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Mini Cooper S Chilli vs Audi A1 Sport

Mini Cooper S Chilli vs Audi A1 Sport

Mini Cooper S Chilli and Audi A1 Sport go head-to-head in this comparative review.

value

Mini Cooper S Chilli

From $41,600

A sharp knife wielded by Mini has slashed selected model prices. The Cooper S Chilli here was $3900 more than the base Cooper S but the difference is now $900, making the test car a relative bargain at $41,600, probably in reaction to the cheaper Audi A1. Chilli adds 17-inch alloys, Harmon Kardon audio, bi-xenon headlights, sports seats, climate-control aircon and partial leather upholstery. Don't even consider the base model.

Audi A1 Sport

From $42,500

Too many people know the Audi A1 Sport is based on the Volkswagen Polo GTI. There's almost $15,000 difference but they are definitely not the same car. The Audi is more refined, has more gear and allegedly better built (though the Polo is pretty good). Standard Audi kit includes rear park sensors, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth with voice control, climate-control aircon and LED daytime running lights. But it's an extra $720 for the signature painted roof arches and sat-nav adds $3600.

technology

Mini Cooper S Chilli

No surprises that stitching an athletic turbo-four engine into the taut body of the Mini produces a hot hatch. The 135kW/240Nm 1.6-litre engine, shared with Peugeot-Citroen, is a gem and the techno highlight of the Cooper S. Not only is it responsive, it averages 5.8L/100km. Sometimes. No surprises that luring a younger-thinking audience means standard infotainment wiring such as Bluetooth, USB interface and a trip computer.

Audi A1 Sport

The 136kW/250Nm 1.4-litre gets 4kW more than the Polo but retains the same acceleration. The supercharged and turbocharged engine is complex but both powerful and economical. The Sport comes only with the seven-speed DSG (Audi-speak is S-tronic) box which makes life easy in the city. But it's not as enjoyable or as sharp as the Mini's manual box.

design

Mini Cooper S Chilli

The shape has been around for about 10 years and by now we're used to the fact that it's Mini in name, not stature. Though it shares a wheelbase dimension with the four-seater Audi A1, the Mini's interior is strictly two adults and the boot is - by comparison - small. Form ahead of function perhaps. The dashboard is messy but always entertaining. Best news is the 250-plus options to personalise the car.

Audi A1 Sport

The baby Audi has only been here a few months yet is already showing its face around town. The Sport adds big alloys, roof spoiler and sits lower. Cabin trim picks up on its performance with things like sports seats. But its biggest advantage over Mini is its cabin room - it's quite possible to fit four adults inside - and bigger boot capacity which makes it a more flexible machine.

safety

Mini Cooper S Chilli

It's a five-star car with six airbags, electronic stability control, cornering brake control and all the other bits designed to keep you safe. Good to see airbags in the back. Sure, you won't get an adult in there for long but it could harbour children.

Audi A1 Sport

All the necessary safety gear is within the five-star crash rated body. There's also lap-sash belts. Audi insists the child-size rear disc brakes are more than sufficient and in practice, size is not an issue.

driving

Mini Cooper S Chilli

A low and wide stance, lots of vertical glass and its chamfered two-box shape put the driver at the centre of a car that feels fun even before it leaves the driveway. It's a very engaging machine with tonnes of communication with the driver. Its handling, engine response, braking and rapid steering - benefiting by pressing the "sport" button to heighten performance - make it one of the most rewarding cars to drive. Drivers don't mind but the passenger may remark on the firm, sometimes harsh, ride. Show them the nearest bus stop.

Audi A1 Sport

The engine is a sparkler but delivers the goods so linear that it masks the slingshot speed of its acceleration. The DSG has some disconcerting lag off the mark but a second later will make up for its tardiness. Paddle-shifters for the gearbox are optional and not needed. Comfort is first rate with nicely bolstered seats and an excellent seating position, while the dashboard is neat, easy to use and reeks of quality. Ride comfort is excellent - far better than what you'd expect in a car of this class.

Verdict

Mini Cooper S Chilli

Audi A1 Sport

They collide on the market on price and performance and buyer profile but it's unlikely they'd be shopped together. The Mini is more than a car - it's a statement. The fact it can be personalised is extremely important to some buyers, while others love the Mini history and others the performance. Audi can't produce history - don't talk about the war - but can make a high-performance two-door drenched in quality and one so easy to live with. Scoring here may be redundant. The best is in the eye of the beholder.

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