A1 Sportback hints at more practical Mini-rival for Audi

Audi unveiled its latest concept of the forthcoming A1 hatchback at the VW Group’s big pre-show event in Paris, along with the S4 and an eco-A4 capable of 58.9mpg.

The A1 Sportback Concept is essentially a development of the three-door Metro Project from last year’s Tokyo show, but with five doors.

It’s no less of a concept though – the doors are still frameless and the interior is still nowhere near production ready – but it does point towards a more practical A1. It also confirms the A1 badge for the new car – the Metro Project tag has been totally excised from the firm’s publicity material.

It’s a hybrid, too, with a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine with 148bhp backed up by a 27bhp electric motor that chips in with an extra 111lb ft of torque when the car accelerates.>> Read more about the Audi A1 project

The motor can power the car by itself with a claimed range of 62 miles from the lithium-ion batteries – that’s more than the Chevrolet Volt, although there’s no claim that this range can be achieved in a production car. It emits 92g/km of CO2 and can return just over 60mpg.

Audi isn’t revealing the A1 Sportback Concept’s weight, but the car’s panels are made from carbonfibre reinforced plastics, so it’s likely to be fairly light.>>See our full gallery of pictures from the Paris motor show

Underneath the concept’s body lies a real floorpan – it’s the VW Group’s new small car modular platform, which uses brand-specific front and rear subframes and attached to a central frame shared across the brands.

The A1 is a front-drive car – the quattro drivetrain of the Metro concept has been dropped, replaced by a new locking front differential to deal with the combined torque of the engine and motor.

By ditching four-wheel drive, Audi can save weight and cost, which cuts fuel consumption and makes the car cheaper to build – important at a time when the rising price of raw materials such as steel is forcing car makers to reassess how they can cut costs.

The production A1 will be unveiled in two years time – it’s in Audi’s product plan for a late 2010 launch – with the three door coming first. And there’s the distinct possibility of a cabrio, with Audi sources saying it’s “entirely technically feasible” to chop the roof off the car.

Dan Stevens

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