AUDI A1 SPORTBACK REVIEW
Vehicle type: Premium Light Five-Door Hatch
|1.4 TFSI S tronic||90kW/200Nm||8.9s||5.3l/100km|
|1.4 TFSI Sport||136kW/250Nm||7.0s||5.9l/100km|
It’s an Audi A1, and it’s a five-door hatch, so, of course, it’s a ‘Sportback’. It’s also a fun drive. It arrives to join the A1 three-door but brings a new lower price-point to the range.
For Audi, a five-door A1 was always essential to maximise sales - Australian buyers prefer the extra doors.
That said, the three-door hasn’t been lagging; its sales to date eclipsing the Mini Cooper, arguably its main competitor.
But the A1 Sportback stands alone as the only five-door premium light option on the market (closest being the MINI Clubman and its odd doors).
Audi however is twisting the knife on MINI by offering the A1 Sportback at no extra cost over the three-door - whereas Clubmans command a $3300 premium over Cooper models.
For both the three-door and Sportback models, the current A1 engine line-up remains, including a 90kW 1.4 TSFI, 66kW 1.6 TDI, and the 136kW 1.4 TSFI twin-charged Sport.
But a new engine now joins the range: the advent of the five-door ushers in a (manual-only) 1.2 litre TFSI petrol engine.
With the new engine, you can now get into an Audi A1 - both three and five-door models - for $26,500 (plus on-roads), a saving of nearly $3500 on the previous price of entry.
Externally, just a slightly more upright rear window, and extra doors, are the most obvious distinguishing features of the A1 Sportback.
TMR was on hand for the newest little Audi’s Australian launch. We put it through its paces on the roads out of Hobart, followed by hot laps on the nearby Baskerville Raceway.
The A1 Sportback interior is familiar A1 fare. Interior quality and design is typically Audi excellence, but with circular themes bringing more funk to the A1 than you’ll find in larger Audis.
Sportback models continue with the same Attraction, Ambition, and Sport spec levels as the three-door, with an extensive array of personalisation options.
All models come equipped with air-conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, power windows, auto headlights and wipers, multifunction leather steering wheel, a retractable 6.5-inch screen with MP3 and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
A key point of difference is the Sportback’s centre rear-seat. The three-door is strictly a 2+2 arrangement. Note though that if the optional sunroof is specified ($2090), the Sportback models revert to 2+2 configuration.
Despite offering 11mm more rear headroom (sans sunroof), the A1 Sportback’s tapering roof profile makes shoulder-room a pinch if contemplating three rear passengers, but many will be grateful to have the option for occasional use.
Seats-up cargo capacity grows by just three litres to a MINI Cooper-trouncing 270 litres.
All trim levels come standard with the full array of safety features, including 5-Star EuroNCAP rating, six airbags, ESP, ABS, EBD, headrests for all occupants, and hill-hold standard on S tronic models.
On The Road
The A1 Sportback drive experience will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the three-door model.
The Sportback’s additional doors add 35kg to the kerb weight, which marginally affects fuel economy and 0-100km/h sprint figures.
But, from the driver’s seat, you’d never know. The Sportback, like the three-door, is a satisfying little performer.
Each in the range are nimble on-road and around town. They are quick away from the line, can carry surprising speed through a corner and are really quite a lot of fun at the wheel.
We were particularly interested to experience the new 63kW 1.2 litre TSFI engine, considering it sacrifices a fair slice of power and torque over the next-in-line 90kW 1.4 TSFI.
In the Australian market, the little turbo mill also sees duty in the basic Volkswagen Caddy (plus several other Volkswagen Group products in 77kW tune).
It has a reputation for fighting well above expectation, and this continues in the A1 Sportback.
Driven back-to-back with the more powerful engines at Tasmania’s Baskerville Raceway, the 1.2 was slower, but not disappointingly so.
Two up, the 1.2 pulled convincingly uphill - it had no trouble maintaining speed limits on inclines. Perhaps when laden with passengers and luggage however it might be another story.
Key to the 1.2’s abilities is its early torque delivery (like most other low-pressure turbos), with all 160Nm arriving from 1500rpm, and continuing through to 3500rpm.
First Drive Verdict
As a five-door, the A1 Sportback forgoes little of the ‘chic cachet’ that has made the three-door such a sales success.
It’s not quite the mini-MPV the Skoda Fabia Wagon is, but it doesn’t aim to be.
However, offering the practical benefit of rear doors, it will seat five if needed - and at no extra cost over the three-door. It’s ideal for a couple or young family.
There is a sporty eagerness to the 1.4 TFSI and 1.6 TDI. But as a city runabout (where 70 percent of A1’s are purchased), the new 1.2 TSFI will do fine. And it’s more than capable of a highway jaunt when asked to do so.
Some will be deterred by the 1.2’s manual-only transmission, but the proposition of a $26,500 Audi is surely enticing.
Now even sharper-buying, MINI will need to keep an eye out for the new Audi A1 Sportback.
A1 Sportback 1.6 TDI Attraction 5sp man - $29,900
A1 Sportback 1.6 TDI Attraction 7sp S tronic - $32,250
A1 Sportback 1.2 TFSI Attraction 5sp man - $26,500
A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Attraction 6sp man - $29,900
A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Attraction 7sp S tronic - $32,250
A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Ambition 6sp man - $33,450
A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Ambition 7sp S tronic - $35,800
A1 Sportback 1.4 TFSI Sport 7sp S tronic - $42,500
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.
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