Performance, ride, control and refinement
The names of Audi’s engines are clearly confusing, as they are not directly related to engine size. For example, these TFSI 35 models already use a 1.5-liter turbocharged petrol unit with 148 horsepower.
Fortunately, that’s a perfect fit for the A1, providing a good balance of performance and fuel economy, while the cheaper 25 TFSI (actually the 94 hp 1.0-liter turbo) can feel underpowered. In fact, the 35 TFSI’s engine is so gritty that it also performs well in the larger and heavier A3, making it more lively than an equivalent 1 series.
The seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox available on both the A1 and A3 is also impressive, shifting smoothly and quickly, even if it can allow the engine to speed higher than it sometimes needs to.
In the meantime, choosing the Sport model gives you the softest suspension available on these cars, so they’re forgiving at all speeds. It also helps you get the relatively small wheels (16 inches in the A1 and 17 inches in the A3) that allow the tires to have chunky and somewhat forgiving sidewalls.
Neither car, though, handles sloppy. Instead, the A1 feels pleasantly steady at speed for a car of its size, and resists body bend reasonably well in corners, while its steering is precise enough to allow you to position the front of the car exactly where you want it on a winding B road.
As for the A3, it’s better for driving, with steering that’s reassuring and responsive, and handling that’s not only predictable and safe, but also engaging. Only in town is the A3 at a disadvantage, and unsurprisingly it feels less maneuverable than the A1, given its larger size.
Wind and road noise are well controlled in the A1, even if it’s no quieter than some mainstream small cars, including the Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo. The A3 has an advantage over the A1 in this regard, although you do hear more wind noise than you would in the Series 1.