The Audi A5 Sportback is, like its big brother the A7 Sportback, a cross between a coupe and a saloon. That means you get some of the appealing styling elements of a coupe, without having to sacrifice too much in the way of outright practicality. While the A5 Sportback has slightly reduced rear headroom as a result of its tapered roofline, you do get a hatchback boot, adding an extra degree of practicality over the (previous generation) Audi A4 saloon on which it's based.
Sitting as it does in a relatively niche class, the A5 Sportback has very few rivals – although the Mercedes CLA-Class and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe are designed along similar lines. Unlike both these cars, however, the A5 Sportback is beginning to feel its age slightly now, having been on sale for almost seven years. It's by no means a bad car, but while its interior is luxurious, it can’t match the Mercedes CLA's, while newer Audis – like the TT – feature more appealing dashboards.
Audi offers the A5 Sportback with a familiar range of petrol and diesel engines, as well as its quattro four-wheel-drive system on some models. The cheapest engine is the 1.8-litre petrol, which goes from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds, returns 46.3mpg and costs £145 a year in road tax. The other petrol engine offered is a 227bhp 2.0-litre, which comes with four-wheel drive as standard. This is faster, if less economical: 0-62mph is reached in just 6.5 seconds, but fuel consumption of 40.9mpg and an annual road tax bill of £185 make it the costliest model to run. Audi also makes the performance-orientated S5 Sportback, which features a 3.0-litre 328bhp petrol engine. But at over £40,000 and with fuel economy of 35.8mpg, it's an expensive choice.
The diesel engines are more popular. Most efficient is the 2.0-litre 134bhp Ultra model, which is capable of an impressive 67.3mpg, costs just £20 a year in road tax and is liable for 21% Benefit-in-Kind tax, making it the best choice for company-car drivers. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is also available with either 148 or 187bhp, and these each cost £110 a year in road tax, while returning 58.9 and 61.4mpg economy respectively. The extra power of the 187bhp engine means it doesn’t need to be worked hard, hence the better fuel efficiency.
Aside from the standalone S5 model, the four-wheel-drive, 242bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine is top of the A5 Sportback range. While this is expensive, a 0-62mph time of just 5.9 seconds, combined with fuel economy of 46.3mpg means this engine is not without appeal.
On the road, the Audi A5 Sportback isn’t as enjoyable to drive as the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, while its firm suspension means it corners with little body lean, but can become slightly uncomfortable on poor surfaces – something that becomes more of a problem when the A5 Sportback is fitted with the sports suspension and larger alloy wheels of higher trim levels.
Entry-level SE Technik trim includes staples like cruise control, air-conditioning, heated leather seats and 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as sat nav and DAB radio. S line trim features stiffer suspension, upgraded leather, sports seats and a sporty bodykit, while the top-spec Black Edition Plus includes larger alloy wheels, black exterior and interior styling details and an upgraded Bang & Olufsen stereo. In truth, SE Technik has all the kit you’re likely to need.
Reliability is a bit of a mixed bag. True, the A5 Sportback feels very solid and its interior features high-quality materials, but Audi's reputation for reliability has suffered somewhat in recent years. A 21st-place finish (out of 32 brands) in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey indicates that while the prospect of driving an Audi is tempting, the actual ownership experience may be less alluring. There are no such concerns over safety: the Audi A4 (on which the A5 Sportback is based) scored the full five stars in its Euro NCAP tests.