"For a little extra money, the Audi A1 Sportback offers even greater versatility than the three-door A1"
Add two extra rear doors to the standard A1 supermini and you get the A1 Sportback, a more practical five-door version of an already popular (if expensive) small car. With marginally wider and higher dimensions that the three-door model, there's more room in the rear of the car, making it a more viable choice for families with small children. But we do stress small – space in the back is still limited, so older children and adults will find it a bit of a tight squeeze. The A1 Sportback comes in a choice of six specifications, going from entry-level SE, up through Sport, S Line, S Line Style, Black Edition and top-spec Amplified Edition. The range of turbo petrol and diesel engines is wide, and all come equipped with stop-start as standard. We’d recommend the 1.4-litre TFSI ‘cylinder on demand’ petrol engine – which shuts down two of its four cylinders when cruising at a steady speed to save extra fuel. This tech isn’t available in the base model SE, which only comes with a standard 1.2-litre TFSI petrol or a 1.6-litre TDI diesel.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Only the 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel falls below the magic 99g/km of CO2 emissions so is exempt from road tax. The 1.4-litre TFSI petrol isn’t far behind, returning 60.1mpg in fuel economy and emitting 109g/km of CO2. This engine uses Audi's cylinder deactivation system, which shuts down two of the four cylinders when cruising to save fuel. Do bear in mind that Audi servicing costs tend be well above the norm, so whatever money you might save on fuel will likely be offset if something goes wrong.
Interior & comfort
You can barely hear a pin drop inside the A1 Sportback, let alone any intrusive road or wind noise. And it's also impressively comfortable for a small car. As you work your way up the range, starting at Sport, the suspensions gets progressively harder as performance improves, an obvious trade-off that reflects individual driver tastes but that doesn’t ever make the A1 uncomfortable. That said, an S Line model does look great with its 17-inch alloy wheels, but they don’t do as efficient job of absorbing any bumps in the road. But regardless of model choice, the interior of the A1 is superbly built, made from top-class material and equipped with the level of technology that you’d find in larger luxury cars.
Practicality & boot space
The extra 6mm of width and height over the three-door A1 does make the Sportback a little bit roomier. But you still can’t really call it spacious. You do get five seats fitted as standard, but that doesn’t mean there is actually enough space to use them properly, especially in the back. Tall adults will struggle, but especially when sat behind someone of similar stature. Boot space is the same as the three-door as all the extra room is used up inside the cabin, so you get 270 litres of space (better than key rival, the MINI) when the rear seats are in place. Fold the back seats down and that expands to 920 litres. Plus, the boot floor can be adjusted to create a flat load lip or maximise storage capacity. Inside, there are plenty of storage cubbies and decent-sized doorbins, plus a reasonably roomy glovebox.
Reliability & safety
Audi has a good reputation for reliability, even though it has yo-yoed up and down the Driver Power customer survey manufacturers’ chart over the past few years. In the 2013 poll, it had climbed five sports to break back into the top 10 from 2012's disappointing 15th. It still has some ground to make up to match its 2011 seventh place, but it looks like the company could do it. Unfortunately, the limited practicality of the A1 (including the Sportback) has triggered a tumble of some 40 places in the list of top 100 cars, landing it at 95th, but there have been no major recalls so should prove reliable despite its recent Driver Power performance. The Sportback should stand up well to the wear and tear of daily life – even if you decide that you can use it as a family car and carry small children in the back. In terms of safety, driver, front passenger, and front side and head airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and ISOFIX child seat anchor points are all fitted as standard. The three-door A1 scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, so you can expect the same high standards for the Sportback.
Engines, drive & performance
Other than the cosmetic and practical addition of the rear doors, the A1 Sportback has the same underpinnings as the three-door, so it is just as good to drive. It has a large selection of engines for such a small car, too. The cleanest and most efficient is the 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel, which returns 74.3mpg in fuel economy and emits 99g/km of CO2. The quickest, meanwhile, is the 182bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol, and the cheapest is the entry-level 85bhp 1.2-litre TFSI petrol. You can also get 120bhp and 138bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrols and a 141bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel. An efficient six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard, but a seven-speed S tronic automatic is also available as an option on 1.4-litre TFSI models. Overall, the petrol engines do drive better than the diesels. When on the road, the A1 Sportback's small dimensions and low weight mean it feels agile around corners, with plenty of grip to make driving at higher speeds relatively straightforward.
Price, value for money & options
That little bit of extra practicality only costs around £600 extra than the three-door A1, so the Sportback is a reasonable investment. The entry-level SE models comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker MP3-compatible CD player with aux socket and a retractable 6.5-inch display screen. All-round electric windows, manual air-conditioning, and heated door mirrors are also included. Higher-spec models like the Audi A1 Black Edition add LED interior lights, 17-inch alloys, superior stereo, Bluetooth connectivity and electronic climate control. Just tread carefully around the options list, because adding the likes of a leather interior, sat-nav and a 14-speaker Bose sound system can send the price up pretty quickly.