm.

This engine does get ‘cylinder-on-demand’ technology, which can shut down two of the four cylinders when cruising to save fuel.

The top engine available in the 40 TFSI is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 147kW/320Nm. It’s a far punchier unit, offering a clear driver’s choice in the A1 line-up, especially now it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a proper hot-hatch S1.

The 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre engines are both mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, while the top-spec 2.0-litre has a six-speed dual-clutch instead. A five- or six-speed manual version, available in Europe, will not make it to Australia.

All three engine choices run on a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded petrol and have 40-litre fuel tanks. They are also fitted with stop-start technology.

The top engine available in the 40 TFSI is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 147kW/320Nm. The top engine available in the 40 TFSI is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 147kW/320Nm.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

How much of that 95 RON fuel you’ll consume will obviously depend on which engine you choose. We didn’t have time to give you a fair indication of real-world figures on our drive program, so we’ll be working with official, combined cycle numbers.

The 1.0-litre 30 TFSI has a claimed, combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.4L/100km. It’s surprising to see it come in as higher than the five-door automatic three-cylinder Mini Cooper, which is rated at 5.0L/100km despite producing more power.

Stepping up to the 1.5-litre four-cylinder 35 TFSI puts the official combined consumption number up to 5.8L/100km, and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder 40 TFSI will consume an official combined 6.4L/100km.

The best estimate I can give you on real-world consumption for now is the 7.0L/100km I scored on the three-cylinder Polo which the 30 TFSI shares its engine with.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The A1 hits the market with a fresh maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. This is largely thanks to its camera-and-radar based auto emergency braking system (AEB – works up to 250km/h for other vehicles or up to 65km/h for pedestrians), and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.

There is no blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross traffic alert available on the A1 range, however active cruise control can be optioned to the 40 TFSI as part of the ‘Premium Plus pack’ ($2990).

Freeway speed AEB is impressive for any city-sized hatch, let alone a premium one and on our test we found the lane keep assist tech to be subtle but reassuring.

All A1s now have a reversing camera as well as front and rear parking sensors. The expected refinements like six airbags, stability control and brake controls are also all present. The lack of a spare will be a let-down for long-distance drivers.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The A1 soldiers on with a three-year/unlimited kilometer warranty, which is standard among premium automakers – but still miles behind the mainstream industry standard of five year’s warranty.

Service intervals for all A1 variants are set at 15,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first.

Audi fans fearing a rapid electrification of the brand promised by the impeding range of e-tron vehicles need fear not for the A1. (40 TFSI pictured) Audi fans fearing a rapid electrification of the brand promised by the impeding range of e-tron vehicles need fear not for the A1. (40 TFSI pictured)

The best news is in the A1’s service pricing which is most efficiently pre-paid as a pack at the time of purchase (and hence, can be added in on finance). The service packs are priced at a very-cheap-for-a-premium brand $1480 for three years or $1990 for five years.

The A1 is built in Spain.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

We had a chance to sample all three A1 variants at the launch, and we’re happy to report each one slots into its target category nicely.

All cars benefit from an adjustable and sporty driving position, which is comfortable, even over long periods, and genuinely pleasant steering.

It’s really light at low speeds, but stiffens up to offer responsive and direct feedback at speed.

The entry-level three-cylinder kicks along nicely at city speeds, with its peak torque being available at a low 2000rpm.

The top-spec 40 TFSI seems to be an S1 hot-hatch in everything but name. The top-spec 40 TFSI seems to be an S1 hot-hatch in everything but name.

It certainly feels like it punches above its weight, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling a little weak on the freeway, for more high-speed overtaking maneuvers. There just isn’t much power left in reserve.

The 30 TFSI has the least road noise of the trio thanks to its smallish wheels and spongey rubber.

Stepping up to the 35 TFSI brings a welcome power upgrade (adding 35kW/50Nm). It feels like the engine most suited to this car, with great performance at all speeds.

It’s far from a hot-hatch, but the efficiency technologies gained here should help buyers save a bit of extra fuel in the long run.

Power is much better at freeway speeds, and that’s perhaps what will sell this car over the three-cylinder which seems like a better fit for a predominantly city-slicking buyer.

Road noise picks up a bit, with the 35 TFSI’s extra wheel size and slim profile tyres.

The top-spec 40 TFSI seems to be an S1 hot-hatch in everything but name. The 2.0-litre engine with its relatively massive power outputs is more than enough for something this size, and it comes with some genuine performance enhancements too.

The 30 TFSI has the least road noise of the trio thanks to its smallish wheels and spongey rubber. The 30 TFSI has the least road noise of the trio thanks to its smallish wheels and spongey rubber.

These include adaptive dampers (with three modes), paddle-shifters, and a seemingly more sporting six-speed dual clutch – which has more clearly defined ratios to play with.

While I was expecting the ride to be unduly harsh on the 40 TFSI just by eyeballing its big wheels, the experience behind the wheel blew me away with how comfortable those active dampers make it.

Even in ‘dynamic’ sport mode, the 40 TFSI is comfortable, while also being even more confident in the corners than the two cars below it. It also tightens up the steering and transmission response for a proper driver’s experience.

Driving on the paddle shifters was a good laugh, as they are instantly responsive, and having just six ratios proved immensely satisfying on country back roads.

The main downside of each variant was the road-noise, but other than that I only found the stop-start system to be a tad clunky in T-junctions. Combined with a dual-clutch auto, it can take a full second for everything to get going again, potentially costing you a gap in traffic.

Overall, every A1 is great fun behind the wheel, and each one slots nicely into a bracket suited to a particular target audience, be it someone who wants a city runabout or even someone looking for a luxury-tinged hot hatch.

Verdict

The A1 is fun to look at, fun to drive, and genuinely full of cutting-edge tech. While it launches into a city-car segment with few competitors in Australia, it still has an impressive specification list which no other small car can match.

What’s more is each variant is carefully crafted to a specific buyer in terms of its price, performance, and equipment. Just be aware each trim level has a distinct options list that can make a stark difference to the end product available to you.

To that end, our pick of the range is the 35 TFSI. It’s able to perform well in a wider range of road conditions while still keeping the cost well below the almost-$50k 40 TFSI. It also opens up a much longer list of optional equipment than is available on the 30 TFSI.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Pricing Guides

$39,400
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$32,350
Highest Price
$46,450
EXPERT RATING
8
Price and features8
Design9
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving8
Tom White
Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$32,350

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data
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