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The secret diary of a motoring journalist aged 39¾'ish


10th June 2019

I like superminis and can understand perfectly why they continue to make up a fifth of all cars sales in the UK despite the obsession with crossovers. With plenty to choose from, picking a good ’un isn’t hard, but finding the best is a much tougher call. The Audi A1 Sportback that pitched up this morning could well lay claim to that title and with considerable justification when you scroll through its spec sheet and numbers.
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After scanning the price list for this Sport 30 TFSI model of A1 Sportback, it comes out at £19,160, which is a fair chunk for a supermini. You get five doors, a six-speed manual gearbox and, of course, the Audi badge on the prow. For many, that will be enough, along with affordable leasing costs thanks to solid residuals. This car is even more on point with its 116hp 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine that is very a la mode and it turns in 57.6mpg and 111g/km.
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Just as relevant today for a longer trip is the 1.0-litre engine in this Audi is perfectly happy whirring its way up the motorway in quiet refinement. The manual gearbox is light and accurate, there’s decent mid-rev oomph so you don’t have to chop and change gear much when cruising, and fuel economy is good. Add in an impressively smooth ride, little wind or road noise and this supermini could pass for a much larger car.
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A return trip from the north of Scotland today and rather than drone down the A9, I choose the back roads. It’s a good call as it shows up the A1 has a fun side too and can handle twisty, turny roads with aplomb. Okay, it’s not hot hatch sharp but that kind of adds to the fun of maintaining pace and momentum in a small car with just the right amount of power for its grip and handling levels. It’s easily one of the most entertaining drives I’ve had in months.
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Pottering around town today in the A1 for a few errands, so infotainment takes precedent over driver entertainment. The large centre screen in the A1 is one of the best I’ve encountered. It has clear icons that are big enough to aim at on the move and there’s a satisfying connection when you do press one. It makes it much easier to whizz through the menus and Audi has retained separate physical controls for the heating – hurrah!
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Another weekend and another round of carting the kids to various activities and sports. This is where the A1 excels more than any other supermini and truly earns its stripes as the best in class. It has more than enough room for both parents and kids to fit in with comfort and the boot easily holds a ton of rugby, swimming and ballet kit. All this in a compact car that’s a doddle to park, quiet and fun.
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I have to confess I find Audi’s engine nomenclature as confusing now as when it was first announced, other than the bigger the number the more powerful it is. No matter, the A1 has worked its way into my affections and is one of the few test cars that I will be genuinely sorry to bid goodbye to. When it comes time to replace our current small car, the A1 is top of the list to take its place and you don’t get a higher recommendation than a journo being parted from their own cash.
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