Audi A1 Sportback: First UK drive
Audi's multi-award winning premium A1 supermini has sprouted a couple of doors and the result is the Sportback.
With the UK being the biggest export for the A1, is the Sportback the practical solution for those put off by three-doors? We headed to Cheltenham to find out.
Taller and wider than the three-door version, the addition of two extra doors has been executed so well that you'll struggle to notice.
Closer inspection will reveal more upright rear roof pillars and screen, but this is about the only obvious change.
This means slightly more head and shoulder room, with three apparently now being able to travel in back of the A1. Yes, rear access is improved with the addition of the extra doors, but there's no more legroom in the back of the Sportback and tall adults will only be comfortable on short journeys.
Still, like the three-door A1, the Sportback's interior is a good place to be. The dashboard design is modern and attractive, the build quality is the equal of any other in the Audi range, plus the seats and driving position are very comfortable.
On top of the extra doors, with the launch of the A1 Sportback, Audi is adding two new petrol and one diesel engine.
Cleverest has to be a new version of the 1.4 TFSI petrol. Meeting tough EU5+ emission requirements, it is fitted with Cylinder on Demand Technology.
Basically, it works by cleverly shutting down two of the cylinders when they are not needed. This can happen when cruising and means that this engine is far more efficient, with a combined fuel figure of 60.1mpg and the lowest CO2 emissions of any A1 at 109g/km.
All of this technology you might think will have an effect on the performance, but torque is 250Nm compared to just 200Nm of the 124bhp version.
The other new petrol engine is also a 1.4 TFSI, but this time it is the 188bhp performance flagship of the A1 range. Well, at least until the 252bhp limited edition A1 Quattro storms in. Fitted as standard with the S tronic twin-clutch gearbox, it sprints to 60mph in just 7 seconds and on to an impressive top speed of 141mph.
Could this be the ultimate A1 diesel? The 145bhp 2.0-litre TDI is new to the baby Audi and accelerates to 62mph in just 8.5 seconds, yet it's still capable of 68.9mpg on the combined cycle.
Sadly, these new engines aren't available until later this year and instead there was just the choice of the 120bhp 1.2 TFSI mated to S Tronic transmission and the 106bhp 1.4 TDi.
So what's the Audi A1 Sportback like to drive? Well, not a lot different to the three-door version to be honest. The diesel versions were on softer dynamic suspension, whilst the petrol had the harder sport suspension, both with optional 17-inch wheels. The 1.4 TDi was definitely the more comfortable and settled drive of the two and road and wind noise are well-insulated from the cabin.
All the A1 Sportback models we drove had tight handling, responsive steering and plenty of grip.
We started with the least inspiring Sportback we drove on the international launch, the 106bhp 1.6 TDI. It still doesn't feel as smooth as the other petrol and diesel engines in the range, nor as quick or torquey and we found that the five-speed gearbox was notchy.
The 120bhp 1.4 TFSI sounds great and feels sportier, but with the S Tronic transmission it lacks the involvement of rivals such as the MINI Cooper.
In our view, the pick of these engines we drove was the 1.4 TFSI with 120bhp.
So to sum up, the Sportback is a clever addition to the A1 range; it is no bigger than the three-door but the extra practicality of the five-door is sure attract new buyers. We just wish it was more involving to drive, then it could challenge for class best. The A1 Sportback is on sale now, priced from £13,980.