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First Drive

First Drive: Audi A1 Citycarver

The story: Audi feels there is a market for a baby version of its A4 and A6 Allroad faux-off-road models, but in the A1 supermini it’s called CityCarver.
Key rival:Ford Fiesta Active
On sale:Now

As the motoring world moves towards SUVs and crossovers in increasing numbers, even the humble city car needs to show some off-roading intent. At least that’s how Audi is looking at things with its latest exploration into a new niche – the A1 Citycarver.

First Drive- September 2020-Audi A1 Citycarver-Image 4Audi describes it as looking “even more urban-ready” thanks to its “tougher stance”, thanks mainly to its wheelarch extensions and redesigned sills in a contrasting colour to the body, as well as a ride height raised by 40mm, stainless steel-finished underbody protection and new rear bumper.

Based on the Sport level of specification but costing an extra £1400 thanks to the cosmetic enhancements, the Citycarver is available with either 116hp or 150hp petrol engines, badged 30 and 35 respectively.

The 30 engine driven here is perfectly adequate for the little Audi, although it does require a bit of a work out to make serious progress. The increased ride height doesn’t detrimentally affect the car’s handling, and if anything the ride is a touch smoother.

The only natural rivals to the Citycarver are the Ford Fiesta Active and new Honda Jazz Crosstar, both of which employ similar faux-crossover bodywork enhancements and increased ride height to try and offer a bridge between regular hatchbacks and small crossovers.

First Drive- September 2020-Audi A1 Citycarver-Image 2Predictably the Citycarver’s interior is of a higher quality than either of its rival models, although the Jazz Crossstar is both more expensive and, thanks to its hybrid powertrain, more efficient at 120g/km compared to the 121 of the Fiesta and hefty 139 from the Audi. A regular A1 30 TFSI is one BiK band lower at 131g/km. With the price and emissions, the Citycarver works out as the most expensive to run of the three, and more expensive than the regular A1 which is cheaper, more efficient and has a slightly better residual value.

But the bulkier and more crossover-style looks will appeal to some that want supermini price and running costs but the perceived increased appeal of SUVs, and they’re the ones that until now didn’t have a premium brand faux-SUV supermini alternative.

paul barker

The verdict

A1 Citycarver looks good, but has to appeal enough to overcome the increased cost of that increased style.