A1’s deserved accolade

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Last week the Audi A1 was crowned the What Car? Car of the Year, a most prestigious accolade which Audi have been crowing about ever since – and quite rightly so.

Apparently the judges reported that the car “oozes quality everywhere you look and from everything you touch – you won’t find better at this price”.

After spending a week with the 1.4 TFSI Sport, I am wont to agree. It really is a very nice car.

As a premium car maker, Audi have always steered clear of superminis in the past. They left all that to the other car makers and concentrated on large and luxurious – apart from the notable exception of the A2 which never really gained the popularity they expected.

That all changed with the introduction of the A1 at the back end of last year. Suddenly superminis were desirable, not just for those struggling with a budget but a serious choice for anyone looking for style and class.

To be fair, it’s not really a surprise: fuel costs are getting higher by the week, environmental concerns are more pressing and city centres more congested. Having a prestigious and stylish runaround has been long overdue. Top marks, then, for Audi.

The model we had on test came fitted with the punchy 1.4 TSI petrol engine with 120bhp capable of a 0–62mph sprint of 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 126mph. While we’re number crunching I might as well add that the CO2 emissions are 124g/km and fuel economy is a welcome 53.3mpg aided, in part, by the very latest stop-start and recuperation technology.

The ride is firm but not uncomfortable and bumps in the road are soaked up easily.

Our car was fitted with the standard six-speed manual gearbox but there’s the option of S Tronic twin clutch automatic gearbox if required.

There’s not a lot to be said about Audi gearboxes that hasn’t already been said. They are such incredibly slick shifters and changing gear is an absolute pleasure.

Although there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the shape of the A1, the optional chrome roof arch makes it really stand out from the rest. Those models that are specified with body-coloured roof arches pale in comparison. I also love the LED running lights which wrap themselves around the headlights.

The interior is typical Audi: soft touch plastics and stylish attention to detail. The massive air vents are a case in point.

Stacked with the usual goodies such as alloy wheels, remote locking, air conditioning, electric windows and stereo with iPod connection, there’s also a healthy options list which can add many thousands to the initial price if you’re not careful.

Fitted to our car were a couple of packages: Media Style and Technology. These added an array of extras including a hard drive music system, LED interior lights and a satellite navigation system.

On the road price is £15,025 but as tested it was bumped up to £20,400.