The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The A1's seat, steering wheel and pedals are lined up as a neatly team of synchronised swimmers. There's also a broad range of height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel. However, if you want adjustable lumbar support to stop you slouching on longer journeys, you'll need to go for Sport trim or above.
Go for S line's trim and you'll get sports seats that hold you in place slightly better through corners, but not by a great deal. Meanwhile, the taller Citycarver gives you a higher driving position, but only fractionally and doesn't elevate you to the altitude that Volkswagen T-Roc drivers enjoy.
The simple dashboard controls include physical knobs and switches to deal with the air-conditioning, rather than the fiddly touch-sensitive buttons that some of the A1's rivals employ. You also get digital instruments as standard in place of regular analogue dials, with the option to swap the standard 10.3in display for a more configurable version if you add the rather pricey Technology Pack (standard on Vorsprung).
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Thanks to comparatively skinny front windscreen pillars, it’s easy to see out of the front of the A1. Rearward visibility is less impressive, though, due to the chunky rear pillars. Both the Polo and Mini 5dr have a wider expanse of glass at the back, for a clearer view out when reversing.
The restricted rear view is less of a problem if you go for an A1 in Sport trim or above, because rear parking sensors are fitted as standard. Front parking sensors and a rear-view camera are optional on all trims apart from range-topping Vorsprung, where they come as standard.
Powerful LED headlights are a fitted to every A1 – all the better for illuminating the road ahead on those dark winter evenings.
Sat nav and infotainment
Even the cheapest trims come with an 8.8in touchscreen that’s positioned high up on the dashboard, so you shouldn’t have trouble seeing or reaching it. That said, its touchscreen nature means you inevitably have to glance away from the road to hit the screen's icons. The Mini’s iDrive rotary controller is much easier and less distracting to use while driving.
Every trim level comes with Bluetooth, a DAB radio and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. The latter allows you to use selected apps on your smartphone, including sat nav apps like Google Maps or Waze, via the car's touchscreen.
If you add the pricey Technology Pack (standard on range-topping Vorsprung), the screen grows to 10.1in and you get a lot more features. These include in-built sat nav, a handwriting function (which you can use to enter postcodes) and wireless phone charging. Meanwhile, the standard stereo has six speakers, and it’s a reasonably punchy system. You can upgrade it to a 560-watt Bang & Olufsen system (again, standard on Vorsprung) if you add the Comfort and Sound Pack.
Sadly, while interior quality was one of the defining aspects of the original A1 (2010-2019), it's no longer outstanding in this second-generation model.
Don't get us wrong: it still feels suitably more expensive inside than a Fiesta or Ibiza, thanks to the soft-touch materials on the dashboard, high-quality switches and gloss black trims that spruce up the look. However, the cheaper-looking plastic on insides of the doors and around the gearlever do disappoint on a car that touts itself as 'premium'.
The less expensive Polo isn’t immune from hard plastics inside, yet in places manages to feel just as robust, while the Peugeot 208 actually has more upmarket materials inside. However, if you want a small car that feels really special to sit in, the Mini is top dog.
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