The only extras in our test car were a $2990 Style package that added LED headlights, an LED interior lighting package, heated and automatically folding exterior mirrors and 18-inch Audi Sport wheels, plus an $890 contrasting black roof. This brought the price to $40,160, which is not unreasonable.
Powering the base A1 30 TFSI is an 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, while the top-spec 40 TFSI S line uses a 147kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol unit. The mid-range 35 TFSI we drove has a 110kW/250Nm 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine. All are front-wheel drive and use a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, except the 40 TFSI which has a six-speed box.
The A1 has a compact turning circle of 10.5 metres, and is perfect for ducking in and out of tight parking spaces. Aside from a very thick C-pillar, front and rear visibility are good.
From a standing start the A1 has brisk acceleration – Audi says it can dash from 0-100kmh in 7.7 seconds – but the dual-clutch transmission can be a little jolty changing up from lower gears under heavy throttle. A more measured approach to the accelerator elicits linear performance from the perky engine. Switching Audi’s Drive Mode Select to Sport mode increases the throttle response and ups the fun factor.
The steering is lightly weighted, which is typical of Audi, and that’s not a criticism. The A1’s sharp point-and-shoot steering feels connected to the road and is perfect for a car like this.
Out on the open road, the A1 is an absolute hoot to drive. At 1165 kilograms it is light and nimble, and loves being chucked into a bend. The suspension set-up – McPherson struts up front and compound link rear – is tuned for dynamic driving, ensuring the A1 shines on undulating, twisty roads. The suspension damping and the 18-inch wheels with low-profile tyres let the ride down.
You never feel like the A1 is lacking for not having quattro AWD. The stability control is well calibrated, and while there was some skipping on unsealed road shoulders navigating tight bends, the A1 safely maintained its composure.
The cabin isn’t that well insulated from road and tyre noise. It’s more noticeable at higher speeds and on coarser road surfaces, and becomes grating after a while.
Of Audi’s safety suite, the lane-keeping aid is pretty spot on. It kept the car centred without the aggressive intervention of some other systems.
Audi says the A1 35 TFSI consumes 5.8 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, but we recorded 7.4L/100km.