The Audi A1 Citycarver review

Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan takes a closer look at the all new Audi A1 Citycarver.

Now this is hardly a surprise. Audi simply could not resist the balance sheet allure of turning the rather good Audi A1 into the new A1 Citycarver. A wannabe small SUV, if you like. Here is broadly how they did it.

They took the Audi A1 Sportback five-door hatch from €24,810 and raised the suspension a bit. Next they added the obligatory tough side arch plastic mouldings, finessed the suspension, adding different bumpers and bolted on new alloy wheels. Do all that and there you have the €30,150 Audi A1 Citycarver My test car was the 30 TFSI 116HP 6-speed manual version with a petrol engine.

As much as I wanted to report jacking up an innocent Audi A1 a cynical exercise in niche group marketing, I found the slightly oddball A1 Citycarver quite an appealing thing. The A1 Citycarver price range is available in the manual I tested at €30,015 (my car came to a staggering €35,578 once all the options were added) or the more A1 Citycarver with S-tronic auto gearbox coming in at a hefty price walk of €33,045. My advice is stick with the delightful manual box and save yourself the €3,030. This puts the high riding A1 Citycarver into a direct price war with the A1 hatch. Confused as to which A1 you should buy? Audi’s not done yet. For a little bit more you can buy the highest spec non-Citycarver A1 with a 200hp engine and S-tronic S Line at €35,015.

While the A1 Citycarver may be a posh supermini, you should know it’s essentially a Volkswagen Polo platform underneath. That is priced from just under €20,000 for the Polo TL 1.0-litre engine with 80hp. That’s really quite awkward as my test car also uses the group’s same 1.0 litre engine albeit with 116hp. The question arises, how much extra power and upmarket four-ringery do you need in the city to pay €10,000 over the VW supermini? Setting aside the price gulf, the A1 Citycarver comes with a decent spread of standard equipment. As standard there are LED front and rear lights, higher suspension with approximately two inches more ground clearance over the A1. Added too is lumbar support, 17 inch alloy wheels and sports seats. Though, it cannot rationally justify the huge price hike over the Polo.

Assuming you ignore the rational argument, what then? I’ll admit the A1 Citycarver managed to win me over like the best cars do. I liked the looks and the interior. The undemanding way it drove. But it’s still that 1.0 litre the engine – and what an engine. Blessed with a delightful 6-speed manual that was nicely weighted and accurate it added to the experience. Granted the A1 Citycarver rolls a bit more than the standard A1 hatch in corners but the front wheel drive system threw up no torque steer at extremis, though it was prone to a degree of understeer in corners if pushed beyond its capabilities.

Inside the cabin, the visibility is good as you sit tall and the seats were always firm but supportive. Audi offers an 8.8 inch touchscreen and Audi’s Virtual Display as standard. And the quality? This is where your hard earned money shows up. Mostly all materials – inside and out – have a quality feel with only the plastic lower door bins – as ever nowadays – showing there was a degree of cost cutting taking place. As you sit a bit taller (4cm than the A1) it’s easy to park in tight spaces too.

If you’re baffled how my test car came in at €35,578 (I certainly was) there was a list of options that all added up. Like 17.5” alloy wheels, virtual cockpit, front parking sensors, dual climate control, rear privacy glass, a black painted roof and mixture of added trim.

My week in the A1 Citycarver flew by and when the car was gone I missed it. I’m already making a mental note of cars that have impressed me the most during 2020. The A1 Citycarver is a curious thing. It’s certainly too expensive. Unjustifiable in a price face-off next to a VW Polo. Being picky I’d also report it’s not that particularly adventurous looking inside our out. But yet, somehow, it has that sprinkling of Audi magic that makes you wish it was sitting on your driveway. I’ve somehow managed a recommended list superminis so far in 2020. Price aside, the Audi A1 Citycarver now sits at the top.

By Mark Gallivan

Published: 26 June, 2020