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Audi gives its smallest model an Action Man-makeover.
17in alloy wheels, selectable drive modes, automatic LED headlights, tail lights, indicators and DRLs, rain-sensing wipers, electric-heated door mirrors, manually adjustable front seat lumbar support, leather steering wheel, air conditioning, 10.25in digital instrument cluster, 8.8in infotainment touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, cruise control, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning.
Six-speed manual, seven-speed DSG auto
Looking for a halfway house between traditional (and still very popular) superminis and bang-on-trend small SUVs? Well, it's a niche some manufacturers fill with supermini crossovers, and if you want one from a premium brand, then you'll be drawn to the car tested here - the Audi A1 Citycarver. It's based on the regular A1, but with its ride height increased by 40mm and with SUV-type styling additions, including contrast sills and wheel arch enhancements, stainless steel underbody protection, a larger 'Octoframe' front grille design as seen on Audi's SUV range, and a more prominent rear bumper. As you might guess from the model's name, despite the rugged makeover the Citycarver has no real pretensions towards being an off-road vehicle, with no four-wheel drive or extra traction systems present.
From behind the wheel, besides a little bit of extra all-round visibility, the effects of the Citycarver's ride height increase aren't too conspicuous. There hasn't been a significant impact on the handling, with no undue extra lean in corners, and comfort levels are reasonable. The 150hp petrol engine in our test car delivers brisk acceleration - frankly, it's probably overkill for a car this size most of the time, with a 110hp petrol also available, although it must be said the cost-per-mile and fuel savings the lesser engine offers are negligible. Our test car also has a competent seven-speed DSG gearbox - albeit one that's occasionally jerky and with a noticeable tendency to hold high revs when going downhill. Perhaps unusually these days, it's also paired with a manual handbrake.
The Citycarver's interior is the same as we've seen in A1s before, with the still-attractive asymmetric dashboard arrangement - but also some disappointing plastics on the doors and below the centre console. Although, everything feels well screwed together and there's still a general sense of class that's a touch above the supermini mainstream, with a high-quality feel to the leather steering wheel in particular. A high level of infotainment is standard with an 8.8in touchscreen and 10.25in digital instrument cluster - our car features an optional Technology Pack adding the full, impressive Virtual Cockpit set-up and a bigger, 10.1in touchscreen with satnav. Whereas choosing a proper small SUV might bring more room inside than a supermini, the Citycarver offers no advantage over the regular A1 when it comes to interior or boot space.
The Citycarver comes as its own standalone equipment grade, with a level of spec similar to the S Line model in the regular range, which features sporty styling additions and suspension rather than the Citycarver's outdoorsy and taller features. Compared with the Citycarver, the S Line does sit one BIK band lower and covers a couple more miles to each gallon of fuel. However, the cost-per-mile difference is extremely minimal, meaning if a driver has their heart set on the Citycarver's more rugged aesthetic, it's not going to be the end of the world financially to let them take it. However, for most drivers, we expect a regular A1 would still be the better choice.