Steve Rogers

SMALL car, big ambitions. Audi's new A1 is about to turn the small car market upside down, with top-notch quality never before seen in a car in this class.

Jeremy Hicks, Audi’s boss in the UK, made a bold promise when he said the little four-seater will have quality and equipment every bit as good as a 60-grand A8.

That’s a big statement but take a long look around the newcomer and you can see where Hicks is coming from.

No corners have been cut here and this is Audi quality through and through. Entry level SE is impressive but push the boat out and the sky is the limit with customised packages sending the price of your A1 up to £25,000.

If money is no object then Audi will take it from you with lavish leather finishes, ambient lighting in the cabin, the most up-to-date technology for sat nav and voice control Bluetooth, and a stunning Bose sound system which is tuned for the A1s acoustics.

Quality comes at a price, even for a compact car, so you will need at least £13,420 at your disposal before you can drive an A1 away from the showroom. Not that you will get one this year because the 2,000 UK allocation has been snapped up and Audi does not think it will have much trouble shifting 18,000 cars next year with every car built to order.

The target for A1 is unashamedly top end market buyers and the pay-off, according to Audi, is more for your car when you trade it in than any other supermini on the planet.

CAP, which predicts depreciation, reckons the A1 will lose £6,350 of its value after three years and 30,000 miles, less than a Mini or BMW 1 Series, and more than three grand less than an equivalent Vauxhall Corsa.

A1 will launch with three models, SE, Sport and S Line and a choice of 1.2 and 1.4 petrol and a 1.6 litre diesel. All have low emissions with most qualifying for a first year free of road tax.

So how good is this ‘ultimate’ compact car? It is not the prettiest - look to Mini, Alfa Romeo MiTo and Citroen DS3 for catwalk presence, but it is the most practical with room for four and a really good boot.

The diesel will give you up to 70mpg but it is a tad noisy and nowhere near as much fun as the 1.4-litre petrol. This is a real hoot, quick of the mark, happy to take high revs and with a potential to average more than 50mpg although I can’t see anyone getting close because it is too tempting to red line the little monkey.

Audi reckon the bulk of sales will go to the petrols and this is where I would spend my money, but it would have to be the 1.4 which can have a seven-speed automatic box complete with paddle change. Bliss!

Come on, there has to be a downside somewhere, and there is, although nothing too serious.

This is Audi and the German outfit is more interested in sharp handling than out-and-out comfort. So the A1 rides hard and gets even harder in S Line territory where the stiffer suspension and 17in low profiles have the car hanging on to bends as if it is on rails but has little respect for our creature comforts.

Will the A1 story end here? Hardly. There is talk of a five-door model (but I hope not) and more serious talk of a cabriolet. And you can bet your life there will be a hot A1 in the not-too-distant future.

The bottom line is Audi cannot fail to win with A1. It is everything you would expect from a marque that prides itself on quality and there is a lot of quality in this car and the potential to spec up to levels out of the reach of its competitors. 

Audi A1 TFSI Sport
Engine: 1.4-litre; 120hp
Performance: 0-62mph 8.9secs; 126mph
Economy: 53.3mpg combined
Emissions 119g/km. VED £35
Insurance group 15
Price: £17,120

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