Audi A1 Sportback hatchback
Price: £14,735 - £25,630
- Top-quality interior
- Superb engines
- Very stylish
- Expensive to buy
- Limited rear-seat space
- Uncomfortable ride
"For a little extra money, the Audi A1 Sportback offers even greater versatility than the three-door A1."
The Audi A1 supermini follows a similar formula to the ever-popular MINI: cute looks, great handling, efficient engines, and a desirable badge. The Audi A1 Sportback adds a little practicality to that recipe with the addition of two rear doors.
The five-door Audi A1 is a little wider and higher than than the standard A1, which means there is a little more interior space, and there is a great range of turbo petrol and diesel engines, which offer decent levels of power and fuel efficiency. The 1.4-litre petrol engine with Audi's innovative “cylinder on demand” technology is particularly good – it's able to automatically shut down two of its four cylinders when they’re not needed – and restart them when they are, in order to save fuel.
Designed for those who want a premium supermini but are starting to need more space, the Audi A1 Sportback is an upmarket alternative to the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. Don’t be under any illusions, though, the space in the back is still very limited and anyone other than a small child is going to find it a tight squeeze.
MPG, running costs & CO2
All engines offer superbly low running costs thanks to clever technology
All Audi's engines are cutting edge and offer a fantastic mix of power and fuel efficiency. There's a choice of a 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel and a 141bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel, and the former is the cleanest engine in the range – doing 74.3mpg and emitting just 99g/km CO2. Petrol engines include an 85bhp 1.2-litre TFSI, and a 1.4-litre TFSI with either 120bhp, 138bhp or 182bhp. Even the most powerful petrol engine will return close to 47.9mpg despite being fast enough to get the Audi A1 Sportback from 0-62mph in a very nippy seven seconds.
The 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine features Audi's clever cylinder deactivation system which senses when the car is cruising and automatically shuts down two of the engine's four cylinders to save fuel – and starts them up again when you put your foot down. It achieves 60.1mpg and emits just 109g/km CO2.
Audi garages tend to be expensive, though, so while you won’t pay a huge amount in fuel costs, you’re likely to lose a lot of those savings when it comes time to get the car serviced.
Interior & comfort
Impressively comfortable for a small car, although high spec models have firm suspension
The Audi A1 offers an impressive level of comfort for a premium supermini that handles as well as it does. We can’t fault the comfort on offer from the lower specification models, but higher spec models are fitted with firmer suspension to give sportier performance, and so get progressively worse at soaking up bumps in the road. It starts with Sport spec models but is at its worst with S Line versions, which also have large 17-inch alloy wheels. That said, the A1 is never truly uncomfortable, but you’ll feel the jolt of potholes and speed bumps.
The cabin is superbly put together and keeps engine, wind and road noise out, so the car is relaxing even when cruising at motorways speeds. What's more, the interior has a level of luxury you just won’t find on any other supermini.
Practicality & boot space
Sportback model has more space than standard A1 but is still far from spacious
The A1 Sportback is taller and wider than the standard A1 but all that extra space is used up in the cabin. So the boot has the same 270 litres of capacity as the three-door car. That's a decent size, and is substantially bigger than the boot in the MINI – although it trails behind the 285-litre load space in the Citroen DS3. Fold down the back seats and the space expands to 920 litres, which should be more than big enough to accommodate the occasional bulky load.
The interior is bigger than in the standard A1, but only marginally. There are five seats fitted as standard but tall adults are going to struggle to squeeze comfortably in the back. It will seat smaller children in relative comfort, though.
Reliability & safety
Audi A1 Sportback provides five-star safety and top dependability
The Audi A1 scored a maximum five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. It comes as standard with a full complement of airbags, as well as safety devices like anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control to prevent the car spinning out of control should it start to skid, and ISOFIX points for fitting child seats.
As a premium manufacturer, Audi has a strong reputation for reliability, too. It performed well in the most recent Driver Power customer satisfaction survey – moving up from 15 place to 10th place in the 2013 manufacturer ranker ranking. While the A1 came 95th in the top 100 cars league table, it beat the MINI, which didn’t make it in due to poor feedback from owners. Furthermore, there have been no major recalls of the A1, and its strong build quality should ensure it more than up to coping with the wear and tear of transporting a small family.
Engines, drive & performance
All the engines are smooth, quiet and offer plenty of power
The Audi A1 is a small, lightweight car, so it feels very agile. The steering is sharp and there's plenty of grip, so it handles well, too, though it's not as thrilling as a MINI to drive. The engines are particularly good, too, giving you a choice of four petrol engines and two diesel engines, with the petrol models offering better performance and the diesels returning the best fuel efficiency.
The A1 Sportback comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but Audi's excellent seven-speed automatic gearbox is available as an option on models fitted with the 1.4-litre petrol engines. Those looking for maximum speed should go for the larger of the petrol engines – the 182bhp 1.4-litre TSI, which will do 0-62mph in seven seconds, and is the fastest model until the new Audi S1 arrives in the summer of 2014.
Price, value for money & options
The A1 is expensive but comes with a lot of kit as standard
The Audi A1 Sportback is expensive for a car of its size, but it is competitively priced compared to its key rival, the MINI. The Sportback is only £600 more expensive than the smaller three-door Audi A1, so it represents relatively good value for money.
Audi as a brand has some of the lowest rates of depreciation of any car maker, so you can expect the A1 to hold on to its value well, too, which means you’ll get a higher proportion of your money back when it comes time to sell it. It also comes well equipped, with six spec levels to choose from: SE, Sport, S Line, S Line Style, Black Edition and Amplified Edition.
The base-sepcification SE model comes with alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch retractable media screen, an MP3-compatible CD player with aux socket, all-round electric windows, manual air-conditioning and heated door mirrors. Sport models get larger 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity and front sport seats. And S Line models get 17-inch alloys and an LED interior light package. Be careful with the options list, though – there are plenty of extras to choose from but they’re expensive and will rapidly crank the price of the car up.
What the others say
On our twisting test route, the two-cylinder mode didn’t have a chance to engage very often, but when we encountered a straight or downhill section of road, the switchover was imperceptible. Considering how popular stop-start has become, this fuel saving technology looks like being the next big thing.
Back-seat passengers get slightly more head- and shoulder room than they do in the three-door A1, thanks to the Sportback's extra height and re-designed rear seat. The wheelbase remains the same, so legroom and boot space are unchanged.
Exclusive to the Sportback is a contrasting roof to differentiate it from the 'smaller' A1, as well as a clever new engine that has the ability to shut down two of its four cylinders for super-economical driving.
Last updated: 24 Feb 2014