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Audi A1 1.2 TFSI SE

Click to view picture gallery“Theres a lot thats big about Audis
  small premium supermini, the A1.
  What Car?
s 2011 Car of the Year,
s the marques first supermini
  model and whilst it is undoubtedly
  good news for Audi, what did the
  A1 do to be the best car introduced
  last year?”

THE A1 WAS NOT THE FIRST PREMIUM SUPERMINI the MINI can claim that distinction and much of the technology under the A1's skin comes from the Volkswagen Group family of small cars, namely the VW Polo and the SEAT Ibiza.

However the A1 is here and now and selling very well with 18,000 cars available this year (order to delivery is currently taking nine to ten weeks).

The A1 is a small car with big brand appeal, small engines with big performance and it's big on fuel economy. And the range has just been extended with the arrival of an entry-level 1.2 TFSI petrol engine which has now joined the 1.4 TFSI petrol and 1.6 TDI diesel.

“The A1 is a small car
with big brand appeal,
small engines with
big performance
and it’s big on fuel
The new engine is available in A1s with SE, Sport and S-line trim and equipment levels. Power outputs from the petrol units start at 86PS and run up to 185PS with the all-important CO2 emissions ranging from 118g/km to 139g/km. The 105PS diesel unit puts out just 105g/km of tailpipe emissions.

The most important figures of all, of course, are the prices. The newly-arrived 1.2 TFSI costs 13,420 in SE spec (with a five-speed gearbox) and will bring lots of conquest customers to the Audi brand. The 1.4-litre versions are priced from 15,670 with the higher Sport specification and a six-speed gearbox, all of which makes the 1.2-litre look really good value for money. A seven-speed S tronic auto 'box is available with the 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine (in Sport specification) with prices starting at 17,120.

14,480 is the starting point for the 1.6 diesel with SE equipment and a five-speed transmission. As usual with Audis there's a long list of extra cost options and style packs so customers can customise their A1s to their own budget and taste.

I have just spent an enlightening week at the wheel of the 1.2 TFSI SE. The headline for me is the enticingly affordable 13,420 price tag which makes it cheaper than a number of Ford Fiestas and Vauxhall Corsas.

And it's not only the purchase price that offers such a tempting hook: the 1.2 has lower emission levels than the 1.4 TFSI (118g/km as opposed to 124g/km) and although VED road tax is free for the First Year rate for both, the 1.2 costs a low 30 for the second year onwards whilst the 1.4 costs 95 per annum.

The fuel economy is better too, admittedly marginally: 55.4mpg Vs 53.3mpg. And insurance is group 9 rather than 15. Company car drivers will also benefit, with Benefit-in-Kind tax at 10 per cent compared to the 15 per cent for the 1.4. In every way the figures stack-up favourably to make the 1.2 the best and most affordable petrol-powered A1 in the current line-up.

Even the performance figures are good 112mph and 0-62mph in 11.7 seconds; the 1.4-litre does 121mph with a 9.2-second 0-62mph time although in the real world the difference is of little meaning for most drivers.

Better still, the direct injection turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine is a real gem. Thanks to the turbo boost giving maximum torque from just 1,500rpm, it's responsive and really very energetic moving off from slow speeds.

“In real-life driving
conditions my 1.2-litre
test car averaged
47.8mpg against the
official 55.4mpg figure,
so that impressed
as well. Stop-and-Start
fuel and CO2 saving
is a standard fit item
Because it has a six-speed gearbox, the 1.4-litre engine copes a little better on motorways where the revs and noise are reduced. In real-life driving conditions my 1.2-litre test car averaged 47.8mpg against the official 55.4mpg figure, so that impressed as well. Stop-and-Start fuel and CO2 saving is a standard fit item.

In SE specification the suspension is a little softer and combined with the 15-inch alloys provides a more comfortable ride than the Sport version, but not at the expense of the handling. The A1 1.2 is agile and really well balanced, with precise steering and lots of cornering grip so it's a fun car when the mood takes you and comfortable transport for more mundane journeys.

Standard 'kit' includes 15-inch alloys, gear change indicator, AirCon, power-operated front windows and door mirrors, stability control, six airbags, three-spoke sports steering wheel, decent sound system with six speakers and two tweeters, 6.5-inch display screen with onboard information (for an extra 570 this can be upgraded to include SatNav), height adjustable front seats, split/folding rear seats (boot/loadbay space is 270-920 litres), remote control central locking and alarm. And a classy interior, well up to Audi's usual high standards.

The exterior is pure scaled-down Audi: a distinctive large 'family' grille, deep front bumper, flared wheelarches, muscular rear bumper and rear tailgate spoiler all wrapped around a sporty-looking three-door bodyshell. Ideally I would prefer a five-door for better passenger carrying flexibility Sportback versions should address that when they arrive.

For? High Audi brand value but at a relatively affordable price, fuel economy, low taxation, low insurance, comfortable and great performance with sure-footed handling. Against? Nothing more than the vast list of expensive options.

I rate the A1 1.2-litre TFSI as the best supermini on the market today because of its price, performance, comfort and brand value although I cannot say it would be my overall car-of-the-year. I do believe it could be Audi's best mainstream car given the price and that is a huge compliment. — David Miles

Audi A1 1.2 TFSI SE | 13,420
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 11.7 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 47.8mpg
Power: 85bhp | Torque: 118lb ft | CO2 118g/km