Hit the road and the changes between the A1 and MINI are more obvious. In the S-Line version on test the Audi was noticeably stiffer, than our already hard-riding MINI. Composed, stable and accurate best describe the A1’s handling.
But it’s missing the MINI’s one key ingredient – fun! The A1’s steering is nowhere near as precise and involving as the Cooper. Body control and roll are also tighter than the Audi.
Yes, the MINI five-door might be the newer car here, but after a week with the Audi I’m still pleased to report that it’s my Cooper long-termer that is my favourite. Although, we’re not sure the MINI will have its way forever, as a new A1 Sportback is just around the corner.
- MINI P11D value: £16,170
- Five-door hatch
- 1.5-litre 3-cylinder Euro 6 turbo petrol/6-speed manual
- CO2 Emissions: 109g/km
- Economy (combined): 60.1mpg
AS a business buyer, if you’re after a premium five-door supermini there’s only really two options, the MINI which I’ve been driving and enjoying for the last four-months and the established player in the market, the Audi A1.
The A1 has been on sale in Sportback five-door form since 2011 and seeing that I’d not driven one for a while, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to borrow one to compare it with my Cooper.
Although, sadly, Audi was only able to supply an A1 Sportback with diesel power and in almost range-topping S-Line trim.
Let’s start with the exterior styling of these two cars and despite it being a newer design than the A1, it’s the Audi that shouts premium hatch louder than my MINI.
Even if you covered the four-ring badges, all the current Audi design cues such as the LED lights, large family grille and wrap-over bonnet are there and used to great effect – it looks and feels expensive.
On the other hand, my Cooper F55 five-door is part of the more controversial and grown-up third-generation range. After a couple of years on sale, the five-door’s taller styling over the three-door stands out less and seems less awkward.
Is it as much of a premium offering as the Audi? Yes, although how premium is very dependent on colour choice I reckon. I might not have been a fan of our Cooper’s British Racing green paint at first, but along with the black 17-inch Cosmos Spoke alloys I believe it has the measure of the A1.
Move inside the A1 and the premium feel that Audi has cultivated over the last years oozes through all the plastics and trim. In terms of infotainment and feel, the A1’s interior does feel like its come from an Audi of generation past. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the current A1’s interior is the most dated part of the car.
Get into the MINI and we’d say one of the biggest improvements over the second-generation car is the more solid and BMW-like premium feel to the Cooper’s interior. Although some of the switchgear is better placed in the Audi.
The MINI is longer and taller (1727mm wide, 1425mm tall and rides a 2567mm wheelbase) than the A1 (1746mm wide, 1422mm tall, 2469mm wheelbase), but there’s hardly any difference in rear space between the two cars and access is better with the Audi, because of the bigger rear doors.
The same is true of the bootspace, with the MINI offering marginally more space than the A1(278 litres versus 270 litres).