Audi’s A1 design a theatrical light show

THERE are two vital features needed on any new Audi; it’s got to look like one on the outside and feel like one inside.

Once the designers have achieved both those aims they can relax a little as the needs of most potential buyers will already have been met.

On that level (and on others... read on) the little A1 does the job nicely. With its big mouth and restrained but sculpted lines its every millimetre an Audi from the kerb.

Open the door and sink into the hip hugging seat on the S line spec car tested here and you’re confronted by the best small car interior in the business; obviously built from expensive materials and looking so very grown up for such a little car.

It’s pretty petite inside; plenty of room up front but tight in the back and modestly booted too.

Continuing the theme of smallness, beating beneath the bonnet of the car on test was a recent addition to the A1 line up; a modestly-sized 1.2 petrol engine with a turbocharger helping things along.

It’s one of those engines that performs (much) better than the on-paper figures show. It pulls like a terrier from low revs, feels like a larger engine at higher speeds and produces a lovely sporting rasp as the revs climb.

I recorded 44mpg in the course of a testing week, not bad for a lively petrol powered car but well below what a diesel might manage.

But the 1.6 diesel A1 in similar trim costs a grand more, even if it goes faster as well as using less juice.

I’d happily save the extra and enjoy the petrol powered car’s lively personality which revelled in town work but didn’t feel out of its depth on the motorway.

I’d save some more cash (£410) and not choose the larger, 18 inch alloy wheels that came bolted to the test car. Add them to suspension that’s firmed up in S line and you have a car that’s less than happy on a typical British side road.

Lots of Audi owners tick the big wheels option and firmer suspension on models across the range and happily accept that their car is ‘a bit firm’ on bad roads. You pays your money and makes your choice...

Whether you think the £1,545 extra asked for the S line car over a plainer SE is also down to an individual at ordering time.

The upgrade is mostly cosmetic (apart from the bigger alloys and firmer springs) but does add function buttons on the steering wheel, along with enough S line badges to impress an Audi brochure collector.

Approach the car at night and you’re treated to an S line theatrical light show as the key is plipped to unlock the doors; the interior floods with light, from footwell to centre console and door handles in a manner that wouldn’t disgrace a Rolls-Royce disgorging an Oscar nominee on to the red carpet.

My test car came with £1,375 worth of sat nav (whose screen was sometimes hard to read) and hard drive, helpfully loaded with lots of artists I’d never heard of. Thank you, Audi for broadening my musical education.